Check Chicago Living Corridors’ extensive list of native plant sales for 2019. Included are many organizations, plus some nurseries offering native plants. Information on sale dates for a few organizations were not yet available.
By Charlotte Adelman
Compared with a living tree, more species of life benefit directly from the habitat and nourishment offered by trees in the afterlife. While a tree’s death causes wildlife dependent on its pollen, fruits or nuts to go elsewhere, the death enables crowds of other woodland life to move in and vastly increase the diversity of species it supports. The moment a tree dies, creatures ranging from birds to bacteria move in to dissolve, chew and disassemble the cellulose and lignin structure into food or habitat. A habitat has four essential components that make it suitable for a particular population of animals: food, water, shelter, and space. A wildlife tree provides three of the four of those essentials making it an important part of your backyard habitat to increase biodiversity.
Some 85 species of birds in North America nest in the dying and dead trees that we call snags or wildlife trees. Dead and dying trees are in limited supply, making them exclusive stopover sites for exhausted migrating birds, and for the bluebirds, American kestrels, wrens, nuthatches, woodpeckers, and chickadees. Cavities located over or near water are used by tree swallows, prothonotary warblers, wood ducks, goldeneyes, mergansers and buffleheads. Some species, like chickadees select a cavity with the smallest opening they can squeeze through. This prevents nest predators (blue jays, raccoons) and nest parasites (brown-headed cowbirds) from entering. Great crested flycatchers often hang a snake skin in the cavity entrance, to scare off intruders. Primary cavity users excavate cavities in the decaying wood, while secondary cavity users wait for a woodpecker to do the work before occupying and enlarging the cavity.
A dead tree also offers a place to build nests and a perch for hunting and observation (hawks, owls), safety from predators, and protection from the elements. Seeds, nuts and other food items stored in a cavity can determine which individuals make it through a particularly harsh winter, notes The Cavity Conservation Initiative. [i] The native bee larva and Lepidoptera (butterfly/moth) eggs that overwinter in tree bark also serve as food for birds and their spring nestlings. Mammals also use cavities in dead trees. Bats use natural and abandoned woodpecker cavities. Small mammals den in hollow trees. Flying squirrels prefer downy woodpecker cavities, which they line with shredded bark, or lichens, moss, feathers or leaves. Black bears sleep in the vast hollow trunks of huge sycamore trees that once sheltered entire pioneer families.
The wildlife associated with snags play an important role in the dispersal of invertebrates. Peeling bark provides habitat for insects that wild birds consume. Protein-packed mushrooms -the fruiting bodies of fungi—attract more insects and hungry wildlife to the side of dead trees. When downed, hollow logs and dead trees are corridors used by predators as silent passageways through the noisy leaf litter. Below ground, a dead tree’s nutritional offerings eventually enters the soil, where they are further broken down and transported to different soil layers by the various decomposers.
Decomposers including earthworms, firefly larva, ant colonies, snails, and crickets help return nutrients from the decaying debris to the soil, ultimately strengthening the forest’s ability to support life. Species that aerate, dig and fragment wood contribute to improved soil structure and quality. Decomposing wood, especially when accompanied by dead leaf litter, is a nutritionally rich and superior nursery for many seeds, such as shade-seeking wildflowers. Wood decomposers include bacteria, nematodes as well as types of fungi, called mycorrhiza. In return for delivering minerals (phosphorus, inorganic nitrogen) to the plant via its rootlets, the fungi receive moisture and carbohydrates from the plant, and sometimes a bonus in the form of special resistance to certain diseases.
A piece by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) from the UK urges “Bring your garden to life with dead wood”. Eventually, the structure of the dead tree dissolves and it falls over, becoming a “nurse log” because it provides a habitat for many organisms. Nurse logs are often hollow, and used for a variety of purposes by wildlife. When creating snags from dying trees, it is important that homeowners hire an expert tree service to remove branches and tops of large trees. Homeowners must make sure that whoever does the work is licensed, bonded, and insured, and understands your intention to make a wildlife tree. Contact local arborists for certified specialists who can competently create and maintain wildlife trees.
To clearly communicate about wildlife trees between you and your neighbors, hang up these handy wildlife tree signs.These handy wildlife tree signs provide an opportunity to educate friends, neighbors, and the public about why a dead tree has been retained.
These aluminum signs are about the size of a sheet of paper and cost $10 (shipping included). For the signs, visit The Cavity Conservation Initiative’s Nature Store at: http://cavityconservation.com/nature-store-2/
By Charlotte Adelman
Charlotte is the co-author of The Midwestern Native Garden, Midwestern Native Shrubs & Trees, and Prairie Directory of North America. Co-authored with Bernard L. Schwartz, The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants was the winner of the 2012 Helen Hull Award from the National Garden Clubs. In 2014, Adelman was awarded an Audubon Chicago Region Habitat Project Conservation Leadership Award. Read more about her work in this feature article in the Chicago Tribune.
