Why You Should Plant Oaks

When I reached a piece of land years ago I was now in the garden, I saw it as a blank canvas and set about crazy planting things, imagining my efforts brought every square foot to life. I did not understand then that there was already heavy lifting – and perhaps by a blue hail, or perhaps a squirrel.

Douglas W. Talam, An entomologist and longtime professor at the University of Delaware, would yet know what the giant old oak tree along the front property line meant – and anyplace.

“There’s a lot going on in your yard that won’t be one or more oak trees that grind a piece of your planet Earth,” he writes in his new book, “The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology is our most essential Root tree


Oaks support more life-forms than the genes of any other North American tree, providing birds with food, protection, or both for bears, as well as countless insects and spiders, among the vast diversity of species. Oaks also overpresents “engaging conversations”, which give intimate details from the book Chronicles, month to month.

It was the caterpillar – particularly the larval stage of the moths – which Mr. Talmami credits for making him conscious of the power of the genus Quercus. With more than 90 North American species and about 435 worldwide, Quercus is the largest tree genus in the Northern Hemisphere, composed mostly of trees that live very large and very long, two of several factors. Which help explain the power of oak.

When Mr. Tallami began research 12 years ago to compare the relative ecological effects of native and non-plants, his team searched for historical scientific records and made lists of host-plant genera, stating that each Many caterpillar species were dependent. Why record caterpillar interactions? Not just because Mr. Tallam likes them – he calls them “repurchased leaves that can run” – but because caterpillars fuel the food web.

Hitherto led Oaks, an insight that made him a character in his previous books, including the 2020 best seller “Nature’s Best Hope”.

“They are very important, critically important in running our ecosystem, and that’s what attracts me,” he said. “Oaks are not just another plant.”

Consider some of the credentials of oak.

Oak trees in the United States support 897 caterpillar species. In Mr. Tallam’s 10-acre estate in southeast Pennsylvania, he has recorded 511 – dwarfing the number supported by other native trees there, including maple (acer, interacting with 295 caterpillar species), ironwood (Carpinus, 77) And SWAGAM (liquidmember). 35).

Of the food consumed by insects, birds and other animals, 75 percent comes from some major genera – and lead the oak list.

Birds tend to live longer in birds (which, again, are often about caterpillars – high value food, especially during the breeding season when they are prime baby food).

An oak can produce three million acorns in its lifetime – tons of protein, fat and carbohydrates – and a mature tree can shed as many as 700,000 leaves each year. The resulting litter is habitat for beneficial organisms, and tree umbrellas and root systems are important in water infiltration, helping to stop the rain and purify it in the process, rather than stop the rain. Oak trees also sequester carbon.

As Mr. Tallam states: “A yard without oaks is a yard meeting, which is only part of the life-support capacity.”

Yes, he knows: We have objections. The oaks are very large. They produce all the leather leaves that do not decompose fast enough for our neemony choice. And in those years when oak crops are particularly heavy – known as mast years – we cannot walk anywhere near trees without losing our feet.

But Mr. Tallam wants to end those reservations, so that we can make room for at least one tree (or better still, two or three).

When Mr. Tallam and his wife, Cindy, moved into their home 20 years ago, the land was long diverted to meadow, a practice they had discontinued. No longer pressed by the tractor, the invasive emerged, and the couple began evacuating them. The following spring, he noticed that he had planted unwanted multiflora roses and autumn olives, oak and beech plants in many disturbed places created by uprooting – but from where?

“We had no white oak or bees on our property and no mature trees nearby from where squirrels could take seed,” Mr. Tallam writes.

A photo of Jai’s chance magazine while flying with oak in his beak sent him to dig into literature. And sure enough, the ancient reciprocity between Jem and Oak was well documented.

Oaks and jaws evolved together about 60 million years ago, in what is now Southeast Asia. Jax became so adapted to Oak as well as life that a small hook at the tip of his bill was “made to rip an oak husk,” Mr. Tallam writes.

