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.

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The Jungle Never Sleeps

By Ted Farnworth

One of the activities that we carry out at the FWG is to introduce or re-introduce bushes and trees into the property that will maintain and enhance the various habitats we are trying to highlight. A lot of thought, discussion, and planning goes into deciding which plants should go where. This is followed by a bit of grunt work, when volunteers clear chosen areas in preparation for planting.

The actual planting of a bush or a shrub is perhaps one of the more rewarding activities I have done during my short term as a FWG volunteer. Knowing that I have put in place something that will be seen, admired by visitors, and used by bugs, critters, and birds gives me a real sense of accomplishment. So now all I have to do is sit back and enjoy my “job well done.”

Well not really. A recent work session showed me that once we get something into the ground, the work is not finished. In the past, much effort was spent planting a variety of shrubs and trees on the south side of the ravine. Luckily, some marking poles indicate where the plants were placed, because I soon found out that the plants introduced by FWG volunteers have been battling the resident ravine vegetation, and in many cases the battle has not been very successful. Where the marking poles have disappeared, overgrowth soon hides our work.

The two photos below illustrate how quickly our “little darlings” get overtaken and buried. Thankfully, I have not found a planted shrub or tree that has died due to overgrowth and strangulation, but I’m not sure whether I have found all of them. Any that go undiscovered may not survive another year.

It is a good lesson to remember that just getting a shrub or a tree into the ground is not the end of our job. After we have had a good work session at the FWG, and are home warm and comfy, the “jungle” starts silently creeping back. The jungle never sleeps.

Can you see the tree we planted?

Can you see the tree we planted?

Can you see it now?

Can you see it now?

Not so ‘elemen-tree’: How to plant a tree

Planting Nannyberry trees in the heat, on a slope, in the clay – a thankless job for which we are most thankful!

Planting trees should be an elementary activity in theory, right? Just dig hole, place tree, fill in and go! The reality is more complicated, as proper tree planting requires greater due diligence than people realise. How you dig the hole, place the tree, stabilise and back fill soil are essential for tree survival – and, are items sadly ignored even by some professional installers (just look more closely at trees in parking lots the next time you go shopping – suckering near the bottom of the trunk means an unhappy tree!) Continue reading