Native Plant Profile......Wild
There are over 120 species of the genus aster found in the
United States. Asters are primarily known for their fall flowering, especially
in fields. But wild asters can be found in swamps, bogs, woods and fields. Some
of these species can be a wonderful addition to a wild acres backyard.
The large double- flowered asters you see in catalogs and garden
centers, belong to a different genus, Callistephus, which is native to
Asia. It has only been in recent years that our native genus Aster has been
recognized by the commercial nurseries as a useful late summer to fall bloomer
in the garden. The various shapes of the leaves; arrowhead, heart- shaped,
toothless or toothed, leaves clasping to the stem or almost linear, makes for
interesting textures when planted in groups.
The late blooming of the asters, some even lasting until killing
frosts of November provide a late nectar source for butterflies and other
insects. If you keep the seed heads up through the fall and winter, the asters
seed serves as food for tree sparrows, goldfinches, chipmunks and if you live in
woods or near a woods, ruffed grouse and wild turkey.
There are about 16 species of wild asters that can be found
commercially. Most reach a height of 1 to 5 feet, and are suitable for various
soils. Here is a brief listing of some you may find suitable for your wild
Blue Wood Aster
Good for rocky woods,
meadows, drought tolerant
Big Leaf Aster
Excellent plant to provide
cooler along woods edge, good wildlife cover as well as nectar source
New York Aster
Violet to blue flowers bloom from July to October and can be used in a landscape
or in a native meadow as a butterfly nectar source
White Wood Aster
Provides late summer and
fall food for wildlife, shade tolerant
This plant will grow on disturbed
sites, will tolerate shade, will continue to bloom well after the fall frost
providing that last nectar source for migrating butterflies.
Purple Stemmed Aster
This aster will bloom well
unto November, with deep violet flowers, which late fall, insects find
attractive. Note: This aster is often planted in food plots to attract
New England Aster
This species is
considered one of the best to plant for late season food and cover for
butterflies. Its bright purple flowers make it attractive to plant in full sun
This aster will withstand the urban habitat, blooms from August to October as a
butterfly nectar source
Wildlife: Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
The Northern Mockingbird is a year round resident of Maryland. It has earned
the nickname “American Nightingale” for its amazing vocal ability to imitate
almost any noise or song. Many of the bird’s songs are very melodious, but
sometimes the non-stop all night singing in the summertime can be a bit
tiring. Mockingbirds learn new songs all their lives. Males sing more than
the females, with unmated males singing more than mated birds. Females will
chose as their mates those males that sing the most complex, varied
|Click on links below
to hear the song and the call of a Mockingbird:
The mockingbird is well known for
mimicking many sounds. They can sing up to about 200 songs and can
make sounds like insects and amphibians. They can also imitate sounds
like a barking dog, farm animals and a squeaky hinge.
Mockingbirds raise two broods a year, with nesting taking place in Maryland
from late April to early August. Each nesting consist of 3 to 4 blue- green
eggs, which hatch in 10 to 12 days. The young birds leave the nest
approximately 12 days later. Both male and female adult birds make the twig
grass-lined cupped nest, incubate the eggs and feed the young. Nests are
usually made no more than 15 feet above the ground. These birds prefer using trees and shrubs that supply dense, protective cover. It
is thought that the expansion of the Mockingbird into northern parts of the
U.S. was in part due to the establishment of hedgerows.
These birds are highly territorial, especially when nesting and raising
their young. It is not unusual for Mockingbirds to chase other birds and
peck at pets and people, which venture too close to their young. Remember it
is against both state and federal law to harm a Mockingbird. If you are
having problems with one attacking you in Maryland, please contact our
wildlife damage hotline toll free in the state at 1-877-463-6497.
Adult Mockingbirds are a streamlined 9 inches in length, with both sexes
similar in color. Juvenile birds are similar to adults except for spotted
breasts. The birds are gray in color on top with white underneath. White
wing bars are a distinct ID along with the white patch in the wing showing
as the bird flies. These birds have yellow eyes, slender dark bills, and
Mockingbirds eat a variety of insects in the spring and summer, especially
beetles, ants and grasshoppers. During this time they are mainly
insectivorous. These birds are berry lovers throughout the year. Holly,
mulberry, raspberries, blueberries, dogwood, elderberries, hackberries, pyracantha,
grapes, and pokeberry are all favorites of the species and will
attract them to an area. These birds even enjoy the berries of the poison
ivy vine! Vines that attract Mockingbirds include greenbrier and Virginia
Water provided year-round is also a big attractant for this songbird. These
birds will also use suet feeders in the winter. Fruit feeders and platform
feeders with slices of apples, and raisins with help supplement their winter
It is thought that Mockingbirds are one of the most well known birds in
North America. The bird is the state bird of several southern states. This
songbird’s population status is considered stable and possibly increasing in
its northern range.
