Conservation // 4 min Read

The Palmetto Bluff Wildlife Tree

Written by Palmetto Bluff

At 20,000 acres, Palmetto Bluff is a constant hive of activity for wildlife, so the idea of giving a Christmas tree back to Mother Nature just seemed to make sense. So, in the spirit of giving, we scouted a tree deep within our tidal wetland to serve as our “Wildlife Christmas Tree.” Adorned with edible ornaments for our furry friends, our Wildlife Tree is a 15-foot tall cedar located on the New River marsh. Decorated with edible ornaments handcrafted from natural materials – including dried fruit, birdseed, popcorn, and cranberries – these ornaments are not only decorative, but serve the greater purpose of feeding birds and other wildlife living at the Bluff during the winter months. (And once the ornaments have been eaten, birds can use the twine for their nests in the spring.)

Interested in creating your own wildlife tree for forest friends this Christmas? Follow our directions below for three simple all natural ornaments and you’ll be watching little critters enjoy a festive feast in no time.

Birdseed Ornaments

These super cute ornaments look the hardest, but they’re actually easy to make. Using a similar process as making Rice Krispie Treats…you end up with a sweet treat for the birds!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Birdseed
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup (regular or light)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 4 cups birdseed
  • Cookie cutters
  • Drinking straw or toothpick
  • Cooking spray
  • Wax Paper
  • Cookie cutters
  • Twine*
  • How to make:

How to make:

  1. Place your cookie cutters on wax paper and spray with cooking spray. This prevents the ornaments from sticking to the cookie cutter so you can remove them easily once dry.
  2. Add the water and corn syrup to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and slowly add the gelatin, stirring or whisking continually to dissolve the powder thoroughly. Clumps may appear, but will gradually vanish as you continue to stir. Only heat this mixture until the gelatin has dissolved; boiling the liquid down too far will reduce the quantity available to bind your ornaments, and they may fall apart more easily.
  3. Pour the syrup into a mixing bowl and add the flour. Stir the mixture until well blended; it will have a consistency similar to a medium brownie batter or thick cake batter, and there should be no large clumps. If it is too thick to stir easily, add additional hot water one tablespoon at a time until it is appropriately thinned. Similarly, if the mixture is too thin, add flour one tablespoon at a time to reach the right consistency.
  4. Slowly add the birdseed and mix it with the flour batter to coat all the seed. This will be a thick, stiff mixture, but it is important to blend it well otherwise the ornaments will not hold their shapes.
  5. Using your hands, fill each cookie cutter with birdseed. Press seed into every corner of the mold as firmly as possible to compact the ornaments, as loose seed will fall apart more easily. The birdseed mixture can dry out quickly so it is wise to have help with this step (great for kids!), or else cover the mixture in the bowl with plastic wrap between each ornament. You may need to spray your hands with nonstick spray after every 2-3 ornaments so the seed does not stick to you.
  6. Take a straw or toothpick to create a hole for hanging the ornament. Make sure the hole is not too close to the edge. Wiggle the skewer back and forth to ensure the hole goes all the way through the ornament and is big enough for your twine.
  7. Let the ornaments dry for a minimum of 6-8 hours, but preferably for a full day. Do not try and remove them from the molds too soon or they may fall apart.
  8. After removing the ornaments from their molds, string the twine through the holes. Your birdseed ornaments are now ready to hang on your wildlife tree!

*Avoid using fishing line as it can be dangerous for birds and other wildlife.

Popcorn & Cranberry Garland

Similar to Christmas trees found inside homes, this decorative garland is just as pretty on trees inside as it is outside. Bonus: the birds love the

What you’ll need:

  • Plain popcorn – unsalted and unbuttered
  • Cranberries
  • Needle
  • Thread

How to make:

  1. Pop as many bags of popcorn as you think you’ll need. (We popped 10-12 bags for our wildlife tree.)
  2. Alternate stringing popcorn and cranberries.

Dried Fruit Rings

While these ornaments definitely took the longest to make, they give our wildlife tree that bright “pop” of color. (Note: the apple slices did not turn out as nice, so we ended up not using them.)

What you’ll need:

  • Apples or oranges
  • Toothpick
  • Twine

How to make:

  1. Slice your fruit of choice into thin circles. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 170 degrees. Directions vary on how long to bake them; however, our orange slices were cooked/dried for roughly four hours.
  2. Once dry, use a toothpick to create a hole.
  3. String twine through the hole and tie in a knot or bow.

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