Ulysses “Sylvan Day” fall tree planting of swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor). (The Ulysses Tree Advisory Council refers to an autumn tree planting holiday as “Sylvan Day.”) Left to right are Pamela Markham of the Ulysses Tree Advisory Council and volunteers Alina and her mom Wendy. 

Thank you to Town of Ulysses Tree Advisory Council Chair Andy Hillman for this report. Ulysses, in Tompkins County, is on the verge of becoming a Tree City USA. 

On Arbor Day 2020 the Town of Ulysses planted three swamp white oaks (Quercus bicolor), three witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana), and four winterberries (Ilex verticillata) as planned for in our grant application.

In order to provide for social distancing, the site was changed from Salo Drive in the Village of Trumansburg to Jacksonville Park in the hamlet of Jacksonville. The NYSUFC was notified of this modification which was due to the pandemic and approved the new planting plan prior to the event.

The native species we planted were chosen, in large part, to support bird populations. Oaks and witch hazels are hosts to many insects that birds feed on. The winterberry fruit is eaten by all sorts of wildlife but is especially relished by cedar waxwings and robins. Additionally, the oaks were planted such that they will assume the canopy role as the green ash population around them dies out due to emerald ash borer.

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) in Jacksonville Park, Town of Ulysses. This is the second winter for these winter berries and they are well established in a good site on the edge of a pond.

These three swamp white oaks, Quercus bicolor ‘American Dream’, were 1.5” caliper bare root trees that had been dipped in hydrogel to keep the roots moist prior to planting. American Dream was selected for its good branch structure and form, resistance to mildew and anthracnose, and improved brighter yellow fall color. The trees required frequent watering in the summer of 2020 but all survived and due to the rains of 2021, they are all thriving.

Hydrogel-dipped bare root trees from Schichtel’s Nursery, ready for planting in Ulysses.

In July of 2021 the Town of Ulysses received permission from the NYSUFC to use the remainder of the grant award for a Fall 2021 tree planting activity. After removing exotic invasive vines and shrubs from the planting sites, two more swamp white oaks were planted by volunteers and Tree Advisory Council members on Town of Ulysses property. We refer to an autumn tree planting holiday as “Sylvan Day.” These two swamp white oaks were the straight species, not ‘American Dream’, but were also 1.5” caliper bare root trees that had been dipped in hydrogel by the nursery.

Tree planting arrangements in the pre-vaccine time. 

Ulysses is grateful for the Quick Start grant from the NYSUFC which has provided an impetus for the Town to become a Tree City USA. Early this year the Town of Ulysses passed a local law establishing a Tree Advisory Council. A Tree City USA application has been completed and submitted to the Arbor Day Foundation for review and then approval by our State Forester.

In order to make a good planting site, the Ulysses tree planters had to first remove invasive, non-native woody plants like honeysuckle, buckthorn, and bittersweet.