Monday, December 26, 2011

Reflections and Anticipation

View into Backyard Woods
Now that the shortest day of the year is past and 2012 is only a few days away, I'm looking out at the bare woodlands in our backyard and wondering what new discoveries I'll see this spring.  Last spring I wasn't even aware of native plants in our own property.  I didn't know what to look for as the woods started to come alive and hide the view of neighbors' houses a mere hundred yards away.  Although in the past we had worked religiously on eliminating the invasive garlic mustard plants from the area, this year I became very aware of the overwhelming number of invasive honeysuckle shrubs that choke out the native plants.  So this year I concentrated on removing as much of this foreign invader as I could.  I can't remember a single walk through the yard or woods that didn't include pulling up at least some small honeysuckle seedlings, if not larger growths. 

Several weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Jacob's Ladder growing at the base of a Honeysuckle I cut down earlier in the year.  Further inspection shows a good number of these plants hidden in what was once a honeysuckle forest.  They would surely have succumbed to the invasive honeysuckle had I not intervened.  In The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest by Rick Darke, I found a marvelous picture of a large group of blooming Jacob's Ladder.  Although my mother used to tell me not to wish my life away, I can't wait for spring to see the blooms from these rescued plants.

Jacob's Ladder - winner over
I don't know the specific species yet, but I do know our woods are full of many different trees.  There are Hickories, Maple, Elms, Walnut, and even one Paw Paw tree.  The once abundant Ash have been totally wiped out by the advancing Emerald Ash Borer.  These Ash were the tallest trees in the woods.  The dead tree trunks are now producing a lot of food for the woodpeckers.  Hairy and Downy woodpeckers, along with Red Bellied Woodpeckers and White Breasted Nuthatch are always harvesting beetles and other insects from these decaying poles.  Supposedly a little more light will now reach the woodland floor this spring.  With the honeysuckle removal, and the loss of the Ash, I wonder what dormant natives will start to make themselves visible in this small Northwest Ohio woodland?   I can't wait.  It'll certainly be awesome to watch the woods wake up from its winter rest.  And best of all I'll get to see this through new eyes; eyes now wakened to and continually amazed by the wonders of our natural world.


Gloria said...

Nice find with the Jacob's Ladder. Such a pretty plant. Nice to have a bit of woodland so close at hand.

the Native Plant Neophyte said...

Hi Gloria, Thanks. I sure am looking forward to watching them spread. I'm beginning to think I should expand this woodland environment in our partally wooded front yard.

Unknown said...


I loved reading your article. I was in your situation -- not too many years ago -- in my own woodland, yanking out vining honeysuckle and garlic mustard.

What really disturbs me is hearing the emerald ash borer has already gotten you ash. I was told by a PA forester that they will go extinct soon. They are prevalent throughout my 4 acres, and it really makes my heart ache.


the Native Plant Neophyte said...

Thanks Christina - Yes, sad about the Ash trees. There seems to be no safe way to prevent the Emerald Ash Borer from taking these trees to extinction. I know several people who are using chemicals to save their trees. Unfortunately these chemicals are probably causing a lot more damage.

The online videos of your biodiversity talks are very powerful. I'd sure like to hear more about your journey transforming your residential land in a lawn infested neighborhood to the beautiful wildlife haven it is now. Keep up the great work and spreading the word.