The importance of native plants and trees…
Natural habitats suffer under construction development, the use of pesticides, and climate change. Non-native ornamental species used in traditional landscaping provide little food for caterpillars or birds and often move into natural areas degrading habitat there too. We are losing a large number of species because they have few places to live and little food to eat.
Help bring back vibrant living landscapes by adding high wildlife value trees such as native oaks, birches and dogwoods. Layer in native shrubs like witchhazel, serviceberry and viburnums, and plant high value herbaceous species such as asters and goldenrods. Click here for a list of high value native plants based on your zip code.
Consider removing non-native species that insects cannot metabolize and learn how to identify and remove particularly invasive species that are harmful to the local ecosystem like barberry shrubs, burning bush, non-native viburnums, English ivy, winter creeper vine, Norway maples, Amur cork trees and Bradford pear trees. These species are carried by birds to natural habitats where they create monocultures that supplant native trees and therefore degrade the capacity of our woodlands to support the life depicted in our mural.
Interested in the bird-friendly ecological value of native plants? Want to support pollinators including our native bees? Learn more about native plants for your area here.
Click here to read about Doug Tallamy’s insightful book called Bringing Nature Home. This University of Delaware entomologist describes the special relationship between insects and their host plants and lists high value trees and shrubs that you can incorporate into your space.
The power and potential of your property:
Gardens and the greater landscapes that surround them occupy such enormous areas of the country that they have great potential to address many of the environmental challenges facing us today if given half a chance. Gardens are made of plants and plants deliver, either directly or indirectly, many of the ecosystem services that support human populations. Landscape designers, landscape architects, gardeners, and even homeowners who have no interest in gardening have within their power the ability to protect our watersheds, cool and clean the air we breath, build and stabilize top-soil, moderate extreme weather, sequester carbon, and protect the biodiversity that drives ecosystem function. —Doug Tallamy, The Living Landscape, pg 100
Landscape stewardship tip:
Do you live near a stream? Did you know that a minimum 100 foot buffer of trees and shrubs on each side of the stream is required to prevent erosion, slow runoff and filter pollution? Our streams have degraded in recent years. Stream banks are eroding, overwhelmed by heavy storms and too much runoff from pavement and lawns. Lawn chemicals, road salt and silt (soil runoff) pollute our streams and drinking water and make life difficult or unlivable for aquatic organisms; Fish can no longer live in our streams. Our Township is executing a plan to restore stream banks on public land, but we as individuals have the potential to make a greater impact in working together to restore and protect habitat along streams on private property.
Ways you can help:
Convert lawn areas to native tree, shrub and perennial plantings. Deep roots will absorb much more water than non-native lawn grasses. Most importantly, please do not deforest your property. Our native trees are treasures from the past that define Penn Valley and provide a tremendous number of ecosystem services including providing bird habitat and absorbing airborne heavy metals. Our wooded areas exist on private properties but are truly a shared resource, and we cannot get them back overnight.
Avoid lawn chemicals.
Leave dead wood standing, especially in natural areas of your landscape. Roots hold soil in place, and tree snags provide necessary habitat for owls, woodpeckers and songbirds.
Remove invasive plants/trees. Common invasives in our area include Norway maples, Amur cork trees, burning bush, barberry shrubs, non-native viburnums, privet and wineberry. Replant native trees and shrubs in these areas.
For more information, see this Delaware River Keepers brochure on 20 ways to protect your stream side property. Hard copies of the brochure are available at our meetings.
Visit www.streamsmarthousecalls.org to obtain a free consultation from the Lower Merion Conservancy on ways to reduce stormwater runoff on your property.
Fall garden care tip: Leave the leaves!
Did you know that many butterflies and other beneficial insects overwinter in leaves? They provide critical food for year-round birds or emerge in spring when the weather warms. Leaves also provide the perfect soil enrichment under the trees in which they fall. Pine needles provide the specific enrichment for pine trees, and oak leaves provide the proper balance under oak trees. Consider leaving some leaves under your trees to honor nature's elegant design, keep your trees healthy and support the broader ecosystem. More info in this Penn State Extension article on fall garden care for pollinators.
