Cardinal Flower/Lobelia cardinalis and Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Photo: Will Stuart

Bird-Friendly Native Plants

Highlights From the 2017 Cullowhee Native Plant Conference

Our North Carolina mountains are a wonderful place to visit in mid-summer, and the annual Cullowhee Native Plant Conference is one of the major highlights!

We highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in planting for birds, whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been doing it for decades.

This year’s 34th Cullowhee Native Plant Conference  was the birdiest ever in its history: for the first time, a bird walk was one of the many field trip options. A morning jaunt on the Western Carolina University campus and neighboring woods offered up a male Hooded Warbler and a family of Pileated Woodpeckers, plus 30 more species. Audubon NC Field Organizer Kim Brand co-led the walk with Dawn Sherry of Middle Georgia State University, and you can bet they’ve asked to reprise the walk next year!

Many of our Bird-Friendly Native Plants partner nurseries were there sharing their passion for and knowledge of native plants, including:

BB Barns, Asheville

Cure Nursery, Pittsboro

Mellow Marsh Farm, Siler City

Niche Gardens, Chapel Hill

North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill

Painters Greenhouse, Old Fort

Southeastern Native Plant Nursery, Candler

On Saturday afternoon, birds were mentioned by every single speaker! We hope it inspired attendees to think about their own future plans for planting season!

More Conference Highlights:

Katie Davis on the Cure Nursery staff went nuts over her new Audubon Plants for Birds sign and she and her co-worker and husband Ryan Davis decided to give them to all their friends and family for Christmas this year.

Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and co-author (with Rick Darke) of The Living Landscape, spoke about how native-plant gardening can save the world. He shared this conversation with a student:

Dr. Tallamy: Soil could store 7 times the carbon that’s in the earth’s atmosphere.

Student: We need a machine to do that!

Dr. Tallamy: We have that machine; it’s called a tree…

Larry Weaner, co-author (with Thomas Christopher) of Garden Revolution, talked about filling the garden with plants that employ a variety of dispersal strategies: “The more strategies, the more likely a gap will be filled by a plant you want!” He demonstrated how Cardinal flower -- one of our absolute favorites for hummingbirds -- came and went in his garden and patio over a decade, starting from only one plant.

Mark your calendar for next year’s conference: July 18-21, 2018. Registration info will be available at


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