Native fruit for dry soil


I was wondering if anyone had ideas for a wild planting of native fruits or berries specific to NJ? The area would consist of dry soil on the side of a hill. This planting would be useful for erosion control. I already planted red mulberry, American persimmon, American plum, and pawpaw at the top of the hill. Ideally the species would be a small tree or large bush with minimal browsing by deer. I am OK planting species that would largely be foraged by birds and wildlife.

Thank you!

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Here’s a couple of resources that might help you:

You may also consider the American plum, although I’m not sure if it would flourish in your conditions:


Sounds like you’ve got a pretty good start! For a dry site, I’d highly recommend beach plum, especially if you have sandy soil. Also, wild blackberries and black raspberries would probably do pretty well.

I don’t have a good source on the brambles (unless you want to go with improved cultivars), but you can get a large bundle of beach plum seedlings for cheap from the NH State Forest nursery.


My search thus far:

Amelanchier subspecies: Already heavily planted in the area. Fruit better served for the birds.

Ilex verticillata: Useful for ornemental berries in the winter. Fruit for the birds.

Prunus angustifolia: Not really native to my area of NJ. Naturally occurs in southern part of the state.

Prunus virginiana: Occurs in the Northernmost part of NJ. Extremely heavy black knot disease burden in the area so will probably avoid.

Prunus marítima: While native to NJ. I don’t believe these grow in the inland hardwood forests of NJ. May not grow high enough to survive browsing by deer.

Rhus subspecies

Rubus occidentalis: Would love to plant black raspberry. Concerned about browsing by deer as the plant doesn’t get particularly tall.

Vaccinium corymbosum: I protect my highbush blueberries from deer year-round. I do see wild blueberries in the woods that aren’t regularly browsed by deer. I would also need to amend the soil with acid, which seems to go against a “wild” planting.

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There are some good options. I’ve done a fair bit of research, already, looking for native plants that do well in dry soil and that are resistant to deer browse since that is the type of conditions that I also deal with and I enjoy growing native plants and collecting and growing seeds of those types of natives.

For reference: here’s a pretty good guide by Rutgers University on many landscape and native plants rated by deer resistance:

The first I’ll mention are the Serviceberries/Juneberries (Amelanchier). The big draw with these is that they are excellent native small tree/shrub species that benefits many types of wildlife, while also giving edible and tasty fruits that we can eat. They are usually listed as at least somewhat deer-resistant, so I’m guessing they are a low preference for browse. They are also a very nice looking landscape tree with showy blooms in spring and nice fall colors. Species that are native to the northeastern U.S. include A. arborea, canadensis, laevis, humilis, spicata, and sanguinea. There are also some cultivars available at many nurseries that are crosses between A. arborea and A. laevis (referred to as Amelanchier x grandiflora), including Autumn Brilliance, Princess Diana, and Robin Hill.

Chokeberries (Aronia) are nice wildlife shrubs that have berries that may not be very palatable to most people on their own, but can be very good processed and made into jams, juices, or desserts. The native species of Chokeberry are the Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) and Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia). I know that there are cultivars available of the Black Chokeberries, not sure about the Reds.

The American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) could also be a good choice as it does well in dry soil, is a low deer preference, and give edible nuts for humans and wildlife.

Sumacs could also be included as shrubs/small trees with good deer resistance that have edible fruits since they have berry clusters that can be used to make sumac lemonade (I make this every summer and it is delicious!). Sumacs are well known for being extremely good at thriving in poor and dry soil and are often used for erosion control. They are a valuable food source for winter and migrating birds since the berry clusters persist through winter, have flowers that are very attractive to bees, and have beautiful red fall leaves. Our native species include: Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), Smooth Sumac (Rhus glabra), Winged/Shining Sumac (Rhus copallinum), and Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica). Cultivars are available of some of these species. I know that there’s a dwarf, yellow leafed variety of Staghorn Sumac called Tiger Eyes and a very short variety of Fragrant Sumac called Gro-Low. Note: Poison Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) is the only Sumac we have that is poisonous, but it is not commonly encountered as it likes very wet conditions and tends to grow only in swamps and bogs.

Blueberries may or may not have some deer resistance, depending on location (they don’t touch mine), but there are 2 native species that are actually pretty tolerant of dry soil conditions: the Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and the Dryland/Blue Ridge Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum).

If we look at native plants that give fruit that aren’t edible to humans, then there are many more options.

Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a very deer resistant shrub that grows very well in dry and poor soil conditions as it is a nitrogen-fixing species. It occurs naturally along sandy seashores as well as wetlands, so it is well adapted to a wide range of conditions. It has white, waxy berries that persist on the shrubs through winter and are a valuable resource for birds. The berries are also pleasantly aromatic and can be made into candles, soaps and sealing wax.

Other native shrubs/small trees that are deer-resistant, do well in dry soil, give fruit or seeds for wildlife, and that I think are worth looking into are: False Indigo Bush (Amorpha fruticosa), Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa), Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina) (a shrub that looks like a fern), Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), & Mapleleaf Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium).


Corylus americana looks like a winner for this location.

You should definitely check out the NH State nursery. They’ll have a lot of these native fruits as wildlife plants, and you can get them much more affordably than retail. They basically sell at cost.

Jujubes are suppose to be drought tolerant I thought? @jujubemulberry

yes, jujubes are exceptionally drought-tolerant. Southern nevada water district lists it as “bullet-proof/water-conservation friendly”(along with pomegranate). Was surprised to see figs not considered in the same category.

our water district has been big on water-conservation for decades, and even more nowadays as lake mead water level has never been this low…

no coincidence as was actually just watching this expose on homeowners and businesses using so much water.

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