My neighbor has eight oak trees (genus Quercus) growing in her yard, so it is no wonder that most of the leaves I rake and pick up are from these trees. As I slave away each autumn, I can’t help but mutter to myself, resentfully, why does anyone would plant so many oaks in one so small property? and why do all the leaves blow over on my property and, would it not be great if some of the trees could be thinned out? and then, I remind myself of the amazing value to wildlife that this magnificent trees are.
According to data from wildlife ecologists and entomologists, one oak tree supports 534 lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) species alone! add hundreds of other insect herbivores -all of which are an indispensable food source for our backyard birds- and hundreds of vertebrate wildlife who forage for acorns and are supported by them thru harsh winters and you can see what an invaluable tree the oak is. All this data has been painstakingly collected in the Northeast region only, as documented in Douglas W. Tallamy, marvelous book “Bringing Nature Home”. Other important native trees to consider are willows, (genus Salix) Cherry, (genus Prunus) each supporting 456 species, and birch, (genus Betula) 413 species to name a few among the most important in our landscape. Let us celebrate our national tree the mighty oak!