Photo: Will Stuart

Bird-Friendly Communities

Elect The Bird-Friendly Native Plants of the Year

Cast Your Ballot to Help Shape Our 2018 Growing List

CAST YOUR VOTE HEREPolls close Tuesday, August 9. 

Help finalize our 2018 Bird-Friendly Native Plants of the Year list by casting your vote! Our native plant experts have compiled a list of NC native plant candidates, and now it’s up to YOU to vote for the winners.

Audubon North Carolina's Bird-Friendly Native Plants of the Year program works to bring back native plants that specifically benefit birds, our environment and our local economy. Growing more native plants will help our birds with food and shelter as their natural habitats continue to disappear.

All the candidates play an important role in providing the food birds need to survive and thrive. Our natural wildlife - including birds - have adapted to the resources provided by our state’s native plant population – these plants and trees are, in a real sense, home for our birds.

How to Cast Your Vote:

  • There are 2 candidates in 12 categories representing the resources NC birds need throughout the year. Vote for one candidate in each category.
  • The polls close Tuesday, August 9. Don’t wait to make your vote count.

CLICK HERE to cast your vote! 

Every vote counts for NC birds. We’ve got 24 plants – 2 candidates in 12 categories. Meet the candidates below - then click here to cast your vote. YOU decide the winners. 


Summer Berries: Elderberry vs. Blueberry

Blueberry Vaccinium: The ultimate bird-friendly, people-friendly native plant; not only is the fruit delicious for people and birds alike, blueberries support 286 moth and butterfly species in North America.

Endorsed by: Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Elderberry Sambucus canadensis: A total bird magnet, Elderberry is drought resistant and tolerates compacted soil well. With this plant, you’ll make good jam, but the fruits are not sweet like blueberries. Elderberry supports 40 native moths and caterpillars.

Endorsed by: Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher and the American Robin


Summer-Fall Berries: Possumhaw vs. Red Chokeberry

Possumhaw Viburnum nudum: This plant has beautiful leaves that turn red and hang on all winter long, falling off just in time to make way for new spring growth. Our native Viburnum species support 97 native moths and caterpillars – Chokeberry, with only five, just can’t compete in that arena.

Endorsed by: Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing

Red Chokeberry Aronia arbutifolia (formerly Photinia arbutifolia): Its fruit provides a beautiful fall red color and is present fall and all winter. The chokeberry is colonial and best for natural areas. Dr. Larry Mellichamp calls it “one of our best year-round shrubs”.

Endorsed by: Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush

Fall Berries: Coralberry vs. Blackhaw Viburnum

Coralberry Symphoricarpos orbiculatus: Berries are present through fall and all winter providing a purplish-red color. The coralberry is colonial and best in natural areas due to its invasive tendency. Coralberry provides nice thickets for nesting birds.

Endorsed by: American Robin, Red-breasted Grosbeak

Blackhaw Viburnum Viburnum prunifolium: Your plant will have fruit in September and October when the viburnum ripens from reddish to blue-black.

Endorsed by: Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing


Winter Berries: Deciduous Holly vs. Wax Myrtle

Deciduous Holly Ilex decidua: Grow this plant in the lower mountains, piedmont and coastal plain. Expect fruit September through January at least. 

Endorsed by: Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, Cedar Waxwing, American Robin, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker

Wax Myrtle Morella cerifera (formerly Myrica cerifera): This berry plant will fruit August through December with an evergreen shrub. 

Endorsed by: Yellow-rumped Warblers and Cedar Waxwings.

Nectar for Hummingbirds (Early Spring): Wild Columbine vs. Carolina Jessamine

Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis – The columbine will sport red and yellow flowers from March through May. It’s important for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arriving in NC after making a nonstop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico and working their way north to us.

The Wild Columbine is endorsed by Dr. Larry Mellichamp, who always sees his first hummingbird of the year at a Columbine flower.

Carolina Jessamine – Gelsemium sempervirens – Grow this plant in the piedmont and coastal plain for yellow flowers March through May. But buyer beware – this woody vine’s flowers, roots and leaves are toxic to humans. It’s important for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds arriving in NC after making a nonstop crossing of the Gulf of Mexico and working their way north to us.

Nectar for Hummingbirds (Spring): Southern Blue Flag vs. Coral Honeysuckle

Southern Blue Flag Iris virginica: Plant the blue flag for its deep-purple flowers in April and May. This is a great plant for water gardens and rain gardens.

