The pleasure and value of our street trees

  • Tara Kurland and Seth Mellen of Greenfield along with Shiloh and Adah dug in to do their part at Lunt Field. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman

  • Sean Pollock and daughter Maple, finish planting the tree they were given by the committee. Maple is planning to climb this tree with her sister Ruby. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Mary Chicoine

  • John Bottomley, Nancy Hazard and Mary Chicoine of the Greenfield Tree Committee planting a Tulip Poplar at the Energy Park. For the Recorder/Pat Leuchtman—

  • Desiree Narango, of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is currently studying migratory birds, as well as continuing her study of the black-capped chickadee, Massachusetts' state bird. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Douglas Tallamy

For the Recorder
Published: 10/23/2020 9:40:31 AM
Modified: 10/23/2020 9:40:21 AM

Saturday, Oct. 3, was an exciting day for tree lovers. Word had gone out from the Greenfield Tree Committee inviting people to join the tree planting party at Lunt Field starting at 8:30 a.m. My husband and I dawdled over our Saturday breakfast and then got in the car with bucket and spades. We arrived at 10 a.m. and realized that most of the work was done.

How could this happen?

When I spoke to Mary Chicoine after the event she explained that, because of COVID-19, the Tree Committee realized they needed a bigger, airier space for the annual community tree planting. Usually, they would go door-to-door in a neighborhood asking people if they would like to participate in the tree planting, but that was not possible this year. She also pointed out that existing trees on the Lunt site are old trees and it was a benefit to add new young trees.

“The Department of Public Works was a huge help this year,” Chicoine said. “We couldn’t have worked so quickly without them. They brought equipment that took bites out of the soil where the new trees would be planted. That made the digging and planting much easier. Mike Duclos, of the DPW, also works with the town minor leagues (local baseball teams) and he was happy to be able to help site the trees so they wouldn’t interfere with the sight-lines while games were going on.”

I spoke with Sean Pollock, who planted a tree with his young daughter, Maple. They live right across the street from Lunt Field and Maple picked a tree that they could watch grow. Pollock told me that Maple and her older sister, Ruby, had visions of climbing that tree as they both grew up. During the week Pollock works for Terracorps, a non-profit that, among other things, is involved with conserving land and trees. It looks like his daughters are already at work caring for their tree.

Nancy Hazard is another person who has been working with the Tree Committee for years. She has organized neighborhood tree plantings. I have watched the growth of newly planted trees on Davis and Birch Streets and other neighborhoods as well as at Greenfield’s Energy Park. She is one of several volunteers who plant, weed and care for the plantings there. That group emphasizes the importance of native plants that will support birds and pollinators.

Last week Hazard stopped by my house to dig up some black-eyed susans (natives) for her gardens. As we chatted, she said I really should talk to Desiree Narango, who is a post-doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

I reached Narango and was fascinated by her interdisciplinary work. She looks at land that is altered by people in farmland, urban forests and residential yards. She said her ultimate goal “is to find data-driven conservation solutions for land managers to help preserve biodiversity in a rapidly changing world.”

When we chose plants for our new Greenfield garden, we were very aware of the need for native plants that would support pollinators, bees and many other insects. I confess I did not give too much thought to the needs of birds. We have many squirrels in our yard and I was not going to set up bird feeders. Narango pointed out that birds only eat seeds at a certain season, but birds really need insects and caterpillars all year. In the spring when birds are mating and hatching fledglings, they need high protein and calories. The spring diet will include insects, spiders, and caterpillars. Narango does a lot of research with chickadees, our state bird.

Narango said an important reason for having native trees and shrubs in the garden is to support all the birds who are flying south for the winter. They need sufficient food to give them the strength for that long flight. She also said that Massachusetts is right in that flight path.

In our garden, we planted river birches, red-twig and yellow-twig dogwoods and elderberries to support birds, but we did not think the benefit was very important. Narango has changed our view. We also have two large Viburnam trilobum. We call them highbush cranberries so you get an idea of the benefit they supply. Narango said viburnums were “an awesome tri-fecta” of support. Viburnums supply flowers in the spring for the pollinators, caterpillars for the butterflies, as well as insects and berries for fall and winter food for the birds.

We chose the native trees and shrubs that we did because we knew they provided benefits for wild creatures, although our knowledge was not very deep. Other trees with benefits were given to us. Our southern neighbor has three huge oak trees in her garden. Oak trees supply many benefits like nesting sites, acorns, food, including caterpillars and bugs for birds, pollen and nectar for bees.

Our northern neighbor has a large maple that shades a section of our garden. This tree provides the same benefits as the oaks.

A huge American sycamore lives in front of our house on the tree belt. Prickery balls filled with seeds hang from high branches in the fall. Several songbirds like juncos and finches eat those seeds.

I have a lot to learn about trees and the reasons they are important to the creatures in our world, and the health of our environment. I am eager to continue learning.

Pat Leuchtman has been writing and gardening since 1980. Readers c an leave comments at her website, commonweeder.com.




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