Natural Attachments

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Published on: Oct. 2, 2002

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

and other large animals, but to small animals like rabbits, it serves as a fortress.

Thorny shrubs and small trees like hawthorn also provide relatively secure nesting sites for many birds. Research published in the December 1999 issue of Conservation Biology asserts that the prevalence of non-native shrubs like bush honeysuckle is linked to the decline of many songbird populations. Nests built in thornless species of shrubs and small trees were found to lose more eggs to raccoons and other predators, partly because of the lack of protective thorns.

Common Natural Attachers

  • Sensitive brier (Schrankia nuttallii, also known as S. uncinata): This native Missouri plant grows on glades, prairies and fields and along roadsides and railroads throughout most of the state. The stems are completely covered with hooked barbs. Its beautiful pink to fuchsia flowers tipped with yellow anthers bloom from May through September.
  • Catbrier, greenbrier, blasphemy vine, tramps' troubles (several species of the genus Smilax; some are without spines): These native Missouri species grow in most parts of the state in forests and woodlands, and along roadsides and railroads. Dense thickets of catbrier vines, with occasional or abundant thorns or prickles, provide nesting sites for many songbird species and denning areas for small mammals. Ruffed grouse and several songbird species eat their fruits. Deer will browse thornless leaves and new shoots.
  • Blackberries, raspberries and dewberries (about 16 different species in the genus Rubus): Some species grow commonly throughout most of Missouri in prairies, old fields and woodlands and along streams, roadsides and railroads. Others are restricted to specific natural communities. Thickets of blackberries, with their bristle- and prickle-covered stems and leaves, provide excellent, protective habitat for small mammals and nesting birds. The fruits, of course, are relished by many animal species.
  • Hawthorns (about 50 species in the genus Crataegus, including C. mollis, our state flower, are native to Missouri): Most species are widespread in the state. Some prefer open habitats, but others prefer shaded understories. Thorny hawthorn shrubs and trees provide excellent nesting sites for many bird species. Hawthorn fruits are eaten by ruffed grouse, cedar waxwings and fox sparrows. Loggerhead shrikes (also known as butcher birds) will impale insects, small mammals and amphibians on the thorns before eating them. Sometimes these birds will not eat their skewered prey but leave it as a territorial display. Washington hawthorn (Crateagus phaenopyrum) is an attractive landscaping plant that is more

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