Yummy for Pigeons

Well, doves actually.  At least in my gardens.  (I think pigeons and doves belong to the same family of birds, Columbidae.)  The doves love Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis).

This summer being an exception, for years, almost every time I walk into my front garden during the summer months, the doves take flight, en masse, from the two areas where I have Pigeonberry planted.

This sweet, small ground cover is native throughout Texas.  It only gets about a foot high and spreads about two feet.  Mine are planted in dappled shade–one group gets some direct morning sun, but only for an hour or so.  I have seen them planted in full sun.

Pigeonberry freeze back during winter and return, rather late, in the spring.  By mid to late summer, when all is hot, dry and depressing, they bloom tiny, dainty, light pink flowers on the top couple of inches of the stem.  Often, the vibrant, red berries are on the stem at the same time as the flowers. The plant is fetching because of this simultaneous bloom/pink-berry/red combination.

Birds of all sorts love the berries and I’ve noticed that the berries disappear very quickly.

The leaves are thin, bright green and have a little bit of a ruffle to them.

Once we begin to get cold (yeah, it does happen), the leaves will turn crimson, at least until the first very first hard freeze of the year.  Mine get a moderate amount of water (once every 10 days or so), so Pigeonberry is a good choice for low water usage landscape plant.

I like to plant it in front of a taller evergreen plant (take your pick) and mix it with spring bloomers like Columbine (any variety),  Gulf Coast penstemon  (Penstemon tenuis) or Lyre-leaf Sage (Salvia lyrata).  It’s  also nice with other shady summer bloomers like the Tropical sage (Salvia coccinia).

Pigeonberry will seed out and I’ve transplanted seedlings to other areas, but  haven’t had great success with transplants.  Maybe 30% of my transplanted seedlings will survive–I’m not entirely sure why I don’t have better yield.  They seem to be enjoyed by some critter(s) shortly after the transplant. Often, the day following a transplant, all that remains of the little seedling is a green stick protruding from the ground.  That’s usually a bad omen for the life of the plant. So, when I want more Pigeonberry, I visit my favorite nursery to buy them in four inch pots.  They are often available in gallon pots as well.

Also, Pigeonberry has fragile branches.  If you have dogs (or  a 16 year-old who regularly steps off the path…), they easily suffer broken stems.  It’s sad to see a large branch of would-be blooms and berries, lying broken and wilted, next to the otherwise healthy and beautiful plant.

Even so, I agree with the doves and pigeons–Pigeonberry is a great plant in a well-rounded garden.

2 thoughts on “Yummy for Pigeons

  1. Hi Tina, So nice of Pam to introduce us on FB. I really enjoy the way you highlight plants and the naturalness of your yard. A gardening friend gave me a sprig of pigeonberry last fall and it has taken off in the last few weeks. I love plants like that!

    Yes, there’s always room for one (or three) more on the “green” side.


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