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.
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Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #4 for wet/moist soils:
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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)

Habitat Restoration Series: Native Plant Suggestions for Western New York/Southern Ontario – Part 3

Here is the third installment in our Habitat Restoration Series for Spring.
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Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #3 for wet/moist soils:
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Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis)

Whether called Serviceberry, Shadbush, Shadblow, Juneberry or Saskatoon, the local name of this important shrub is tied to cultural legacy – the timing of flowering or fruiting often coincided with events like the running of shad, the arrival of traveling preachers, or the month of the year; saskatoon is a shortened version of the Cree name for this shrub, mis-ask-quah-toomina, and also points to this species’ predominance in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Historically, native tribes used Serviceberry for food (including pemmican), medicine and its hard wood for arrow shafts. So valuable was the dried fruit, Indians utilized it as a form of trade with arriving Europeans.

amelanchier_canadensisHere in Western NY, you will find Serviceberry is tolerant of a wide range of soils and light but probably does best in locations that are slightly acidic, moist but well-drained, and partially shaded to sunny. Is has more upright, rounded growth reaching anywhere from 6 to 20 feet, producing small white flowers in late April to May. Its food value to wildlife (songbirds, game birds, squirrel and many other mammals – including bear) is high and, like the elderberry, we humans can enjoy the fruit for pies, jams and wines. Serviceberry is our first fruiting shrub with its gifts ripening in June. Like most fruiting shrubs, its age determines maturity in terms of fruit production, sometime around 4 to 5 years. Ornamentally, Serviceberry, if planted close enough together, can form a natural fence or windbreak and its fall color is very vibrant.

Other than protecting young shrubs from nibbling Deer, this shrub needs little or no maintenance, which is a great bonus. Be advised, if you plan to harvest berries for your own use, prepare to net the shrubs early as our bird friends can easily strip them completely of fruit in one day. Here on The Acre, we net until ready to harvest but leave plenty for wildlife. If you’ve a number of Serviceberry plants, you can also net just one for your own use and leave the others available for critters. You’ll love the deliciously sweet fruits and wonder how you lived this long having not enjoyed them.

See our previous postings in this Series:
#1: Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
#2: Common Elderberry (Sambucus 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.

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.
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Native Plantings for WNY/Southern Ontario – Submission #2 for wet/moist soils:
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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.
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Did you miss Submission #1? Have no fear, you can read all about Winterberry HERE!