Native Plant Profile
Backyard Damsels & Dragons
Moon (Moth) Gardens
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HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover,
and space -IS THE KEY! This
newsletter is a place to share ideas, information, and help answer
some of your habitat and wildlife gardening concerns.
Native Plant Profile......Brambles (Rubus spp.)
Raspberries, blackberries, etc, comprise this group. Hardy, fast growing,
usually thorny shrubs grow three to 10 feet. Found in old fields, pastures,
clearings, and hedgerows in a variety of soils.
Flowers/Fruits: Usually white, blooming from May to June. Red or black fruits
from June or July to September.
Landscape Uses: Best when used as living fences for property borders or
naturalizing. Pruning maximizes fruit production. Fragrant thimbleberry (Rubus
odoratus) is best for landscaping. It bears purple flowers May to September and
Brambles provide food for: American Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Eastern
Bluebird, Cedar Waxwing, Common Flicker, Redbellied, Red-headed and Hairy
woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Willow
and Alder Flycatcher, Blue Jay, Common and Fish Crow, Turkey, Ruffed Grouse,
Bobwhite Quail, Ring-necked Pheasant, Tufted Titmouse, Wood, Swainson’s and
Gray-cheeked Thrush, Veery, White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat,
Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Orchard and Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet and
Summer Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted and Blue Grosbeak, Indigo
Bunting, Rufous-sided Towhee, Henslow’s, Field, White-throated, Fox, and Song
Sparrow, Black Bear, Gray and Red Fox, Gray and Red Squirrels, White-footed
Mouse, White-tailed Deer.
Brambles provide shelter for: Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Field, Fox and
Song Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Ring-necked Pheasant, Willow and Alder Flycatcher,
Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Veery, White-eyed Vireo,
Brambles provide nesting places for: Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Field
and Song Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Mockingbird, Willow and Alder Flycatcher, Gray
Catbird, Brown Thrasher, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat.
Additional Notes: Brambles as a group provide excellent escape cover for birds
and rabbits with safe nesting sites for small birds. The berries top the list of
summer fruits eaten by wildlife.
Moon (Moth) Gardens
Long before moths were drawn to electric lights
or the flame of a candle they were drawn to the white flowers, which reflected
the illumination of the moon and stars. If the coloring was not enough to coax
night flying moths to their nectar a fragrance would lure them.
has been written on butterfly gardening but today’s life styles have many
working until late in the day and would still like to enjoy wildlife in their
gardens. So why not try a moon (nocturnal) garden that benefits moths and looks
and smells wonderful! Many plants bloom exclusively at night, with many more
that wait until evening to release their scent. Plants with variegated foliage
and white flowers glow softly as they reflect moonlight.
Long before moths were drawn to
electric lights or the flame of a candle it was the white flowers, which
reflected the illumination of the moon and stars. If the coloring was not enough
to coax night flying moths to their nectar a fragrance could lure them.
Of the 11,000 species
of Lepidoptera in North America only 756 are butterflies with the rest being
moths. Moths have often gotten a bad reputation, only a small percentage of
moths destroy plants or your wool clothes. Most moths are small, brown
creatures. However some have spots, bands of color and interesting shapes to
rival butterflies. The best way to tell butterflies and moths apart is to look
at the antennae. Butterflies have thread like antennae with a tiny knob at the
tip. Moths’ antennae are plumed or feathery. Male moths use the feathery
antennae to catch the scent of females.
Moths and butterflies both go through a metamorphosis of several stages:
caterpillar, or larvae then adult. Throughout the night adult moths search for
mates or go from flower to flower to sip nectar. Flowers that attract moths
often have a long tubular throat to accommodate the moth’s lengthy proboscis.
While a flower is serving the moth its meal the moth is helping to pollinate the
constructing a moon (moth) garden consider what part of your garden would be the
most accessible or visible in the evening. You might want to pick a section near
your deck or patio where you would probably be in the evening, so consider
comfortable seating near the garden and some extra lighting when there are
the top night bloomers is the moon vine (Ipomoea alba). The moon vine is
a member of the morning glory family. Pure white trumpet flowers open every
night just at sunset with a wonderful fragrance.
An old fashion plant
for the night garden is one of the native flowering tobaccos (Nicotiana
sylvestris). It can grow 3’-5’ tall. The flowers are fragrant in the evening
and are in clusters of 3” trumpets.
