Pigeon-berry… what a pretty name. This week’s plant of the week is one of the first plants I learned to name in the J. Waddy Botanical Gardens. This vine-like perennial is native to Texas and is 100% “for the birds”. The vibrant blood red berries are enjoyed by many different bird species, including doves, mockingbirds, quails, and turkeys. This ground cover plant can provide protection for small mammals and its blooms are loved by many pollinators.
Pigeon-berry, Rivina humilis, only reaches 1-2 ft tall and tends to grow outward instead of up. The species name humilis actually means “low” in Latin. Pigeon-berry grows well in shade and would be ideal to plant under large live oak or cedar elm trees. Rivina humilis spreads easily once it becomes established and can add a splash of color to an otherwise barren spot. A unique trait of pigeon-berry is that the berries and flowers can grow on the same stalk at the same time. The maturing berries grow on the bottom of the stem, while the top of the stem supports blooms of whitish-pink flowers. The dark green leaves are ovate to lanceolate shaped and are wavy around the edges.
Pigeon-berry should not be eaten by humans, no matter how juicy and delicious the red berries look. This flowering plant is in the same family as pokeweed, a plant known around these parts for its toxicity when ingested. All parts of Rivina humilis are poisonous to the gastrointestinal system. However, Native Americans in the Southwestern regions would use the berries to make a red dye.
Come take a walk through the gardens to witness the beauty of pigeon-berry for yourself.
Republished with permission of the Goldthwaite Eagle. By Savannah Lane.