Maximizing ecological benefits
The more plant species in an area, the more animal species will be supported and the less vulnerable the trees will be to diseases and pests.
The bigger the territory, the more species of insects, birds and other wildlife a natural area can support. You can expand the habitat value of nearby natural areas by planting the trees that grow there as a plant community. We are hoping to soon be able to provide you with plant lists to help you figure out the plant communities nearest you.
When plants reproduce sexually, meaning by producing flowers that get pollinated and go to seed, the offspring are unique individuals. Just as combinations of genetic traits result in differences between one human being and another, there are distinct differences between trees of the same species. Having a diversity of genetic traits provides resilience in the face of diseases, pests and changing climate. By contrast, most cultivars are produced by cloning, which reduces biodiversity.
A tree that evolved in Florida or Oregon will not be as adapted to our region as another tree of the same species that evolved right here.
Plant a grove
The more trees, the better! Trees normally grow close to each other, with their roots interlocking, which provides stability. The best way to ensure that trees won't fall over is to plant them close together. Trees also communicate through an underground network, providing nutrients to each other and helping fend off attack from pests. If you have room, plant them in groves, with the canopy trees spaced at 20 foot intervals and the understory trees and shrubs in between. If that seems too close together, take a look at the woods - this is how they grow naturally, meshing their canopies and roots. Planting them all at once keeps them from shading each other out. This is also the best time to incorporate most shrubs into the grove. Shrubs can be planted within 5 feet of trees.
Do woods need "cleaning?"
It is not only unnecessary to remove dead leaves and trees, it is harmful to the ecosystem. 90% of the energy transfer from plants to animals in the woods is from detritus. Removing it deprives numerous species of their food source and shelter and degrades the soil.
Did you know?
94% of caterpillars that use trees as their food source complete their life cycle by falling to the ground and burrowing in the leaf litter over winter? If you remove that leaf litter, you are at least in part defeating one of the main reasons to plant native trees. How about planting a layered landscape instead?
Oaks are the host plant to hundreds of caterpillars including the Red Spotted Purple butterfly. Caterpillars are the main food source for baby songbirds.
Because oaks hold onto their leaves in winter, many insects lay their eggs on them. When the larvae hatch in spring, Worm-eating Warblers and other songbirds descend on the leaves to feast.
Oak catkins attract wasps, caterpillars and aphids which in turn are a magnet for warblers.
Oak leaves of various species are the hosts for 150-200 species of leaf miners.