Half Truth - Not Always a Good Idea


I love plants, especially big old trees, and members of the white oak complex are at the top of my list of favorites. Why? Not only are they majestic but they are preferred by our native fauna over non-natives. The now celebrity entomologist Doug Tallamy points out that oaks are in fact used (according to the last count I heard) by an astounding 432 species of native insects. When his audience hear this they immediately get the impression that to be a good land steward (to promote and protect the natives) they must plant an oak or two in their yard. What he fails to mention, and what his adoring audience often does not what to hear, is that not all natives are good nor are all non-natives bad, and all woody plants are indeterminate growers. That is, they do not stop growing (unless dormant) until they are dead, which for some of our oaks could be several hundred years. How is it ever going to be a good idea to plant a tree like the spectacular bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) that can develop a canopy over 100 feet across and a trunk more than 5 feet in diameter just 10 feet from a three-story house? That is exactly what the home owner in the above photo did; and so did several neighbors. And pruning, to control size, is not a good technique or plausible. Oaks and black cherry (Prunus serotina), another one of the trees Tallamy exalts, are far better suited for large properties (parklike settings where they can develop and do not eventually present unwanted issue) not postage stamp urban lots. Is this misguidance, ignorance, misinterpretation or some combination? The enormous acorns of bur oak (macrocarpa means large fruit) are a natural marvel to behold. I love to sit under a spreading old specimen listening to music--"buroak" music, of course.

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