Additional Resources & Sources:
Nancy Lawson article: http://www.humanegardener.com/life-after-death/
On Saturday, March 10, Chicago Living Corridors was an exhibitor at the Darien Garden Club’s Spring Gardening Inspiration. This event had 115 registrants and 11 exhibitors. The volunteers did a terrific job of planning, from greeting the exhibitors at the entrance to offer assistance, to providing an array of refreshments and lunch, and wonderful perks. The best goody bag ever and a plant arrangement at every table. There were over thirty baskets of raffle prizes.
Of course, the speakers are the essential part of a good program, and the keynote was given by Dr. Abigail Derby Lewis, Senior Conservation Ecologist, Senior Program Manager, Chicago Region, Field Museum of Natural History. “What You Plant Matters: the collective impact of urban habitat on people and nature.” She showed maps and graphs diagraming the amount of available open land in the Chicago region, and the opportunities that exist for increasing the habitat for monarchs. The challenges created by climate change were a major focus of her presentation, and the resulting impact on invasives, diseases, flooding, biodiversity, and mismatching of “pheno-phase”. (meaning that plants will bloom too early due to warmer temperatures and not be available when the insects/birds arrive that depend on those plants.)
She recommended actions that can be taken to withstand the changes, and stressed the need for improving the health of the landscape: tree planting initiatives and the Biodiversity Recovery Plan of Chicago Wilderness were two examples. Planting native habitat on private property was a key objective, and lines up perfectly with the mission of Chicago Living Corridors.
After the keynote, there were two tracks, with two speakers on native plant subjects and two speakers on vegetable gardening.
The variety of exhibitors was also a great feature – including tables for Conservation@Home, The Indian Prairie Public Library, Sunny Patch Farm, the Forest Preserves of DuPage County, a Seed Library (I missed the full name, but a terrific idea), Downers Grove Organic Gardeners, the Garden Clubs of Illinois organization, and Wild Ones of Greater DuPage, as well as a table for the host organization and a few others.
The Darien Garden Club has a number of members that are growing native plants in their home gardens, and the club stands out as a leader in the garden club universe. Chicago Living Corridors was very pleased to have been invited to exhibit at this function, and meet some of the principals of the Darien Garden Club. We will be exploring creating a connection between the garden club and CLC.
GUIDELINES FOR ESTABLISHING OR ASSESSING HABITAT
Habitat can be defined as land that supports ecosystem services such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation, carbon sequestration, air quality and human benefit. Habitat can be multi-acre tracts, called mosaic, along waterways or right-of-ways, called linear, or small parcels when in proximity are called stepping stone habitat.
The value of habitat increases when enlarged and/or contiguous to form a greenway or corridor. Since so much land in the Chicago area is privately owned, there is more opportunity to expand habitat by engaging property owners to improve and link their land into viable habitat corridors.
Criteria for Viable Habitat
Habitat that provides ecosystem services includes:
- Native plants- forbs, grasses, trees and shrubs
- Water management-rain barrels, rain gardens, erosion control, water-loving plants, rain-permeable pavement/walkways, lake/stream bank buffer
- Wildlife habitat-sources of food for birds, butterflies and other pollinators, nesting sites, water sources, shelter
- Control of invasive species
- Reduced/minimal turf grass lawn
- Earth-friendly maintenance practices-minimal use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer, composting, appropriate mulching
The scope of these elements will vary with the size and location of the property. A small lot may have only a few native trees and shrubs, with perhaps a border garden of native plants. It could support a birdbath, a birdhouse and feeders and eliminate pesticides and fertilizer. A large lot- perhaps an acre or more- should aim to eliminate invasives and replace them with native shrubs and trees; over time replace the amount of lawn with native grasses and forbs and replace lawn under trees with native shade plants, native groundcovers or leaf mulch. In all cases, soil should be amended with compost, not fertilizer.
CLC will have available checklists of native plants for specific conditions, sources of native plants and seeds, maps of area preserves and privately-owned habitat restorations, established habitat development programs, and lists of experts to tap for advice or assistance in developing or improving habitat on private property.
Chicago Living Corridors promotes the idea that private landowners can be instruments of change by restoring natural habitat corridors between protected conservation areas in order to:
- improve biodiversity and ecosystem services
- diminish the effects of climate change
One good way to participate in this effort is to join a local organization. See below for more information. Additional ways to participate include:
– Volunteer with Chicago Living Corridors
– Become a Citizen Scientist
Join a CLC Partner Organization
Many private landowners have created native habitat on their property. See here for an interactive map of some of those who have registered their native habitat.
The CLC partner organizations listed below promote the use of native plants and natural habitats on private landscapes. Become involved in the natural landscaping movement in your community. Join one of the organizations listed, or start your own organization, and tell CLC about it. The first four organizations are founding partners.
