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Lifestyle Home & Garden

Nandina not invasive in Maryland, but it can be toxic to birds

I've learned that nandina berries kill cedar waxwings. I love birds! Should everyone cut down their nandina bushes?

Those reported waxwing deaths occurred in the southern United States, where cedar waxwings overwinter. This exquisite bird happens to be a notorious glutton. It gorges itself on berries or fruit, even to the point of intoxication on overripe berries. Their first choice of diet would be native plants, but when faced with little plant diversity, those reported waxwings filled up on toxic nandina berries, which contain cyanide. Nandina has become an invasive plant in many Southern states, but so far in Maryland, it can still be part of a diverse landscape. Help waxwings by providing a diversity of berry and fruit plants, such as crabapple and hollies, so they are not forced to feed solely on nandina. Many varieties of nandina do not produce berries at all.

The new leaves on my sycamore tree turned brown around the edge and crinkled up. All the sycamores in the neighborhood look the same. Some brown leaves fell off. Tree is in full sun. I really love this tree and want to help it.

Sycamores were hit by anthracnose fungus this spring. This is a common occurrence in years when spring is cool and wet. Although the trees look like they are on death's door, having lost almost all their new leaves, sycamores possess the remarkable ability to put out continuing flushes of leaves and thus survive anthracnose. While evolving with the disease, sycamores developed this handy mechanism for outwitting it.

University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at

Plant of the week

Katsura tree

Cercidiphyllum japonicum

Elegance is the word to describe this tree. Some prefer it to all other trees. Emerging leaves are a bronzy purple that fade to light green and then to blue-green. Fall color is yellow to apricot, but it is the leaves' fragrance that puts it over the top. Their spicy odor is described as that of cotton candy or cinnamon. Shaggy bark is an asset year-round. With no serious insect or disease problems, this is a great choice for large lawns. From China, the katsura tree grows 40 to 60 feet high and wide. The one shown is a pendulous cultivar. Its only drawbacks are that it is difficult to transplant and must have ample moisture during dry periods while it is getting established. — Ginny Williams

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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