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.

Gardens and Plantings: Tending the Base

The green world of plants is the base of all life on the planet. Providing oxygen, nutrients and implicit in innumerable ecosystem services, we often fail to pay due respect and honor to the world of primary production.

On “The Acre” plants have a place of utmost importance. About 2/3 of the property is predominantly wet meadow and allowed to naturalize with human manipulation playing a minimal role helping control alien invasives and propagating native species. Dealing with invasives can be daunting so “control” rather than eradication is the more realistic goal. For example, deflowering the majority of Purple Loosestife (Lythrum salicaria) before they go to seed helps keep them from spreading; they are notoriously difficult to uproot and given that the wet meadow receives a great deal of runoff, it is impossible to eliminate them. So interfering with their further propagation is far more practical. Natural succession is in process with the appearance of Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera), Silky Dogwood (C. amomum) and Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) sprinkled throughout the meadow. Curly/Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus), an alien, politely competes with native Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) as some of the predominant herbaceous plants in the meadow with numerous Grasses, Sedges, Asters, Pinks and Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) scattered throughout.  On the higher, dryer end of the meadow, native White Spruce (Picea glauca) have been planted, along with White Pine (Pinus strobus) and Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) creating bird habitat and Winter feeding opportunity for Red Squirrel and White-tailed Deer.

The rest of the property, where possible, is little by little being turned over to garden beds for food, medicine and visual pleasure while also functioning to assist wildlife as much as possible.  A 12 by 24 foot vegetable garden surrounded by herb beds is the major garden installation with a number of flower beds created throughout the rest of the “manicured” section. A mammoth Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) provides the annual supply of maple syrup and a generous source of wild berries have appeared thanks to bird droppings and my personal disdain for trimming around trees.  An old Apple tree makes a valiant effort to provide fruit each year in the dense shade of the Maple.  The last of the dead Scot’s Pines still stands providing valuable Woodpecker sustenance while across the way, long ago planted Austrian (P. nigra) and White Pines provide excellent cover for the many songbirds that visit and live here.

Below are posted some photos of plants that have been introduced around “The Acre.” They are part of a hypnotic, if not obsessive, pleasure that brings balance to not only the property’s environment but also to my own emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. All hail the Green!

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Nasturtiums hang in pots around the vegetable garden providing a lovely, peppery flavor to salads.

Blue Columbines

Lovely blue Columbines have naturalized all over the shady areas of “The Acre”.

Echinacea

A bright orange variety of Echinacea stands out from the more common pink variety planted in other areas of the property.

Pileated Woodpecker

Leaving a dead Scot’s Pine snag standing brings the Pileated Woodpecker in for regular visits.

Shasta Daisies

This bed of Shasta Daisies is full of happy smiling flowers.

Blanket Flowers

A new bed of Blanket Flowers has moved in next to the Shasta Daisies.

Monarda

Monarda, aka Bee Balm, is a favorite among Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a variety of Butterflies as well as the Bees.

Marshmallow

Ants are busy sipping nectar while pollinating these Marshmallows.

Foam Flower and Fern

The base of trees is a perfect place for small beds of native Foam Flower and Ostrich Fern.

Wild Ginger

This new planting of Wild Ginger beneath the shade of the Pines is thus far doing quite well.

Naturalized Black Raspberries

Much credit goes to the birds of “The Acre” whose droppings provide a wonderful supply of wild Black Raspberries.

Common Elderberry

Among the most useful plantings are these beautiful Common Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis) which provide powerful medicine for humans and important bird food just in time for Autumn migration.

Celebrate Arbor Day in the Northeast!

American Sycamore, a hardy and strong native that survived Buffalo's infamous October storm with little damage.

American Sycamore, a hardy and strong native that survived Buffalo’s infamous October storm with little damage.

Arbor Day is April 26th and what better way to celebrate than by planting a tree or shrub. Below are suggestions for native trees to plant in the Northeast United States.

Remember to ALWAYS purchase trees based on the Latin name to ensure they are native species.  Also, determine needed conditions for growth before your purchase.  Not only will you and your property benefit, you will also be doing a great service for wildlife. Happy Arbor Day!

American Beech – Fagus grandifolia

American Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis ^#@

American Hophornbeam – Ostrya virginiana

American Hornbeam (aka Blue Beech, Musclewood) – Carpinus caroliniana

American Sycamore – Platanus occidentalis +

Black Willow – Salix nigra #@

Common Witch Hazel – Hamamelis virginiana #

Eastern Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis

Eastern White Pine – Pinus strobus ^

Nannyberry – Viburnum lentago

Patriot Elm (disease tolerant cultivar of American Elm) – Ulmus patriot

Pin Oak – Quercus palustris @

Red Maple – Acer rubrum @

River Birch – Betula nigra @

Serviceberry (aka Juneberry, Shadbush) – Amelanchier arborea ^

Speckled Alder – Alnus incana

Striped Maple – Acer pennsylvanicum

Sugar Maple – Acer saccarum ^

Sweet Gum – Liquidambar styraciflua

Tulip Tree – Liriodendron tulipifera

White Ash – Fraxinus Americana ®

Winterberry – Ilex verticillata *@

Yellow Birch – Betula alleghaniensis

* Threatened/Rare

^ Food source

# Medicinal

® Threatened by disease/invasive insect

+ Salt tolerant

@ Tolerates moist soils