Deciduous trees contribute greatly to the character of Penn Valley
Native trees provide tremendous ecological services including temperature insulation around homes, absorption of stormwater runoff, cleaning of particulate matter and heavy metals from the air and providing food sources for birds, butterflies and other pollinators. Our tree-lined streets are a source of neighborhood pride and create an important sense of place. Consider planting young trees to help replace the older ones that are dying.
Native street tree considerations for our area:
Amalenchier canadensis (Shadblow serviceberry) - 20-30 ft, salt tolerant, drought sensitive, small multi-stemmed landscape tree, nice fall color, part-sun
Betula nigra (Riverbirch) - 50-75 ft, salt + pollution + drought tolerant, full sun
Betula populifolia (Gray birch) - 35-50ft, salt + drought + compaction tolerant, beautiful white bark with age, part to full sun
Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry) - 75+ft, salt + drought + compaction tolerant, full sun
Cercis canadensis (Redbud) - 25 ft, salt sensitive but drought tolerant, purple blooms in spring, small landscape/understory tree, can grow in part sun
Chionanthus virginiacus (American fringe tree) - 25ft, intolerant of salt spray but tolerant of salt in the soil, drought tolerant, small landscape tree, white blooms in spring, part sun
Cratagus viridis (Winter King Green Hawthorn) - 30ft, very high drought tolerance, intermediate salt tolerance, red berries in winter, full sun
Nyssa sylvatica (Blackgum) - 75ft, salt tolerant + drought resistant, beautiful red fall foliage, full sun
Quercus bicolor (Swamp white oak) - salt tolerant + drought resistant, excellent ecological value, full sun
Quercus phelos (Willow oak) - 40-75ft, salt tolerant + drought resistant, full sun
See the images below for ideas on protecting new trees from deer damage.
Local sources for containerized native plants and trees. Be sure to check websites or call for hours and dates of operation.
Redbud Native Plant Nursery, 904 N. Providence Rd, Media, PA 19063
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery, 2415 Route 100, Orefield, PA 18069
Refugia, 260 Haverford Avenue, Narberth PA 19072
Good Host Plants, 150 W Butler St, Philadelphia, PA 19140
Mail order source for small, bare root trees: Musser Forests, Inc., Indiana County, Pennsylvania
Have trouble with deer? See the images below for ideas on how to protect young tree plantings.
Simple metal garden stakes and galvanized wire will protect young trees while they get established. Once a tree is over 5' tall, the deer will not be able to reach the higher foliage for grazing. Black wire or plastic mesh often blends well with surroundings.
Deer bucks will rub trunks killing young trees or causing bark wounds that are difficult for the tree to heal. Wooden tree stakes will protect this sapling until it gets larger.
3-4 stakes of metal rebar placed around this tree are barely visible and will keep the deer at bay while it matures. Consider leaving protection around the tree until the trunk is 6-8" in diameter. Rebar can be reused with future plantings.
Learn to identify and remove invasive species. Click here for a list of over 10 reasons to remove english ivy.
Do you have a tree covered in vines like this? English ivy is often the culprit. It damages tree bark, blocks light, weakens limbs and can make trees more susceptible to pests and disease. Help steward our trees by simply severing vines from their roots. If vines are quite large, remove a 6-8" section with a saw. Do not cut into the tree bark or attempt to remove upper vines if it damages the bark. Without roots, the vines will eventually die. Note: If vines are brown and hairy, do not touch them as they are likely poison ivy.
Click here for a list of invasive plant species in Pennsylvania as maintained by the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). Plants on the list include Japanese barberry, Norway maple, privet shrubs, burning bush (winged euonymus), English ivy and Japanese spirea. Many of these have traditionally been planted in our landscapes because of their aesthetic qualities, but we now know that they pose a threat to the greater ecosystem and should be removed. The good news is that there are native alternatives that will bring more birds and butterflies to your space.