My financial advisor once told me the key to good investments is diversity. What happens if you put all your money in one company and it goes belly up? I think the folks that invested heavily in ENRON in the late ‘90’s will tell you it does not end well.
In the plant world we like to plant what grows well and not think of the consequences in investing too much in one species. We used to love planting Elms then came Dutch Elm Disease. Then we planted Scotch Pine and along came Pine Wilt and like ENRON it did not end well. Now we have Emerald Ash Bore, if you haven’t heard of it I’m guessing you clicked the title because you thought it was about money (keep reading you might learn something new).
How do we change this? You guessed it. DIVERSIFY. When choosing what to plant after the removal of your ash tree think natives! Don’t plant another Autumn Blaze Maple like your neighbor because it “looks pretty in the fall.” Plant oaks (Quercus) because not only do they look pretty in the fall but they can support over 534 different types of caterpillars (Doug Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home). Plant Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) because they look pretty in the spring, summer, fall and even winter with their awesome bark. Or you could try Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) whose fruit is a favorite for many different song birds.
While we are replacing all of our Scotch Pine let’s try more straight species spruce (Picea) like Black Hills, Colorado, or White. Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) has been used for years and is still a great choice for the Midwest. But let’s not leave all the fun to the evergreens in our windbreaks anymore. We can add in a mix of the oaks, wild plum, and other trees and shrubs that not only provide great wind protection but also create habitat for wildlife and insects.
Native plants give us biodiversity. Without it we would not have life. We can all do our part in this form the ¼ acre lot in suburbia USA to the 1000 acre farm in central Nebraska. Doug Tallamy wrote “It is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water; that creates topsoil out of rock and buffers extreme weather events like droughts and floods; and that recycles the mountains of garbage we create every day.”
The ball is in your court. What are you going to plant this season?