Habitat Restoration Series: Native Plant Suggestions for Western New York/Southern Ontario – Part 4

Here is the fourth installment in our Habitat Restoration Series for Spring.
———————————————————————————————————————–
Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #4 for wet/moist soils:
———————————————————————————————————————–

Catail (Typha latifolia)Common Cattail (Typha latifolia): Native to North American wetlands, shores, banks and even ditches, Cattails are an important species for wildlife. Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) and certain species of duck and geese will use Cattail “groves” for nesting. Fish can find safety from prey and sun in the Cattails or lay their eggs among them (as do many other aquatic animals) while Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) and Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) use them as a food source. Growing from rhizomes, Cattails are generally found in clumps or stands where each individual is often a genetic clone of its neighbor. The dense growth of Cattails has other benefits, including filtration of water and erosion prevention. Traditionally, these plants were an important protein source in Spring among native peoples who also made use of the leaves for weaving baskets and mats, the fluff for insulation and padding, and fibers for string or paper. Cattails are being challenged for habitat by the invasive Common Reed (Phragmites australis) and can really use our help in getting established in suitable locations. So if you’ve an area where it is continually wet and soggy or is characterized by seasonal flooding, Cattails might be an excellent candidate. Wildlife will appreciate it and you will be able to enjoy those “sausage heads” swaying in the Summer breeze.

Previous posts in this series:

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

Trees to Celebrate Arbor Day

In celebration of Arbor Day, here are some suggestions for trees native to Western New York to consider adding to your landscape. If you are unable to add a tree to your own property (or don’t own property) consider purchasing one of these from a locally owned nursery and donate it to a park, school or other worthy organization. Remember, life is always better when you slap your heart up against a tree and give it a big hug!

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) 

This species is fast growing, long-lived (up to 600 years) and at maturity is among the largest indigenous trees of New York State with a substantial trunk and crown. It is characterized by a lovely multi-colored bark of gray, green, brown and ivory (resembling camouflage). It is quite tolerant of road salts so will do nicely in areas impacted by road drainage. It does equally well in very wet conditions and in drier terrain. Well known to naturally populate in areas that have been disturbed by construction, erosion, etc., so soil quality is not an issue. Other common names are Planetree, American planetree, and buttonball tree. Confirm the scientific name when purchasing your trees to be certain you are getting the native species.

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

A species that can thrive in a wide varieties of habitats, the Red Maple can be a good choice for reforesting or creating a shady respite. Also called the Swamp, Scarlet and Soft Maple, A. rubrum is one of the most widely distributed trees in eastern North America, found from Florida all the way north to Newfoundland. and can tolerate soils from soggy to rocky. Under moist, fertile and well-drained conditions, the Red Maple can grow into a beautiful shade tree reaching about 80 feet tall at maturity and living up to 90 years or longer.

This species of Maple produces red flowers very early in the year, long before buds begin to swell, so is a true herald of Spring. It can either be monoecious (having both male and female reproductive parts) or dioiceous (either male or female) so it is best to plant 2 or three if the goal is to have it reforest an area. Red Maple is a prolific seed producer (double samaras in Spring) which germinate easily and so readily gives rise to subsequent generations. Be advised, however, that seedlings are a favorite food of White-tailed Deer so should be protected from browsing until trees reach about 4 to 6 feet tall.

As a bonus, Red Maple can be tapped for syrup and sugar production but, because it buds earlier than the Sugar Maple, sap extraction should be done only in the early part of sugaring season to ensure a sweet, quality product.

 

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

We’ll diverge into the conifer world for our third tree by focusing on the Eastern Hemlock. This lovely native of Eastern North America (from the Smokey Mountains north to Ontario and Quebec) is special among the conifers in that it can co-exist in a mature forest of deciduous trees due to its wonderful ability to tolerate shade.  Once a tree or two take hold, if undisturbed, a grove of Hemlocks can begin to flourish as they reproduce via tiny seeded cones.

Known by naturalists for creating “blue shade,” the Eastern Hemlock is a very important tree for wildlife, particularly in Winter as it becomes food and shelter for White-tailed Deer who nibble on needles and bed themselves beneath protective branches. Birds and members of the Squirrel family also find relief from bitter winds and snows within the Hemlocks and enjoy the habitat a grove of these trees can create.

The Eastern Hemlock is also among the longest living trees in the East, maturing at about 200 to 300 years old and living to or beyond 800 years. Although a slow grower in its youth, the Hemlock can eventually attain heights of about 125 feet. It tolerates a variety of soil types, but does best in moist, well drained areas. It produces a lot of tiny cones, but its seed does not germinate easily, succumbing to various factors or staying dormant until conditions are right for germination.

Create yourself a nice windbreak and deep shade with the Eastern Hemlock and get satisfaction from knowing you are helping wildlife survive the toughest weather each year.

Earth Day EVERY Day!

If you care about that which is the only source of all you need for survival, if you believe the millions of other species on this planet have the right to survive in their natural homes, if you believe our fellow species assist in making our human existence possible, then you must live Earth Day EVERY day! The two most significant things you can do to preserve YOUR HOME are:

1. Reduce your meat consumption to no more than 15% of your diet or none at all (this includes dairy). Regardless of amrobinhatchlingdwhether your meat is free-range and/or grass fed, pound for pound, animals do NOT feed as many people as plants, are a less valuable source of energy and nutrition than plants, and take far more water resources to raise than plants.

