Cheryl Harner's Flora and Butterfly Blog
Weedpicker's Journal: Discover the native plants of Ohio and the butterflies that utilize them.
Tasty Evergreens... December 29, 2007
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Most of December's blog has been devoted to conifers, and rightfully so. They are an important part of Ohio's native flora, providing cover and food for birds and some mega-fauna, as witnessed on today's Mohican Christmas Bird Count.

While counting birds along a roadside overgrowth, we spied this row of Arbor-Vitae. Northern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis is our native, but planted in a neat row, this could easily be Oriental Arborvitae, Thuja orientalis a landscape plant. The best way to tell them apart- according to the "McKee": "Oriental Arbor-Vitae, a commonly planted ornamental, has leaf sprays more vertical than the horizontal native species, and thicker cone scales with a hook like structure, and seeds that are wingless".

I suggested beating on them to see how many species of birds we could flush out, but my wiser and level-headed partners restrained me and reminded me to use good birding etiquette. :) Besides, these poor plants looked as though they had already been traumatized enough. They were clipped, or rather well chewed, up to a height of about 4 feet. This would be pretty compelling evidence of deer browse. Arborvitae must be a deer delicacy, as this is a common occurrence in rural areas, including many cemeteries.

A friend once asked if I knew why Arborvitaes were commonly planted in cemeteries, and the Latin roots of "Arbor" (tree) " Vitae" (life) are highly suggestive: Tree of Life. A fact corroborated by the National Cemetery web site, which also notes the tree's pleasant fragrance and evergreen foliage, desirable to the living. These trees, a logical choice for a living memorial, thrive on well-drained soil and can live for several hundred years.

Ohio has a data-base of Big Trees and many of them are found in cemeteries- that might make some interesting blog fodder for the future. :) Remember, cemeteries are a great place to botanize and bird!

2007-12-30 01:36:42 GMT
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