DEC Announces 2018 Annual Tree & Shrub Seedling Sale at Saratoga Tree Nursery


Plantings Support Pollinators and Improve Habitats for Wildlife

More than 50 species of trees and shrubs from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Saratoga Tree Nursery are now available to public and private landowners and schools, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos announced last month.

“Planting trees and shrubs not only enhances properties, it also provides positive environmental benefits that can be accomplished with minimal time and money and requires only basic skills,” Commissioner Seggos said. “New seedlings improve wildlife habitat and air and water quality in people’s backyards. And DEC foresters are always available to give you the best advice on what to plant.”

Spruces, pines, shrub willows, dogwoods, high bush cranberry, winged sumac, white cedar, and wetland rose are among the 50 species available from the State’s Saratoga Tree Nursery. The sale provides low-cost, native tree and shrub seedlings from New York seed sources to encourage landowners to enhance the state’s environment for future generations. Mixed species packets are also available. Enhancing habitat in your backyard is made easy with packets of trees and shrubs for your specific planting goals including enhancement of ruffed grouse habitat, Long Island habitat, and riparian and streamside habitat. In addition, packets include flowering species that attract pollinators. 

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Urban Forest Ecology: Lichens! Bioindicators & Hidden Marvels, with Laura Wyeth

Lichens collage Perlmutter and Rivas Plata NC State
from Perlmutter and Rivas Plata, NC State, “Urban Lichens: Environmental Indicators” presentation

Lichens have been studied as bioindicators of air quality for more than 100 years. A terrific presentation called Urban Lichens: Environmental Indicators from NC State researchers dives deep into worldwide studies of lichens as bioindicators of pollutants.

More recently, researchers are finding that when toxic emissions are under control in urban areas, other factors affecting lichen abundance and diversity come into play, like temperature and humidity level. What is the urban heat island-lichen interplay? The theory: lichen abundance and diversity on urban trees can be an indicator of the level of urban heat island effect but also an indicator of the success of urban heat island mitigation efforts, like tree planting. More research is underway.

In this fascinating article, Council member and horticulturist Laura Wyeth explores the truly enthralling biology of lichenssimultaneously vulnerable and cannily adaptive organisms. Michelle Sutton, Ed.   

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Pyrus, We Have a Problem: National Perspective on the Runaway Callery Pear

Callery pear foliage and fruit. Photo by Brett O’Brien

I moved from Rochester to the Hudson Valley in 2010. In the eight years since, I’ve noticed a steady proliferation of escaped Callery pears in the Valley. From one undeveloped bowl of land at a busy corner in my town emerges a cloud of white in the spring and some admittedly striking fall color come late October/early November. The problem is that not much else is growing there now, and many of these volunteer trees have reverted to thorniness, creating giant impenetrable thickets.

Callery pears have a mixed rating on wildlife value; on the one hand, bees and other insects visit the flowers in spring and a few species of songbirds eat the fruit after it softens in the winter. On the other hand, Callery pears do not support caterpillars in any significant numbers, so they do not provide adequate food for baby birds the way that oaks and other native trees do.

From University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy, Author of Bringing Nature Home
From University of Delaware Professor Doug Tallamy, Author of Bringing Nature Home

Why are self-sterile cultivars of Callery pear producing fruit? One way it happens is when fertile pear understock sprouts, flowers, and produces viable pollen. Another: by the late 1990s, the introduction of new Callery pear cultivars beyond ‘Bradford’, cultivars like ‘Aristocrat’ and ‘Chanticleer’, led to an unexpected dilemma: in areas where large numbers of Callery pears were planted, the self-sterile cultivars starting pollinating one another. Then came the fruit, then came bird dispersion of the fruit … and “Pyrus, We Have a Problem.” 

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Urban Forest Ecology: Voracious, Parthenogenic Asian Jumping Worms

Asian jumping worms have a characteristic white band and are extra squirmy.

Council Member John T. wrote to me after last summer’s ReLeaf Conference. He was surprised that in the conversations he had with other ReLeaf folks, there was little to no awareness of the Asian jumping worm (Amynthas agrestis) and how damaging it is to forests, including, one could assume, the urban forest.

Last summer, for the first time, I noticed that my compost-enriched vegetable garden soil seemed excessively granulated, and the soil was subsiding and drying out faster than usual. Turns out, the granulation was the worm castings of the voracious eater, Amynthas agrestis. I’ve since seen the big worms, and now I shudder when they appear. Read on to see why it’s now my mission to rid my garden of these worms, and why the Asian jumping worm is a concern for foresters throughout much of the country. 

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Urban Forest Ecology: Knotweed with Laura Wyeth

Laura with Knotweed
Council member and horticulturist Laura Wyeth, with Japanese knotweed. Photo by Larry Decker

Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum; Latin synonym Fallopia japonica) is indisputably a major nuisance in the urban forest. NYC Parks Natural Resources Group has documented extensive research and control methods they’ve used, in partnership with the Bronx River Alliance and other entities, to combat knotweed along the Bronx River and in other natural areas in the City’s five boroughs.

Regardless of what combination of chemical and mechanical means are employed, control of Japanese knotweed is widely acknowledged to be imperfect at best. While we can and should manage its presence in our urban forests, this plant is here to stay.

Why and how is Japanese knotweed so successful at colonizing the most degraded sites? Why is it so hard to control? And what are some of the positive attributes of the plant that you might not hear much about? In this piece, Council member Laura Wyeth, a horticulturist with a particular interest in weed science, explores some of what makes Japanese knotweed unique.

Laura Wyeth:

Japanese knotweed is a plant caught up in the polarization of our times. Both its virtues and its malevolence have been inflated in the public imagination, and it is at once known as both miracle drug and botanical monster. In Canada, a nation not prone to paranoia, it has been described as “a demon weed so relentless, bloody-minded and destructive, it’s been called the terrorist of the plant kingdom.” Strong words for a creature with no teeth, claws, or toxicity to humans. Internet herbalists tout its miracle cancer-fighting properties with equal hyperbole. Yet with this plant, the quiet facts are more interesting than the hype.

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