A Home Gardener in New York delights us with her efforts to support wildlife

Recently Jennifer MacStaples from the State of New York wrote us with this question:

“I have a large Norway Maple that is in my backyard which I am going to remove because it is non-native, invasive, and crowding out some native Eastern Hemlocks. I am considering turning it into a snag by having an arborist cut it off at 20', cut down (but not off) all branches. In your opinion, are there any faults in this plan?”

We love receiving inquires like this. After responding to her question we applauded her good stewardship and encouraged her to tell us what else she was doing in her garden that might be of interest to others.

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In reply, Jennifer sent us photos of her property. She included a bonus — a sign she proactively displayed in her yard to offset her neighbors’ frowns when they discovered her Norway Maple was gone (Figure 3). You will smile when you read what it says:

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I’m Having The Tree in My Front Yard Cut Down! Whaaaatt??!!

Why would you want to take down what appears to be a perfectly good tree??

Because not all trees are good for the place in which they grow. This tree is a Norway Maple and it comes from, you guessed it, Norway (and much of Europe)! In Europe, it has other trees and plants that compete with it but here it doesn’t. That’s why it grows so well here and spreads its seeds into the forests crowding out other native trees that have always grown here.

But a tree that doesn’t have any competition and grows well is good, right?

Well, not if that tree is crowding out all other trees and shrubs. And not if it doesn’t provide much food for birds, insects and mammals. In upstate New York, very few insects uses any part of the Norway Maple and the seeds are not very nutritious for birds and mammals. And the Norway Maple has shallow roots so it is likely to fall over in a big storm and those roots crowd out other plants from growing well under it. And finally, the Norway Maple sends its seeds into our beautiful New York woods to crowd out all other native trees so that only Norway Maples grow.

But it provides nice shade!

Yes, it does. And so I am sad to take it out. But I think it is time to start a tree growing here that will be good for Upstate New York nature and will provide the most that it can for insects, birds and mammals.

What will you put in its place?

I am thinking of planting a native tree like a Sugar Maple or an American Hophornbeam or the King of trees, an Oak. All of these trees provide great shade, process CO2 to clean our air and give nutritious food and homes back to insects and animals.

I just wanted you to know!

If you have any questions, please ask! I am usually out in my yard encouraging things to grow.

Jennifer

(The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago……the second best time to plant a tree is Now.)

What all this clearly says to us is that Jennifer is not only a good steward but an effective community educator! We hoist her up as a fine example for us all.

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