This week we'd like to highlight two natives we received from Mellow Marsh Farms in Siler City, NC. We were able to source over 600 one-gallon sized native trees and shrubs, and we are excited to be able to offer many this fall!
Lindera benzoin - Spicebush
Deciduous shrub 8-15' tall/wide Part shade
Spicebush is a beautiful shrub that offers a lot in terms of wildlife food, landscape use, and an uncommon bloom time in your garden! It is naturally found in moist woodlands, think stream banks, bottomlands and rich cove forests. Their tiny yellow blooms can create a yellow-hazy appearance in the understory of woods. Their early bloom time (early March) is important to pollinators at a time when flowers are scarce this early in the season. All parts of this shrub have aromatic oils that give it a strong citrusy smell, especially when the leaves are crushed. Spicebush is dioecious, meaning there are separate male and female plants. The female plants create red berries that are favored by thrushes, upland game birds and songbirds, especially during fall migration. It can be challenging to tell if a spicebush plant is male or female if not purchased during bloom time or during berry production.
Spicebush (along with other plants in the laurel family) also supports larvae of the Palamedes and Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies - larva is best known for their "ferocious" eyespots! Traditionally, spicebush berries were dried and used as a spice to help season strong flavored meats (truly a unique and delicious flavor still regularly used in many cuisines), while the leaves were used for tea. Plant spicebush if you would like a plant for part shade, that's aromatic, blooms yellow in late winter, has yellow fall color, and supports wildlife.
Fagus grandifolia - American Beech
Deciduous slow-moderate growing tree
50-70' tall, 40' wide
The American Beech holds a special place in many hearts. Known for its wide-spreading canopy densely packed with delicate branching, beautiful golden bronze fall color, and smooth taut bark (which is sadly often vandalized). It is a wonderful shade tree and provides many benefits. While slow to mature, slow and steady wins the race as it can grow over 80 feet and live for 300+ years! The fruit, beechnuts, are formed when the tree ages 40+ years and provides food for birds and mammals such as chipmunks and squirrels. Early settlers believed the American Beech was a sign of fertile soil and would use the tree as an indicator of where to settle, plow and farm. One favorite trait is how the leaves hang on for so long before dropping - a term called "marcescent". The holding of leaves through winter protects the buds from drying in the winter cold and can deter browsing by deer. It also helps with wintertime tree identification when all leaves have dropped from neighboring woodland species! And the sound of leaves rustling in a cold winter breeze is always welcome.
A passage from arborday.org:
There was a Beech tree on the old stage road between Blountville and Jonesborough, Tennessee that had an inscription carved into the trunk that read "D. Boone Cilled A Bar On Tree In Year 1760." (Killed a bear.) The tree fell in 1916 and had a girth of 28-1/2 feet. The Forest Service estimated the tree’s age to be 365 years, making it fully two centuries old before Daniel Boone inscribed on it.