Evening primrose (Oenothera), although not white are night blooming with
a sweet fragrance. Try the yellow Oenothera biennis and the pink
Easily grown are the Four O’ Clocks (Mirabilis) they begin to bloom in
the late afternoon. Mirabilis jalupas give off a jasmine –like scent.
These flowers are white, pink, rose, orange and yellow and are very easy to
establish and also look nice in daylight hours.
Also include plants that glow in the moonlight. There are many choices of white
blooming or silver foliaged plants to choose from. Some that are also wildlife
friendly include candytuft, white bleeding heart, lilies, especially calla
lilies, petunias and phlox; the Midnight Candy variety releases a
honey-almond-vanilla fragrance. Shrubs include white azaleas, mock orange,
viburnum, fringe trees, lilac, sweet bay and white roses. Annuals to try in
white are cosmos, Dianthus and zinnias. Silver to white foliagated plants for
your garden are Dusty Miller, silver thyme and lambs ear.
Consider a houseplant that outdoors for the summer. The night blooming cereus,
an old fashion houseplant, is a vining succulent. Flower buds are along the edge
of the leaf. The flowers are enormous, 7” or more across, night blooming and
Gladiolus (Gladiolus tristus) features creamy yellow blossoms that
produce an intense spicy smell. Fragrant Columbine (Aquilegia fragrans)
has a rich honeysuckle scent with creamy white flowers. Pinks (Dianthus
plumarius) have pale pink flowers with a clove scent. Another vine to try
besides moon vine is the sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata).
Your night garden does
not have to be limited to flowers. Try the following vegetables and herbs:
silver thyme, white egg plant, “Boo” white pumpkins, white basil and oregano.
With these moth friendly plants, hopefully you will have moths such as the hawk
or sphinx moths, some of which are known as hummingbird moths, which are seen in
the day hovering over the plants.
Some of the most beautiful species are the giant silk moths, Cecropia as well as
the Luna. They range from deep browns, bright oranges to glowing greens. Because
these moths lack moth parts as adults, they cannot feed, and they live for a few
days long enough to mate. So to bring giant silks to your moth garden be sure to
grow nearby plants used by their larvae. Sassafras, wild cherry, blueberries,
dogwood, oaks, hickories, willows and the tulip tree especially for the lovely
Promethea are the ones to plant and are beneficial for wildlife in general.
For an excellent id source for moths in Maryland
try the USGS Moths of America
Backyard Damsels and Dragons
With nicknames like devil’s darning needle and a reputation for sewing up the
ears and eyes of naughty children, dragonflies and damselflies look like they
should bite or do something nasty. These beneficial insects do have voracious
appetites, but it’s mosquitoes that top their menu.
Calopterygidae calopteryx sp
Just about any pond or stream will have dragonflies and damselflies hovering,
darting or basking nearby. But don’t be surprised if you spy a dragonfly or
damselfly gracing the flower garden, even if the nearest pond or stream is over
a mile away. Female dragonflies sometimes will feed and roost far from the
nearest source of permanent water. With their vivid metallic colors and gauzy
wings, watching dragonfly antics can be as interesting as birds, particularly if
you have a water garden. Then you can watch the real reason females wing it to
Males can be seen guarding coveted territories down at the pond. Many species of
dragonflies engage in an interesting behavior called “mate guarding”. When the
females arrive the males fight each other to be the last male to mate with the
female before she lays her eggs. The eggs are most likely fertilized by the last
male. Good mate guarders can keep other males away. Some will still clasp the
female even when she dives underwater to lay her eggs. Successful mate guarders
also benefit the female because without him, she might not ever be able to
finish laying her eggs.
Dragonflies and damselflies belong to the insect order Odonata. There are about
450 species in North America. Some species migrate or hibernate. It is fairly
easy to tell the two apart. Dragonflies have thick bodies, are strong fliers,
and hold their wings out while basking in the sun. Damselflies are thin-bodied
and hold their wings parallel to their body. You can create habitat for them by
building a water garden or backyard pond and they’re one of the first species to
colonize new ponds. Dragonflies lay thousands of eggs in or near water on the
leaves and stems of aquatic plants. The nymphs may spend from one to four years
underwater before they become adults. Small nymphs eat microscopic organisms and
small insects such as mosquito larva. Larger nymphs eat minnows and tadpoles.
Fish, salamanders, and turtles also eat nymphs.
