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Gardening for wildlife - help!

Ross Koning Koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Wed Sep 11 09:00:36 EST 1996

At  7:15 PM 9/10/96 -0400, JennPeck at aol.com wrote:
>Thank you for your ... specific advise.


Thanks for wanting to make your campus a landscaped place.
So many campus landscapes are "bald" or so "industrial
park" in feel that you just aren't invited in.  A campus
should be a place people want to bring their wedding party
for some photos, where parents snap photos of graduates
all over the place.

I wanted to say, too, that the reply to my suggestions
that appeared on the net had good ones for attracting
wildlife, but was critical of some of the plants I had
suggested.  I gave you a "plant education" answer...
many people don't want to have anything to do with
botany and so are not willing to put up with any
inconvenience...no matter how slight.

All plants drop leaves, fruits, flowers, or something!
There will always be some work involved in keeping up
with landscape...but mountains are made of molehills.

The stink of gink...ginkgo seeds is really not as bad
as the reply suggested.  They drop almost synchronously
and don't really begin to smell for a few days.  If
they are picked up promptly, the problem is solved.
I have more problems with campus dumpsters, animal rooms,
autoclaving to dispose of microbiological cultures, the
organic chemistry labs, DTT and b-mercaptoethanol in the
cell biology labs than I do our ginkgo.  One female tree
on campus is not that large of a problem.

On the other hand, a Ginkgo pair is beautiful...one
entire division (phylum) of life standing side-by-side.
There are no close relatives anywhere on the planet.
They are the only descendents of an ancient group of
plants.  They are survivors of some of the greatest
cataclysmic events over millenia...especially the
rise to dominance of Homo sapiens.  I think we can
put up with a little pick-up to have these magnificent
plants nearby.  In autumn our upcoming efforts are
rewarded when the tree suddenly changes from green
to yellow and later the fan-shaped leaves scatter to the
ground over a very short span of time.  People will
stand watching as the leaves fall like a gentle shower.

I would say more about my other choices, but I will
only write about one.  The bamboo collection *can*
include aggressive types, but there are many species
of less invasive ones to choose.  At your latitude
and climate, I would expect that most of them will
senesce to the ground.  Ratty culms are manifested
mostly in more-moderate climates.  The rapid growth
in spring by many species is fascinating, and the
economic importance of bamboo in other cultures
underscores it inclusion on the campus map.  When
I was in Beijing a few years ago, I was in awe of
fifteen-stories of bamboo scaffolding being used
to apply the brick veneer to one of the new buildings.
All new construction we saw used bamboo in place
of metal scaffolding...most of it lashed!  We saw
it as building material, and in some places huge
"logs" of bamboo were lashed to make raft-like
canoes...usually pushed along rivers with another
bamboo pole.  For your botanist to be able to tell
American students what is waiting in store for them
abroad is worth any annoyance a few ratty leaves
might generate.  Again, I expect most of your bamboo
to senesce to the ground and can be cut to the ground
in one autumn operation.

I don't know what other's experiences with aggressive
plants are, but on our campus Darwinian selection is
highly operative.  We bring in species, coddle a few
of them for some time, but mostly we like plants that
are tough competitors.  Trampling, bike locks, climbing,
and other damage is fairly common (but is on the decline
now that our campus is getting nice!).  But plants
that take a beating and can come back are welcome on
our campus.

As for our topped conifers...that happened most in the first
year of our plantings.  Now that the landscape is maturing,
the frequency has really dropped off.  Our biology club
is planning a tree sale to take the pressure off completely...
we hope.  I think when you have a really nice collection
of things, people respect it.

The three most important ideas about landscaping are:
location, location, and maintenance.  Good Luck with
your landscaping, Jenn.

Ross Koning                 | Koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | Phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT  06226  USA | Fax: 860-465-5213

                Plant Physiology is Phun!

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  | COOH                    \\ /\ /            O
  COOH        H2C=CH2         N  NH

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