THE EARLY BERRIES IN THE WOODS Robins come to our cherry trees in June, and they hunt for our strawberries under the green leaves. The blackberrries come on, and the raspberries, and currants. The birds look at them with calculating eyes. An appetite for berries is inherited in them, learned in the woods, where wild berries have grown, and ripened for them, from the times long before there were gardens and cultivated fruits.
Back in the woods we shall find wild berries ripening, and birds feasting thankfully upon them. The harvest begins with the June-berries in the month of June. Serviceberries they are also called, and the tree is known also as the shadbush. We remember the lovely veil of white blossoms this tree put on before its leaves came out. In June we might not know the trees, ex cept that they bear red berries, few on a cluster, and here the birds are feasting.
There is no other tree with berries that ripen so early, unless it be the broad-leaved mulberry. Here, too, the birds will be found in numbers. Turn back the wide, heart-shaped leaves, and you will find the single berries of all sizes, some green, some reddening and soft. They are like black berries, each made of many tiny berries, grown together.
The beauty of the mulberry is that its fruit keeps coming on from June until August. It is a very slow, easy-going tree, in no hurry to have its harvest over. The birds like the soft, seedy berries, which to our taste are insipid.
It is a shrewd thing to plant mulberry trees on the edges of fruit gardens, and set a row of June-berry trees along the road outside the cherry orchard. It is the scarcity of wild berries that brings the birds into our gardens. Many a fruit
grower has saved his crop by planting wild berry trees for the birds.
The elders are shrubby trees with large, fern like leaves. They lift up flat, white flower clus ters, sometimes as large as dinner plates, in June, and in the middle of summer dark red berries are ripening where the flowers were. Here is an other feast for the birds, and elderberry pies are the reward of boys and girls who gather the ber ries, and take them home to mother. Grandma thinks of elderberry wine, so good for many ail ments, and if the berries are plenty it is easy to gather a bucketful to make a few pints of this old-fashioned cordial.
Among the shining green leaves of the wild red cherry tree the little fruits glow like rubies in the summer. Here is a feast for the birds. We find these small pin cherries very thin-fleshed, and sour, and the biggest of them is no larger than a pea. But how the birds love them! The bird cherry is indeed the bird's tree. In blossom it belongs to the bees, which come in swarms for nectar. To them, unconscious carriers of pollen from flower to flower, the birds owe a debt of gratitude. They insure the setting of seed, and this means a big crop of fruit.
The wild black cherry is later with its shining clusters of dark red cherries. They come in September, when the birds' procession has turned southward. The earliest corners hold high car nival in these trees, devour quantities of the bit ter-sweet fruit, and drop the seeds near and far. The wind can do little in scattering the seeds of fruit trees. The birds are the chief agents of distribution.