More tree planting

by Sandy Garland

Although last Tuesday was one of the hottest days of the year, Ted, Kate, Catrina, Melanie, and Mirko all arrived ready to work. We had decided to plant more trees – not the best time of year for this activity, but we needed to get the trees into the ground where they would be better off than in pots in the nursery.

We loaded the wagons up with two Striped Maples and the rest of the Bitternut Hickories, along with shovels, stakes, loppers, trowels, and containers for water. On the way to the woods, we saw a beautiful new Red Admiral butterfly. The Butterfly Meadow is a mass of blooms at the moment and a great place to sit and watch for hummingbirds as well as butterflies.

In the woods, we checked the trees we planted last week, which are doing well. Melanie, Kate, Catrina, and I started clearing more dog-strangling vine (DSV), motherwort, and burdock around the edges, while Mirko dug holes for the new trees. Ted continued searching for trees planted in previous years to make sure they have room to grow and are labeled so that we can find them to water and monitor their growth.

Catrina stuggling to untangle DSV from trees and plants like wild cucumber and grape vines.

Catrina stuggling to untangle DSV from trees and plants like wild cucumber and grape vines.

Melanie found a groundhog hole under a mass of DSV. She was reluctant to disturb it further, so we decide to leave that area for now and, when it’s a bit cooler, see if we can move some branches to protect the hole.

Groundhog hole previously hidden by a mass of DSV.

Groundhog hole previously hidden by a mass of DSV.

Although I had promised less-strenuous activity, any activity proved to be exhausting in the heat and humidity. We managed to get the trees into the ground with lots of water and lots of chip mulch to keep the roots damp, but we all knew it was time to stop for the day.

A Bitternut Hickory successfully planted, watered, and mulched.

A Bitternut Hickory successfully planted, watered, and mulched.

As we stood admiring our work and chatting, the woods suddenly seemed to fill with birds. We saw several Downy Woodpeckers, flycatchers, a Northern Flicker, and others that we were unable to identify.

Before leaving, we took a quick look at the Rough Goldenrods that Catrina had planting earlier in the year. These were transplanted from our Backyard Garden, so the tops were cut to ease the stress on the plants. They have all now branched and look like they will bloom later this summer.

We still have several butternut trees that are certified native species by the Ministry of Natural Resources. We planted one last week, but I wanted to find out how best to care for these species trees, so we left the others until I can get this information.

Bumble bee on Grass-leaved Goldenrod at the FWG

Bumble bee on Grass-leaved Goldenrod at the FWG

Bumble Bee Watch – another way to help
We’re looking for ways to help pollinators, especially bees, and last week I started submitting sightings to Bumblebeewatch.org. This is a relatively new “citizen science” initiative; Ottawa U and Montréal’s Insectarium are among the partners in the project, and the web site is hosted by the Xerces Society.

Reporting a sighting is very easy. For me, the hard part is getting good photos of bumble bees. Once you have a photo (up to three of the same bee), you upload it and add the location, which can be done by pointing to it on Google Maps, you them compare your photo to diagrams of bumble bees’ heads, thoraxes, and abdomens. This narrows down the possibilities and helps you ID your bee. Luckily, “I don’t know” is also a choice and you can leave it to an expert reviewer to identify your record.

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Maples, butternuts, and bitternuts

by Sandy Garland

A fern, planted about 5 years ago along with other woodland species, is now overwhelmed by new growth and species responding to the increased light.

A fern, planted about 5 years ago along with other woodland species, is now overwhelmed by new growth and species responding to the increased light.

The Tuesday group wanted to plant trees – a positive, long-term, satisfying job at any time and much more fun than always pulling things out. I had doubts, because the Old Woodlot is so overgrown with opportunist species taking advantage of all the light to grow to gigantic proportions that there’s no room for anything else. We compromised by loading up a modest number of saplings from our nursery (three) and set off for the woods.

Here’s the situation

Can you see the fern in the photo (above right)? Derek knew it was something good, but it’s completely overshadowed by all the vegetation that has grown in the last 2 years since the ash trees were removed from the woods. The Old Woodlot has changed so dramatically that it’s always a surprise to find things that were planted even 5 years ago.

This Striped Maple was planted in 1997. It and 2 others planted at the same time are well over 3 m tall and are now producing seeds (some just visible in the centre of the photo).

This Striped Maple was planted in 1997. It and 2 others planted at the same time are well over 3 m tall and are now producing seeds (some just visible in the centre of the photo).

At the left is one of three Striped Maples (Acer pensylvanicum) planted as saplings back in 1997. This species needs shade, at the moment provided by Norway Maples, which we hope to eventually replace with native species.

While making a place to plant our Bitternut Hickories, we were also able to pull out some large masses of DSV that were covering ground vegetation and starting to climb up into trees.

Volunteer, Derek, after freeing that tree in the background from a mass of dog-strangling vine that was twisting into its lower branches.

Volunteer, Derek, after freeing that tree in the background from a mass of dog-strangling vine that was twisting into its lower branches.

Melanie, planting her first tree ever!

Melanie, planting her first tree ever!

We cleared our more burdock, motherwort, some Manitoba maples, and some buckthorn, finally making a place big enough to plant our two Bitternut Hickories and a Butternut.

We were fortunate to acquire 5 butternut trees this spring by trading wildflowers for schoolyards with Nature Canada. They are certified native species – unlike the many hybrids that populate the area. Hopefully, they are also canker-resistant and will live many years to feed our wildlife and produce seeds for more native butternut trees at the FWG. (More about the butternut recovery program)

Done! Three more trees planted, an area cleared for more, another balsam fir marked (left), and Jada (the dog) is ready to go home.

Done! Three more trees planted, an area cleared for more, another balsam fir marked (left), and Jada (the dog) is ready to go home.

How to tell the difference between Norway and Sugar Maple

This is a very important skill as our Old Woodlot contains many Norway Maples, which are not native and create too much shade for our understory plants. Sugar Maples are a much better choice for an eastern Ontario forest and we have been planting Sugar Maple seedlings for many years.

Our woodlot started as mowed grass under a plantation of ash trees interspersed with Red Oaks – not very “natural” looking and not particularly wildlife friendly (see photo from 1991). The mowing was stopped and OFNC members donated their fall leaves to the cause of creating a rich humousy soil for future planting of native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Unfortunately, more than just leaves arrived – seeds of many unwanted trees and other plants have grown up over the years, but Norway Maples have been most persistent and difficult to weed out as they resemble Sugar Maples.

Three reliable ways to tell the difference (leaf shape being unreliable)

Comparing the keys of Sugar (left) and Norway Maple (right)

Comparing the keys of Sugar (left) and Norway Maple (right)

1. Keys or those double seeds that maples are famous for are very different. Norway Maple keys are much larger and flatter and the wings form almost a straight line (in Sugar Maples they make an upside down V).

Comparing buds of Sugar (left) and Norway Maples (right).

Comparing buds of Sugar (left) and Norway Maples (right).

2. Buds of Sugar Maples are brown and pointed; those of Norways are purplish and rounded.

3. Easiest of all, during the growing season sap of Sugar Maple is clear; sap of Norways is white. Pick a leaf and cut through the leaf stem (petiole) to check sap colour.

Plants and creatures of note

Toad in wood chips, dried “skeleton” of Wild cucumber fruit – all that’s left are the veins of last-year’s seed pod, Eastern Cottontail, Eastern Chipmunk.