Trees, glorious trees

To the editor:

CARLINVILLE (April 5, 2018) – Spring is a time when many people search for trees, shrubs, or flowering plants that would be attractive additions to their properties. Little thought is given to existing plant populations which usually include a mixture of native and non-native species. There are several non-native shrubs, vines, and small trees within most lawns and woodlands, including a few species that have become especially troublesome due to their highly invasive properties. These plants, bush honeysuckle, purple winter creeper, and Callery pear to name a few, damage native plant communities and are of little food value for many types of wildlife. You may have noticed these plants on trees in town, within fence rows, or in the understory of nearby woods.

Carlinville Tree City USA, a local organization whose goal is good tree health and diversity, has chosen the control and eradication of invasive plant species as a main focus for 2018. It is our belief that this initiative will help ensure the health and diversity of the trees in our community. We encourage you to consider the removal of bush honeysuckles and purple winter creeper from your property.

You may be wondering why we encourage you to remove invasive, non-native plants such as bush honeysuckle. These invasives compete with and displace native plants in forests, prairies, and wetlands, and they generally are not used as food sources for our native insects and birds. Ground-nesting birds, like whippoorwills, can’t utilize forests having a dense understory of bush honeysuckle. This shrub, a native of Asia, starts growth earlier and retains its leaves longer than native plants (look at the understory in our nearby forest this week — the green bushes you see are most likely invasive bushes). Because of this longer growth period and other traits, the native shrubs, small trees, and wildflowers do not have much of a chance to survive. They are being crowded out and replaced.

We have lost a considerable amount of our wildlife habitat, causing well-known birds and insects, such as the Monarch butterfly, to decline. Communities can and should be important places for these animals. Their chances of survival would be greatly improved.

The good news is this: there are many beautiful native plants, ranging from wildflowers to trees, that can be used in place of an invasive plant. Look online for native plants, and consult websites that promote the use of native plants in our landscape. You will find it to be a rewarding adventure in many ways.

Sincerely,

Paul Mihalek,

Carlinville Tree City USA