It takes a patient, thoughtful observer like Arboretum volunteer and birder Jack Bartley to point out the mid-summer bounty of fruit-eating opportunities for wildlife at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It’s not only about the ripening of red, ripe saguaro fruits–which is huge–but also about the fruiting potential of hundreds of other plants, like desert hackberries and condalias that are growing in the Arboretum’s plant collections and dare to fruit in the middle of the summer. Jack is keenly aware that knowing what birds eat is the best way to find them, and he reminded me of a half dozen fruiting shrubs that he had seen earlier that day.
Nothing short of a real bird-brain is needed to keep up with such things and I’m sure that Jack would admit to having one, because he quickly rattled off the six fruiting shrubs with the staccato beat of a woodpecker drilling a pine snag. (No offense intended, Jack. That was meant to be a compliment.) There were the small, black fruits of elderberry, crucifixion thorn, and Condalia globosa, the orange desert hackberries and the pinkish-orange Berberis, and the leathery-colored, perfect globes of Geoffroea decorticans.
All of them were plants that I considered to be old friends, but I hadn’t noticed that a single one had ripe fruit ready for a bird to pluck. Its human indifference, I guess, brought on by being spoiled and overly domesticated with the luxury to ignore easy food sources in favor of the ones we have to pay for. Sure, those desert hackberry fruits look yummy (and they are), but I have far too many other less healthy, store-bought options to satisfy my hunger than to spend the day picking enough of these tiny orange fruits for a meal. And just think of all those seeds.
But I tried to look at it from a bird’s point of view, nonetheless, and each one was indeed loaded with frut.