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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Anderson

Hello Native Tree Lovers and Happy 2022!

What is on your to-do list as we begin a new year? Mine is to dig up the Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina domestica, we inherited when we bought our house four years


Heavenly Bamboo is a beautiful, hearty, evergreen shrub, but it is also invasive, which could explain why I see it all over my neighborhood. Worse yet, its red berries-

-appealing to hungry birds--contain cyanide and other alkaloids known to cause sudden death (Audubon Society).

One potential native substitute is the glorious Red-Twig

Dogwood, Cornus sericea (pictured right). This beautiful shrub has brilliant red twigs that persist all year and look great in the snow–which is falling right now outside my window!

Another shrub I might consider, new this year to Tree Talk Natives and with more of the look of Heavenly Bamboo, is Strawberry Bush, Euonymus americanus, also called Hearts-a-Bustin’, becauseof the big burst of orange-red seed coverings in the fall.

The seeds pop out of the fruits, which look like strawberries. (Sorry, no picture).

Other great options are the viburnums – Maple-leaf (Viburnum acerifolium) and Cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. Americana) (pictured above). Both have nice fall foliage and red berries. Maple-leaf is smaller, about 4 to 6 feet tall, and its berries eventually turn to blue-black.

Finally–and this is the one I might go with–Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia (pictured left). Like Heavenly Bamboo, it has beautiful red berries that persist through winter. But unlike Heavenly Bamboo, chokeberries are a healthy and safe food source for birds. By late winter, when the berries become less astringent, the birds are all over them.

I also like Aronia’s upright form. It would work great in my spot, but of course we all have different spots, and one of the other options might work better for you :).

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