Gardens for Dogs
You can have a garden for wildlife and your dog. It will take some
planning and trying some tricks to keep your canine from tearing up your
wildlife habitat, but it can happen.
Figure out a separate place in your yard for the dog to play in. A shaded
area works quite well. Use some sort of mulch for this area. You should
also fill it with a mix of sand since many dogs like to dig. When the sand
is dry the soil/ sand mixture will not cling to the fur. You could also
consider giving your dog its own sandbox. If your dog is digging in
pursuit of prey consider ways discouraging animals from entering that part
of the yard. If the dog likes to dig up sections of the yard, put down
chicken wire, burying the edges deep so they cannot pull the wire out.
This also works in the garden as well.
Use only nontoxic plants in your garden. Cornell University has an
excellent site for this information at
Remember using integrated pest management on your wild acres is also good
for your pet as many lawn chemicals can harm your dog as well as wildlife.
Mulches that are hard to walk on will keep dogs from traveling through
your garden area. Try pinecone mulch around the site.
Hollies and barberries are
thorny and prickly and can serve as a living
fence to keep dogs out of an area as well as provide year round food and
cover for wildlife. You can also landscape around your dogs paths. To keep
the pet on the path line it with raised beds. Simple wire mesh fences can
installed. Make sure they are at least 5-foot high and bury them
at least a foot beneath the ground. This will also help keep rabbits and
ground hogs out of the garden. Do not forget to make the pathway you want
the dog on to be lined with soft materials. If the pathway is
uncomfortable to the dog’s paws, they will make a new, unwanted route
through your garden.
Dogs love to smell and walk around plants they are investigating. Place
plants around your dog’s paths that can take this activity. Some wildlife
friendly plants that can survive this sort of action include creeping
phlox, verbena, coneflower, and Black-eyed Susans. Tough wildlife friendly
shrubs are laurel, rhododendron and viburnums. Small trees suitable for
wildlife and resist dog damage are serviceberry, dogwood , pines and
Note: The author of this article recommends checking out the book,
Gardens-Garden Friendly Dogs by Cheryl Smith,
which was the inspiration
for this article.
Landscaping is a familiar term to those gardening for wildlife…but
Hardscaping is defined as non-plant items being placed in a
landscape to define an area or add a certain style to the area. All when
arranged in a pleasing way show the beauty of the plants. The following list of non-plant item includes some suggestions.
Birdbaths show vertical interest, as well as provide water. Gazing balls
reflect garden colors and add dimensions to a garden. You may choose to
float one on your wildlife pond or place on a pedestal in the middle of your
butterfly/hummingbird garden. Even birdhouses are considered hardscaping!
The bird box plans listed on our wild acres site provide nesting sites and
blend well in many types of landscaping designs.
Consider what blends naturally with your wildlife garden, wood, iron,
concrete are materials that can be shaped and colored to blend with a
wildlife garden. Remember when choosing materials for your hardscaping
consider how well it will stand up to the elements without fading or
chipping. Also try to avoid sharp edges, as they may be a safety concern.
If you are on a budget and cannot afford fancy planters or sculptures, try
planting some of your plants in an old boot, or wheelbarrow. Old farm or
garden equipment can serve as unique trellises for your vines.
Do not forget the placement of benches in your hardscaping. A bench in your
lunar or moth garden will allow you to enjoy the fragrances of the flowers
attracting the moths. The same holds true for seating by your wildlife water
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Photograph of Northern Mockingbird on branch courtesy of U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service
Photograph of Northern Mockingbird courtesy of George Jameson,
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, USGS.
Mockingbird song and call recordings courtesy of Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center, USGS
Photographs of dog-friendly garden designs courtesy of DeAnna
Glory Designs, San Francisco.
Photographs of Aster cordifolius, Aster macrophyllus, and Aster prenanthoides courtesy of
Thomas G. Barnes @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database /
Barnes, T.G. & S.W. Francis. 2004.
Wildflowers and ferns of Kentucky. University Press of Kentucky.
Aster divaricatus and Aster novi-belgii courtesy of R. Harrison Wiegand, Maryland Department of Natural Resources,
Wildlife and Heritage Service
Photograph of Aster novae-angliae courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay
Photograph of Aster pilosus courtesy of Merel
R. Black, Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Photograph of Aster puniceus courtesy of Missouri Botanical PlantFinder
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
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.
Bioimages, a project of
Vanderbilt University, provides educational information to the public on
biologically related topics, as well as a source of biological images for
personal and non-commercial use.
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
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
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
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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The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.
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