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. 

Small reforestation projects are popular with private landowners interested in environmental improvement. Although the public commonly thinks of flowers when talking about pollinators, before becoming butterflies and moths, caterpillars must first feed on plants, and without enough of the right plants, these insects won’t make it to adulthood. Most of the State Nursery’s seedlings are native, which are preferred by native caterpillars.

Most songbirds need a diet high in protein – like that found in caterpillars – to successfully raise their chicks. A single clutch needs thousands of caterpillars before they fledge. When choosing which species to plant, keep in mind that they are not all equal: oaks support nearly 400 species of caterpillars in New York, while the invasive tree of heaven (Ailanthus) doesn’t support any. By planting trees that host native caterpillars, people can help provide the food sources vital to butterflies, moths and birds.

Trees and shrubs provide important food sources for bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects, which have declined over recent years. By planting rows of trees and shrubs at right angles to prevailing winds, an effective natural windbreak can also be created.

For more information, visit the Spring Seedling Sale web page on DEC’s website.

Schools Can Complete Conservation Planting for Free

Schools across New York are eligible to receive free seedlings for spring planting through the DEC School Seedling Program, which provides 50 tree seedlings or a mixed packet of 30 wildlife shrubs to any public or private school that would like to participate. The seedlings can be planted on school grounds or other community spaces, and offer teachers a great resource to enhance environmental lessons.

Applications to participate are available at DEC’s School Seedling Program website, or by contacting the Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 581-1439.

Interested schools can also contact the nearest DEC regional forestry office to request a “School Seedlings” brochure, which contains all the information necessary to place an order. Applications must be received at the nursery by March 31, 2018.

Order Your Saratoga Tree Nursery Bareroot Seedlings

The Saratoga Tree Nursery primarily sells bare-root stock for direct plantings, but a few species are available as containerized stock. Landowners can receive planting advice from their nearest DEC forestry office or private forestry consultant. The 2018 Tree and Shrub brochure (PDF, 400 KB) can be found on DEC’s Spring Seedling Sale web page, or by calling the Saratoga Tree Nursery at (518) 581-1439. Some species sell out quickly.

To order seedlings by phone, contact the nursery on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at (518) 587-1120. Mail orders are also accepted and can be sent to the NYSDEC Saratoga Tree Nursery, 2369 Route 50, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Orders may be placed through May 9. Seedlings are shipped from mid-April to mid-May.

Since the opening of the Saratoga Tree Nursery in 1911, more than 1.6 billion seedlings have been produced to enhance and protect New York’s environment. For more information on the history and benefits of this program, visit the Saratoga Tree Nursery web page.