Grow “Trash Trees” for Birds Treasure

Sumacs, pincherries, chokecherries, wild plums, and lots of other fast-growing native trees—weeds, in other words—spring up and grow like lightning. While we might look at these “trees” as a nuisance near refined gardens, much like poison ivy, they may just be the wonderland your birds were wanting.

“Trash trees” are fast-growing, not classically beautiful like an oak, often short-lived, and have little or no dollar value for lumber. They’re the chokecherries, poplars, hackberries, box-elders, and other trees that spring up in unattended areas almost as soon as your back is turned.

When I first heard the term years ago, I thought they were in the league of weeds. I could see that the trees in those brushy hedgerows weren’t nearly as beautiful as the graceful dogwood that held a place of honor in my yard—and for which I’d paid a pretty penny. Sniff! Trash trees, who needs ’em?

Oh, how young and dumb I was.

Eventually it dawned on me that just about every bird that landed in my dogwood came from the trash trees. Maybe we can’t make boards out of them, and maybe they aren’t classic beauties, but “trash trees” are hugely valuable to birds. They offer ideal nesting sites, they’re great cover, and the mixed thickets create corridors for birds to safely move about. And that’s not even considering all the insect food and fruit they offer up, let alone their use as nesting material.

One of my most successful bird gardens ever was a 6-foot-wide strip that we simply stopped mowing, along one side of our country yard. Goldenrod and asters soon moved in, followed by blackberries, wild grapes, and saplings of all sorts. Sumacs, pincherries, chokecherries, wild plums, and lots of other fast-growing native trees sprang up.

In just a few years, I had a great natural hedgerow that was burgeoning with vireos, flycatchers, orioles, bluebirds, wrens, robins, flickers, native sparrows, even quail.

Trash trees? I don’t think such a thing exists. Trees that volunteer, grow 6 feet tall in a year or two, and provide super bird appeal are more like true treasure.

Adapted from Bird-by-Bird Gardening: The Ultimate Guide to Bringing in Your Favorite Birds—Year After Year, by Sally Roth (Rodale, 2006).


Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T4 years ago

Enjoyed reading this article, thank you.

Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

B. M.
Bette M4 years ago

Who Speaks for the Trees?

The Silent Witness
By John B. Lowe

Rooted to Mother Earth
Connecting ground to sky
In a cycle of rebirth
Where all must live and die
Stands the Silent Witness

Growing straight and tall
Against wind and rain
Surviving man’s fickle law
And the loggers chain
Stands the Silent Witness

Season after season
Towering high above
Reaching for the sun
Home to the nesting dove
Stands the Silent Witness

A millennium old
With a thousand rings
Stretching proud and bold
Its many branches sing
Stands the Silent Witness

Like a steeple’s spire
Over earthen pews
Its majesty inspires
The poet’s muse
Stands the Silent Witness

Fulfilling its mission
Of nature’s midwife
From God’s perfect vision
Home to all wildlife
Stands the Silent Witness

Observer of history
Of man’s flawed course
There is the mystery
Without remorse
For the Silent Witness

Who among us will speak
In the tree’s defense
Who among us will seek
Justice to dispense
For the Silent Witness

It is time to awake
To stand and be heard
Before it is too late
To utter the fateful words
To save the Silent Witness

Whatever befalls the trees
Will befall us all
So interconnected are we
To the natural law
Of the Silent Witness

Wherever you go there once was a forest.
Plant and protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

Tanya W.
Tanya W4 years ago

I have planted grevillias, bottle brushes and wattle to attract the honey and seed eaters.

Care member
Care member5 years ago

Thanks for the article

B. M.
Bette M5 years ago

There is no such thing as trash trees. But if there is it serves a purpose for the birds & other small creatures. However, Arizona & other places have thousands of trees that are no more than twigs & they sure are not pretty The ugly little things can just about survive any weather condition amazingly enough. I've only seen one bird nest in the time I've been in this ungoldly place.
Yes, I'm rantin' & ravin' over all the cutting down of beautiful stately trees which provide so much in beauty & homes for birds & other critters.

Wherever you go there once were forest.
Plant & protect Danny's trees for life.
Trees are the lungs of the earth.

Tanya W.
Tanya W5 years ago

Great article thanks. There's nothing better in a garden then birds with their vastly different songs.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra5 years ago

Thank you Annie, for Sharing this!

Fiona Dudley
Fiona Dudley5 years ago

Native trees and shrubs rock! Think of all the wildlife they support. Excellent article - thanks Annie.

Marilyn J Leger
Marilyn L5 years ago

You know what else these trees are? They're native and co-evolved with the wildlife they support -- much more beneficial than, say, the gingko tree (though beautiful) which supports only one butterfly