Native vs. Non-native Plantings. Bruce described the early days of Audubon by saying that they took turns “playing god,” that is deciding what to plant, what to cut, and what to allow to grow. Wildlife management strategies change over time as we learn the effects of our choices. In the early 1970s, folks weren’t as concerned with planting natives as we seem to be today. Sometimes non-natives do just fine if the habitat is right. Our Red Pine stands and Norway Spruces are all doing just fine. The same can’t be said of the White Birches that were planted along the Maple West trail. White Birch prefers deep, sandy soil like you might find in the Adirondacks… so while White Birch is native to New York State – it is not native to our region. The consequence of planting it in unsuitable habitat is unhealthy trees. All of our specimens are in pretty bad shape. The tree above has been infested with Bronze Birch Borer; you can see and feel the bumps caused by the larvae which are under the bark.
Just to the east of the failed White Birch attempts are native trees that would naturally appear in this type of habitat: Quaking Aspen.
When plants are matched to their habitat the are healthier. Duh.
Plantings for Wildlife. The Red Pines were planted to provide shelter for wildlife – birds in particular. Now that they are producing cones, they also provide food for Red Squirrels and other animals that dine on pine seeds. In the early days, other attempts were made to provide food for wildlife. “Volunteer” apple trees that were found growing in the goldenrod field were encouraged to grow and eventually provide fruit for turkey, deer, and others. The Red Oaks were planted with the idea that eventually they would produce acorns. American Chestnuts near the Red Oaks also provide some wildlife food, too.
When selecting plants for wildlife food, there are 2 kinds to think about: those that provide a quick meal when the fruit is ripe – such as Serviceberry, also known as Juneberry and Shadbush. Serviceberries tend to be picked over pretty quickly by birds as soon as they are ripe. Thought should also be given to plants that will hold on to their fruits through the winter and provide food for early returning migrants. An excellent example is Staghorn Sumac. The fuzzy berries that remain through until spring provide valuable nutrition for returning thrushes, such as the American Robin, and plenty of other wildlife as well.
There may be more posts about this walk… But I’m going to have to start writing about all the stuff we found in the Vernal Pools next…