Endorsed by: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens: Flowering March through July and often during the entire time hummingbirds are in NC, this beauty is also the star of Audubon’s wildly popular Bird-Friendly Native Plant Brochure. We promise to be impartial here!

Endorsed by: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Nectar for Hummingbirds (Summer/Early Fall): Spotted Bee Balm vs. Blazing-Star

Spotted Bee Balm Monarda punctata: This candidate has delicately purple-spotted pale white, yellow, or pink tubular flowers, and will attract hummingbirds and butterflies July through September. Leaves are good for tea, and Native Americans used this plant medicinally. Plants are 2 to 3 feet tall. Flowers are beautiful in a subtle way, but nowhere near as showy as Blazing-star.

Endorsed by Robert Hoffman, Roundstone Native Seed and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Blazing-star Liatris spicata: Blazing-star flowers July through September, with lavender-violet blooms. Tall (2 to 4 feet), showy spikes of lavender flowers are a fabulous addition to any garden! Irresistible to hummers and people alike.  

Endorsed by: Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Seeds for Finches & Sparrows aka Battle of the Cool-end-of-the-spectrum Flowers

New York Ironweed Vernonia noveboracensis: Great for butterflies and other pollinators, the ironweed seeds August October – just in time for fall migration.

Endorsed by the T. Gilbert Pearson Audubon Chapter’s Ann Walter-Fromson, American Goldfinch, House Finch and Song Sparrow.

Wide-leaf Bluestar Amsonia tabernaemontana: Pretty blue-white flowers in April provide nectar for butterflies. Seeds are ready for little birds to munch on in August and September.

Endorsed by: American Goldfinch, House Finch, Song Sparrow

Seeds for Finches & Sparrows aka Battle of the Yellow Flowers

Swamp Sunflower Helianthus angustifolius: An accurate name – the Swamp Sunflower will thrive back in a wet ditch in full sun. This native sunflower grows 5 to 9 feet tall, with bright yellow flowers from August until first frost. It produces seeds September through November supporting 73 native caterpillar species!

Endorsed by: Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse

Goldenrod is a cheery sign of late summer and fall in North Carolina. Here are two species to cover the whole state.

Southern Seaside Goldenrod Solidago mexicana: For the coastal plain gardeners, this goldenrod seeds September through December, and it’s a superstar; it supports 112 different kinds of caterpillars in North America. 

Limestone GoldenrodSolidago sphacelata – mountains & piedmont, not coastal plain – seeds Sep-Nov. 

Endorsed by Janice Nicholson, Gethsemane Gardens & Nursery

Goldenrods are favored by Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, House Finch

Seeds/Evergreen Groundcover: Appalachian Sedge vs. Green and Gold

Appalachian Sedge Carex appalachica: Keep the sedge in part or full shade to provide birds with a buffet of summer seeds and deer-resistant groundcover.

Endorsed by: Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Northern Cardinal, House Finch

Green and Gold Chrysogonum virginianum – Another deer-resistant groundcover option, the evergreen Green and Gold will grow bright yellow flowers March through June, and seeds April through July. Growing 6 to 12 inches tall – this is a fabulous bird-friendly replacement for English ivy!


Nuts for Woodpeckers: Willow Oak versus Hazelnut

Willow Oak Quercos phellos: Willow is a very popular oak known for its fall golden color and narrow leaves.

Endorsed by: Woodpeckers, jays and turkeys who depend on its acorns; chickadees who need up to 9,000 caterpillars to raise one batch of babies.

Hazelnut Corylus americana: Hazelnuts are a tasty treat for birds and people too – if you can beat the critters to them. They support 124 native moth and butterfly species.

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker

Caterpillar Trees: Sugar Maple versus Washington Hawthorn

Southern Sugar Maple Acer floridanum AND Northern Sugar Maple Acer saccharum:

These trees are great for a fabulous fall color, and Maples are a top-ten caterpillar tree; they support 287 species in North America. More caterpillars = more babies!

Endorsed by: White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, House Finch

Washington Hawthorn Crataegus phaenopyrum: With a gorgeous fall red color, this deciduous tree will fruit in September and last into the winter. Its thorns protect nesting birds, and it’s no slouch in the caterpillar department, supporting 150 species of caterpillars. Clearly the patriotic choice!

Endorsed by: Cedar Waxwing, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, American Robin, Hermit Thrush


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