The bird’s extended esophagus (a sycamore bag) can hold up to five acorns – each buried in a different location, later eaten. Except some are forgotten and never recovered. And you know what comes next: from a little oak to big oak grows.

Because they have concentrations of lignin and tannin, natural chemicals that eliminate retardation, oak leaves decompose slower than tree leaves. Mr. Tallam hopes that the gardeners will see him as a “precious litter”, not to vacuum debris, to pieces, or worse, to burn.

“The diversity and abundance of small creatures living in leaf litter accumulates under the oak, it is shocking,” he writes, “and easily counts in the millions.” ”

What are they doing, all those arthropods? Some are overwatering, taking shelter for the appropriate days (which is why Mr. Tallam advises us Not to start our cleaning early) Belongs to. But the nature of others, scavengers, without which the system collapses. Many fungi, too, make a home in oak-leaf litter.

“If leaf litter disappears, the decomposers do,” Mr. Tallam writes, “as well as fungi and bacteria that eat many, and mycorrhiza that enable plant roots to absorb the nutrients they need. it occurs.”

Oak-leaf litter also has other superpowers – practicals that speak to gardeners either to withstand two fierce, fast-spreading invasions: the Japanese stiltgrass (Microstigium vimine) spoils areas with a heavy layer, And oak litter also seems to spoil the soil. -Roading Asian jumping insects.

You may have seen it: an oak tree, whose dry, brown leaves live all winter. The phenomenon, called marshes, is more common in small trees (and oak’s botanical cousins, also seen in the middle).

Why do they hold that extra baggage? If you are an animal such as a deer or elk, the taste of dead leaves deteriorates and those that fall, if you walk on them, you will caution predators with their presence. So perhaps those leaves protect the new buds on the lower branches by discouraging the animals from grazing.

But what about dead leaves on high branches? Oak’s 60 million-year history before it had long predators similar to that of Mastodon, which was probably also different.

Or perhaps the marsent leaves help the snow to grow in poor soil by holding it, directing more water into the root zone, and eventually falling to form a nutritionally rich mulch, when spring arrives. Or all of the above. No one knows for sure.

If you’ve seen a wall-to-wall carpet under oak, you’ve probably noticed that a person’s contribution to a mast year, is not an isolated incident. Mast years are often synchronous: In the fall of 2019, red oak from Massachusetts to Georgia produced huge crops of acorns.

but why? Is this a way of overcoming the demands of predators, which ensures that some seeds are left to grow? Or perhaps an unpredictable crop, year after year, controls predator populations, which can grow and decrease when subsequent crops cannot sustain them. Or is it mostly mastered in improving the pollination of these wind-pollinated trees, by not polluting the wind velocity so much that it cannot miss? Again, probably all of the above.

Asked Mr. Tallam to take action: to plant us the fruit of oak, preferably oak.

“Acorns are easy, free and plentiful,” he writes, “and if you transplant established trees, they will grow into healthy trees.”

Or instead of pulling those volunteer ropes, why not leave a place and protect it from animals with a wire cage while it attains a foothold? Many trees scattered at a distance of 10 feet will intertwine their roots, forming a grove, each better standing alone than it is anchored.

In “Natural Best Hope”, Mr. Tallam coined the term Homegron National Park – the notion that each individual’s original plantation, led by oak, could add up to substantial conservation corridors. His new Homegroh National Park The website encourages us to combine our own efforts into an interactive map; More than 5,000 people already have it.

There is a payoff for the environment, yes, but also for each of us, in the bond of personal connection. He realizes this, below is the final oak.

“The oaks in my yard are not just oaks, they are vibrant communities of hundreds of species,” Mr. Tallaimi said. “We planted them with acorns – so we enabled this whole life by planting those oak, and we completed it in a few years. You can actually bring this whole life to your yard by planting this one genus. We really need oaks, and they need to be treated with reverence. “


Margaret Roach is the creator of the website and podcast A path to the garden, And a book of the same name.

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