Saturday, December 11, 2010

A New Bottomland Forest

Whenever we are planting, we should give consideration to the honey bees and the native pollinators. Whether we are planting a flower garden, a kitchen vegetable garden, an herb garden, or a pollinator pasture, we can greatly increase the available forage and habitat for our important pollinators. By including native plants in our horticultural plantings, we can provide food as well as places for the pollinators to nest and reproduce. As Tod and I went about hand-planting a portion of our wetland reforestation project that was accidentally destroyed by a farmer’s plow, we tried to accommodate the pollinators as we replanted the forest. In the river bottoms, we planted hardwood trees from seed collected in other woods on the farm. We planted Shumard, Nuttall, overcup, pin, sawtooth, water, cherrybark, and willow oaks; shagbark and bitternut hickories; pecans; and American black walnuts. The seeds, acorns or nuts, we planted into the heavy clay Delta soil before rains. We also dispersed the seed pods of green ash to be carried by the wind. Along a gentle ridge rising above the river bottoms, the natural embankment of an old Mississippi River oxbow chute, we planted a number of species of trees less tolerant of seasonal flooding. For these plantings we included a number of flowering trees to provide food for honey bees and native pollinators. Along with the oaks, hickories, pecans, walnuts, and ash, we planted seed for black locust, peach, plum, and persimmon. Along the ridge, we also distributed by the wind the seed of catalpa and redbud.

After the tree seeds germinate and start growing, we will return and plant understory plants like hawthorn, blackberry, and milkweed. Grape vines and native muscadine vines will provide food for honey bees in the treetops. After pollination, their fruit and seed will provide food for songbirds and small mammals that will distribute the plants throughout the forest. Clouds gather for the rain that will start the regrowth of the forest.

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