Habitat Restoration Series: Native Plant Suggestions for Western New York/Southern Ontario – Part 2

Here is our second installment in our Habitat Restoration Series for Spring.
Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #2 for wet/moist soils:

Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

web_MistyElderberryThese shrubs grow best in rich, moist, neutral soils that have good drainage. I have mine planted on a very shallow slope just above a very mucky spot and they do tremendously well. Sunlight should be from full sun to partial shade (they are often found along the woodland edge in the wild). They will shoot up new canes each year and are subject to spreading so you can choose a spot where they can spread at will or control them through pruning back older woody canes or mowing. It generally takes from 3 to 5 years for fruits to develop after planting young canes. Flowers develop in June so are not usually subject to fruit loss due to frost. Fruits begin to ripen in late Summer and persist well into October. This area native has many, many benefits. It is rich in vitamin C and potassium and has many medicinal qualities, especially in terms of the immune system.

Homeopathically (like treats like) Elderberry is considered to be good for the areas of the body that are “tubular” or “hollow” – blood, respiratory, nerves – based on the plant’s hollow stems. Both flowers and fruits can be used. Be advised that raw Elderberries Elders in flower on "The Acre"can have a strong cathartic effect so we advise that the fruits be heated for 5 minutes to neutralize those characteristics (generally small amounts may be eaten raw – just be prudent). Wildlife thrives on the berries and these shrubs can produce more than enough for sharing. You can have your pie, wine, jam and medicinals while leaving enough for birds and deer to “fatten up” on for Winter.

Sources for Elderberry, other than local nurseries, can be found on our webpage. Be sure you choose the Sambucus canadensis varietal as this is the true native in Eastern North America.

Did you miss Submission #1? Have no fear, you can read all about Winterberry HERE!

Habitat Restoration Series: Native Plant Suggestions for Western New York/Southern Ontario

As Spring deepens, thoughts naturally turn to outdoor activities, and for many of us that means gardening. Regardless of the available space (from acres to pots on the front stoop), nearly everyone can help provide wildlife habitat. We’ll help you along the way with some plant species suggestions over the next couple of weeks, beginning with our first entry below. If you are interested in learning more about providing wildlife habitat, come to our lunch-time talk, Creating Wildlife Habitat, at Erie Community College South Campus on April 23rd when we’ll share lots of way to help our wild friends who face diminishing habitat on a daily basis.

Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #1 for wet/moist soils:

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata): You might recognize from the Latin that this is a Holly. But unlike its evergreen cousins, Winterberry is a deciduous holly. And although it loses its leaves in Autumn, behind are left bright red berries that remain into early Winter, hence its name. Winterberry is also dioecious (male and female reproductive organs on separate plants) so be sure you get at least one male and a few females to surround him. This will help ensure an abundance of berries to brighten the early Winter landscape. And what a boon to wildlife in the Winter as the berries are eaten by small mammals, many birds (both song and game) and White-tailed Deer. Known also as Fever Bush and Black Alder, Winterberry was used by Indigenous Americans to treat not only fever, but the bark served in healing bruises and minor wounds. Native to the eastern United States and southeast Canada, Winterberry is challenged as we continually drain and/or develop wetlands. So if you’ve a wet or very moist spot, you can add some Winterberry and watch it spread over the area after a few seasons. It can also be put in drier areas but instead of spreading, it will grow in more of a clump. It prefers acidic soils with light requirements ranging from partial shade to full sun. Sources for Winterberry, other than local nurseries, can be found on our website at: http://oakmossed.com/garden.php.

Photo courtesy of Ohio StatePhoto courtesy of Ohio State

Program: Creating Wildlife Habitat – April 23rd

Join us for this lunch-time lecture in celebration of Earth Day on Thursday, April 23 at Erie Community College South Campus. Habitat destruction due to human activity is the #1 cause of wildlife population declines and extinction. Learn how to stem this dangerous tide with tips for everyone, from landowners to apartment dwellers.

Lecture: Creating Wildlife Habitat

The Real Story Behind Groundhog Day

Oakmoss Education:

Encore posting of a previous blog regarding the concept of “Groundhog Day”.

Originally posted on Oakmoss Education:

The Woodchuck (Marmota monax) is the largest member of the Squirrel family (Sciuridae) and the 2nd largest North American rodent.  Its other common name, Groundhog, relates to the fact that this rotund fellow makes its home in an underground burrow.  Burrows often have two entrances allowing for quick entry and escape as protection from predation. The name Woodchuck comes from the Algonquin name for this critter, wuchak. woodchuck_2

But how did the Woodchuck get associated with the coming of Spring? Its ability to foretell the start of the warming season is not so much about a talent for meteorology but more about reproduction. The Woodchuck is a true hibernator, so its metabolic processes slow considerably in Winter allowing it to survive during the time of year when its main food sources (greens and grubs) are not readily available. However, the irresistible urge to mate seems to awaken this…

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Make the Most of Holiday Trees

If you were unable to take up our suggestion of using a live tree in your holiday celebrations but, instead, employed a cut tree, do not toss the remnants on the curb. The best option is to put the tree in your landscape, at least temporarily, and offer a refuge for wildlife over the next few months. Many birds, small mammals and other critters will appreciate it and make great use of a fading conifer for protection from weather and predation.

Don't toss that tree on the curb - make it work for healthier ecosystems!

Don’t toss that tree on the curb – make it work for healthier ecosystems!

Better still, you can begin building a brushpile with your tree and the downed limbs or twigs that accumulate over the Winter. The brushpile breaks down over time enriching the soil around the area and you can simply keep it going for many years adding to the pile as material presents itself in your landscape. Just be sure to locate the tree and/or brushpile away from any structures so to avoid creating an infestation problem with insects and rodents.

If your property does not allow for building a brushpile, you can always dispose of the tree in a public forest (off trail) and allow it to decompose naturally – this adds to the health of the forest ecosystem and provides cover for wildlife there, as well. Another option is to check with a local tree farm to see if they wish to use your spent tree for compost. Better yet, check with a local wildlife rehabilitator who might be able to make use of the tree for bedding, housing or even food.

Although many municipalities offer roadside pickup of holiday trees and use them in creating a community mulch, it’s still a better environmental bet to place the tree back in the natural environment. Municipal mulching does use gas-powered equipment to shred the trees which adds polluting fumes and greenhouse gases to the atmosphere so should be the last option in holiday tree disposal.

Mimicking these natural processes is a great way to finish off your holiday festivities!

Remembering Wounded Knee

December 30th marked the 124th anniversary of the massacre of Lakota people at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. We honored their spirits with the Facebook post linked below. Mitakuye Oyasin.


Remembering Wounded Knee