Citizens for Conservation (CFC)
Citizens for Conservation is a 48-year-old volunteer organization in the Barrington area whose mission is “Saving Living Space for Living Things through protection, restoration, and stewardship of land, conservation of natural resources and education.
- Our Habitat Corridors program promotes planting native plants and earth-friendly yard practices. Knowledgeable volunteers make complimentary visits to home properties in the northwest suburbs to provide recommendations.
- Our annual native plant sale, held the first weekend of May, provides a huge selection of local ecotype forbs, grasses, shrubs and trees.
Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee (WPPC)
The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee is a non-profit organization dedicated to:
- Promoting the use of native plants in the landscape through preservation, propagation, and education
- Advocating the conservation of open space, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat,
scenic resources, and water in McHenry County and neighboring areas for the benefit of the general public
- Engaging in and otherwise promoting the scientific study of and educating the public regarding local natural resources
Most of our members are in McHenry County.
West Cook Wild Ones and Northern Kane Wild Ones promote the use of native plants and natural landscapes.
Barrington Area Conservation Trust preserves our community’s rare and exceptional open spaces for current and future generations.
- Preserve open spaces in perpetuity through working with homeowners on conservation easements.
- Restore habitat at our nature preserves and spread the word to community members. Furthering local, regional and national conservation efforts that are vital to our future.
- Inspire our future environmental stewards through high school programming, summer internships, and teen board.
Come join us! Volunteers and members help us preserve, restore and inspire
The Conservation Foundation (TCF)
The Conservation Foundation is a non-profit land and river protection organization founded in 1972. The support of more than 3,500 members and 500 volunteers helps us carry out our mission to preserve and restore open space and natural lands, protect rivers and watersheds, and promote stewardship of our environment in DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will Counties, Illinois.
The Conservation@Home program in Cook County is a unique joint partnership with the Forest Preserves of Cook County and University of Illinois Extension. The goal is to bring native habitat beyond Forest Preserves borders and promote healthy, sustainable, native landscapes to residents, schools, and communities in Cook County.
Explore the natural beauty of Cook County for an hour, a day or even a night. When you’re surrounded by 70,000 acres of prairies, woodlands, wetlands and savannas, there’s no better place to feel free. In the Forest Preserves of Cook County, create your own adventure on trails, at nature centers and campgrounds, and much more.
Extension is founded on the belief that knowledge can change lives. Through practical education we help individuals and businesses solve problems and develop skills to positively impact their future. Under the value statement of Appreciating and Improving the Environment,specially trained volunteers can provide free unbiased research-driven information to residents within their communities. This can be a contributing factor in protecting our environment by preventing unnecessary pesticide and fertilizer use, and providing native and more-suitable plant choices that ultimately provide a habitat for local wildlife and help preserve the local ecosystem.
The Illinois Audubon Society was established as an independent, state-wide, educational and scientific organization in 1897. It is Illinois’ oldest non-profit conservation organization. Today’s Illinois Audubon Society operates as a land trust. The Society’s mission is “to promote the perpetuation and appreciation of native flora and fauna of Illinois and the habitats that support them.” Fundamental to this end are the control of pollution, the conservation of energy and all natural resources, a sound ecological relationship between human populations and their environments, and the education and involvement of the public in such efforts. The Bird and Butterfly Sanctuary Certificate program furthers this end by encouraging private landowners to use native plants and practices which reduce water consumption and the use of pesticides and fertilizer. The Society believes that private landowners have the ability to increase native plant diversity, and in doing so restore habitat for wildlife.
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County, a non-profit land trust, has been preserving and restoring natural areas since 1991. Over 2,000 acres have been saved and are cared for with the help of almost 1,800 volunteers. Public programs and events are held to celebrate our connection to the land and community while providing valuable education opportunities.
The Natural Land Institute, an accredited land trust, is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit land conservation organization based in Rockford, Illinois, which has preserved and protected more than 17,300 acres of natural land in Illinois since 1958. NLI’s current service area covers twelve counties: Winnebago, Boone, northern DeKalb, Ogle, Lee, Bureau, Henry, Rock Island, Whiteside, Carroll, Jo Daviess and Stephenson Counties. NLI currently owns 26 preserves (2,728 acres) and holds 49 conservation easements (3,817 acres). There are five full-time and one part-time staff with nearly 200 volunteers per year to help carry out their mission to create an enduring legacy of natural land in northern Illinois for people, plants and animals. For more information: www.NaturalLand.org.
Openlands – Founded in 1963, Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives.
Is your organization not listed above, but is helping private landowners to support pollinator populations, conserve clean water, increase biodiversity and restore soil? We would like to hear about it. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. The CLC support region includes the counties in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana listed below.