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 State
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.
Thursday at the historic Roycroft Campus!
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!
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!
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.