2. Curb your purchasing. If everyone in the world lived as we do in the United States we would need 5 1/2 planet Earths to supply the resources. Clearly this is an impossible model but the very strategy used by corporations and our government who are pushing our lifestyle throughout the world. What does it say about a society that has to build storage units for people to store all their “stuff” because their 2000 square foot homes are already too crowded with other “stuff”?

Every manufactured good, every bit of food, every drop of soda, coffee, food has its source in the EARTH. EVERYTHING!! We must consider the other species who share our world and the future generations of organisms who will inherit the Earth we leave behind.

LIVE EARTH DAY EVERYDAY!

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 – Part 1

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

for the rest of the Spring Habitat Restoration series, see below:

Tree-friendly Holiday Celebrations

HolidaySpruces

Former holiday trees continue on for future generations.

If you celebrate the holiday season with a conifer tree, consider using a live tree instead of a fresh-cut or artificial. While they should only remain indoors for a short period of time (no more than 10 days, watered sparingly), using a living tree is the most environmentally friendly method when employing them in holiday decor.

If you live in an area that experiences true Winter weather, after the celebrations are finished move the tree to a protected outdoor area that receives some Sun. A porch or near a building offering a wind block is perfect. Water lightly then insulate the root ball in straw, snow, blankets, or other suitable material. (Note – if the tree is kept on a porch, check the root ball for dryness during any thawing period. If completely dried out, water very lightly then re-insulate.)

Once the ground is workable in Spring, the tree should be planted in a suitable location for its future growth. No room to plant a tree on your property? Then donate it to a school, park, neighbor or friend.

We’ve planted many holiday trees over the years. One is now nearly 30 feet tall and a focal fixture in the landscape of a former home, providing much-needed shade in Summer and an energy-saving wind break in Winter. A real sense of accomplishment and joy surges through me whenever I drive past that house.

The photo above shows some of the holiday Spruces from the last dozen years that were all just a mere 3 feet tall when planted. These have provided nests for several generations of American Robins along with important weather and predation protection for many critters.

Go “live” this holiday season and consider employing such “seventh generation” concepts in your celebrations. The warm feeling it generates certainly will add to the festive nature of early Winter.

White_Pine_Sprig_Cone

White Pine – sacred tree of the Hodinöhšönih Confederacy

 

 

Our leaders were instructed to be men of vision
and to make every decision on behalf of
the seventh generation to come
;
to have compassion and love for
those generations yet unborn.”

Oren Lyons (Faithkeeper)
Onondaga – Hodinöhšönih

Caring About Nature is… Depressing

In reading reviews submitted by students in the Field Ecology course I teach, it is humbling yet somewhat euphoric to discover how much they enjoy the class and their instructor. One remark oft-repeated is how they appreciate my enthusiasm for the material. Motivating students has to be a top priority for any teacher and the best way to do that is to have passion for your work. But some days (even weeks) can be so difficult, at least for me. Perhaps I’ve become too connected to the natural world? Its “pain” becomes my pain.

Oil Sands mining at Ft. McMurray, Alberta (Associated Press)

Oil Sands mining at Ft. McMurray, Alberta (AP)

In isolation, watching only the “wild” beings, there is such wisdom imparted. I hesitate to put the human good/bad spin on Nature, but even in the most “difficult” moments, like predation, enormous sagacity is imparted as we gain understanding of the processes at play. These important perspectives have allowed me to abandon many fears, particularly that of death, because Nature clearly demonstrates all is cyclical – nothing ends, it simply changes form.

However, one of the most significant lessons Nature shares is, for me, the most burdensome to internalize – living in the moment. All the wild creatures have this innate skill. Even the most socialized recognize and experience grief but, at the same time, let go of it enough to continue on. Elephants are an excellent example of this behavior. But the continual exposure to humankind’s assault on Nature and the inevitable helplessness one can experience in combating the onslaught often can be overwhelming. Concern about the future of the planet and all its wild inhabitants is inevitable for those of us who live in close relationship with the natural world.

Consider these headlines from just the past year:

“Snipers” in Britain Target Fox
Most Americans Support Keystone Pipeline
Bill to Force Intelligent Design Instruction
Governor Devotes $2 Million to Kill 500 Wolves
Invertebrate Species Populations Plummet
Wildlife Devastated by Sudanese War

Photo courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Photo courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Ugh… But one must trudge on, particularly with students who look up to you for guidance and knowledge.

So how does one cope with the seemingly endless parade of travesties perpetuated by humans? I’ve no firm answers other than to continue to practice a lifestyle as sustainable as possible (dietary choices are most profound), teach these concepts to all who will heed the message, and spend more time in Nature if for nothing else than its ability to heal. Also, distancing oneself from social media might be helpful, particularly those hot button issues where derogatory commentary from both the pro and con sides can be quite demoralizing.

Please feel free to share your coping mechanisms in the comments below. As the adage says, misery loves company!