One of the things that make dragonflies stand out is that they have excellent
vision. Their compound eyes contain 28,000 facets whereas a housefly has only
For more information on these fascinating insects check out the following:
This is a check list of dragon
flies and related species found in central Maryland.
It also provides links to
other related dragonfly sites.
Every spring many look forward to the return of Purple Martins from their
wintering grounds in Brazil. Soaring, swooping, and circling like
acrobats, their gurgling and clicking chatter is the first signal of their
arrival. The male” scouts” arrive first, followed a week or so later by
the rest of the colony.
Purple Martin colony with
different types of housing
Purple martins prefer to use the same houses as the year before, but if
those sites are gone, they will seek other houses nearby. Martins nest
almost exclusively in man-made structures and are now dependent on man for
its survival. Early spring is the time to set up houses for martins.
The Native Americans discovered the benefit of attracting martins hundred
of years ago and hung dried gourds for use as nesting sites. Martins, who
once utilized abandoned woodpecker nests, now will nest in dried gourds,
plastic gourds, and wood or metal housing, as the cutting of dead timber
for firewood has reduced the number of abandoned woodpecker holes.
Martins are voracious eaters of flying insects. Studies have found that
one martin is capable of eating up to 2,000 insects a day. Multiply that
by the 150 days that martins stay in our area, one martin can rid your
yard of 300,000 annoying insects. Twelve pairs nesting in one aluminum
martin house, each pair raising an average of 5 fledglings per pair, a
potential 25.2 million insects can be removed from your wildlife acre in
Martin’s enthusiasts generally put up structures that will house 8 to 24
nesting pairs. The best house is an aluminum style erected on a
telescoping pole or lanyard system which is 14’ high, placed in an open
area where the martins have plenty of room to swoop and circle around. An
open body of water within ¼ mile of the house is usually necessary.
An aluminum house is cooler in hot weather, last many years, doesn’t need
painting, is not prone to parasite infestation or Starling invasion, and
is easy to clean. With a telescopic pole or lanyard system you can raise
and lower the house regularly for removal of house sparrow nests. An added
benefit to this type of house is that you and your family can monitor the
number of eggs laid by the martins and watch the growth of the babies
until they fledge. This is an exciting and educational treat for children.
House Sparrows will attempt to take over new martin houses. House Sparrows
will also attack an adult bird as it sits on its nest. Peck holes in their
eggs, and toss any hatchlings out the door. If you are interested in
becoming a martin landlord, please do not erect any martin structures
unless you are committed to protecting them from House Sparrows!
Martins begin nest building by mid-May, eggs are laid in June, and most of
the young have hatched by July. When the last youngster has fledged,
usually by the end of August, the colony will suddenly disappear. They
will have begun their return journey to South America. It will be next
early April before you will find yourself listening for that loud and
sprightly, ”EEE-ER-EEE-ER” which signals the martin return.
For tips on Martin land lording, check out the
This is the Maryland Wild Acres information sheet on how to build and
maintain a purple martin box
The web site for the Purple Martin Society with detailed information on
the birds, boxes, arrival dates, etc.
The web site for the Purple Martin Conservation Association which provides
information and research on the birds
Photo of Raspberry Flowers, courtesy of Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service, www.forestryimages.org
Photo of Blackberry Foliage courtesy of Gil Wojciech, Polish Forest Research Institute, www.forestryimages.org
Photo of Purple Martin Colony with different types of housing courtesy of Thomas Magee, Frederick County
Photo of Purple Martin Bird House courtesy of Bill French, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo of Cecropia Moth (Hyalophora cecropia (Linnaeus),
courtesy of Lacy L. Hyche, Auburn University, www.insectimages.org Photo UGA1430172.
Photo of Odonata: Calopterygidae calopteryx sp courtesy of John Wallace, North American Benthological Society
Photo of Argia alberta by Richard Wiegand
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might
find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders
at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each species
they see at their feeders from November through early April. FeederWatch helps
scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term
trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project FeederWatch is operated by
the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the National Audubon Society,
Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat
program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information
dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and
habitats, visit them at www.mdflora.org.
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips
publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached
at 1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife
Institute at www.windstar.org and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden
Weekly e-newsletter. You can also visit this website to learn how you can become
a certified wildlife habitat naturalist.
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly
Association at www.naba.org
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Habichat, the newsletter for Wild Acres participants, is published by the
Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
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