homepage logo

Trumpet the arrival of hummingbirds

By Staff | May 25, 2018

The thick, gnarly vines aren’t much to look at. The rather large, shiny, green leaves don’t announce the showy flowers hidden in the wall-crawling trumpet vines. Sometimes growing from ill-tempered soil littered with small stones or hard clay, the sun-yellow or orange-scarlet flowers beautify trellises, fences, telephone poles, arbors, brick walls or even tree trunks.

Trumpet vines can reach 20 to 40 feet in twisting length and seem to crawl along spaces where no other plant would even think about going.

The brown vines don’t mind direct sun. They don’t mind partial shade. They’re deer resistant and drought tolerant.

Tubelike flowers, about 3 to 4 inches long, give the plant its appropriate name of “trumpet vine.” Nectar deep at the base of the “tube” brings hummingbirds to visit. The visually pleasing flowers usually appear from early July to mid-October, or whenever the wounds of the first frosts come around.

Vines survive even the nastiest of winters. And when they send out the next year’s flowers, hummingbirds remember the plant’s location and make return trips to dip their long tongues into the proud flowers.

Attracting hummingbirds has become a craft of sorts. The tiny darters show off their attractive plumage, as well as displaying more aerial acrobatics than the average military jet plane flying in tight formation.

Hummingbirds can even fly backward, using their 60 to 70 wing beats per second to move faster than the average eye can follow.

Our geographic area is the summer home to two species of hummingbirds: the ruby-throated and the rufous.

Iridescent red feathers adorn the throat area of a thumb-sized ruby-throated hummingbird. The rufous has the majority of its feathers primed like a newly-minted copper penny.

It’s a useful virtue for hummingbirds that about one-third of their diet consists of insects such as mosquitoes, gnats, fruitflies, spiders and even small bees. When nectar isn’t readily available, a small spider or a swarm of gnats will do just fine.

Nectar from flowers in hanging baskets, like impatiens and petunias, is a staple of the diet. Ornamental trees like flowering crabapples, cherries or pears provide regular nectar when they are blooming. Hummingbirds welcome irises, gladiolas and other plants with elongated flowers.

Feeders with sugar-water or similar liquid also attract these hyperactive flyers. A little known fact is that hummingbirds can starve to death within a few hours, if having problems locating food. In good health, they will consume their weight in food in a day.

The flashy combination of trumpet vines and hummingbirds can give a front yard or backyard enough appeal to make even those lacking in apparent gardening or outdoor skills reason to try again to bring color and fast-paced activity to their acreage.