Visitors come to the arboretum at the Lowville Forest Demonstration Area in Lewis County, New York, to wander about this marvelous place. First created as a nursery, and now dedicated to conservation and study, cultivating and displaying groups and individual specimens of trees with readily known and fascinating unique features, this special botanical collection and haven, helps visitors identify representative examples with informative signs placed strategically along a trail.
I am reminded of “I speak for the trees” by Dr. Seuss’ Lorax character, while I note that this arboretum contains more than three hundred varieties of species and cultivars of trees and shrubs, both native and non-native to the area. It highlights the color, shape, and winter hardiness of many possibilities people can use when planting trees or shrubs in northern New York State, with different species useful for landscaping, wildlife habitats, or both.
Students from nearby schools come to investigate during an annual Conservation Field Day and Lewis County Environothon. They make discoveries through activities including tree planting and land stewardship. Older students participate in a competition, with the winning group representing Lewis County in a state competition. Topics for competition projects include forestry and environmental issues involving soil, water, and wildlife. I would have welcomed such things to do while growing up in a city, but nothing like this was offered to urban students then.
While recalling the novel “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” I remember an oak tree that grew in Brooklyn, New York on the sidewalk in front of my childhood city home, I look now at the Norway Spruce tree in my back yard in New York State’s north country. It’s similar to one of many evergreen trees on display in the arboretum’s Pine Plantation/Coniferous Area where Norway Spruce, plus Balsam Fir, Larch, and pines called White, Pitch, Scotch, and Jack, grow and flourish. These evergreens, unlike trees with leaves, thrive during winter and are considered ornamental. White Pine in New York State, sometimes called “a monarch among trees,” can reach a height of two hundred feet in the Adirondacks’ forest areas. Pitch pines feature cones usually remaining unopened until a forest fire happens naturally or for demonstration. After a fire, many cones open, shedding seeds to naturally replenish what burned away. Red Spruce, the most common native spruce in New York State, seems to be one of the most susceptible species of trees affected by acid rain. Symptoms include reduced growth, yellowing foliage, and mortality. Poplar trees such as the hybrids at this arboretum are usually planted along streams and rivers that need restoration. They also clean contaminated ground water because they thrive in wet soil. Poplars have a diameter of nearly 20 twenty inches and a circumference of more than fifty inches.
A remnant of a forest which grew along the Black River nearby includes trees such as Green Ash, Silver Maple, elm, and willow.
The Green Ash, when mature, has a bark that thickens into a recognizable diamond-like pattern.
Bark, seeds, leaves, and tree canopies in each arboretum area cause observers to stop, look at, and think about each unique feature. Young visitors can experience, while adults remember childhood times (as I do visits to city parks), discovering things such as helicopter seeds, whirligigs, or polly noses from maple trees. As in past times, children today try to catch and gather them then make them fly or Pinocchio-like display them on their noses. Bunches abound on the arboretum’s maple trees including Silver, Red and Sugar Maples.
An area of more than five acres is in the process of evolving from meadow to woodland. Transition from open field to forest is called ecological succession, which takes several years. Another area, containing hedges of honeysuckle and other shrubs, is designated especially as a habitat for a variety of wildlife, including White-tail Deer, Cottontail Rabbits, woodchucks, and sometimes, a Great Blue Heron.
Wildlife like using various arboretum flora as living, hiding, and nesting areas. Top soil is heavily used for nesting, especially by plover birds. The arboretum is a popular place for animals foraging for seeds and fruits especially as spring approaches. In this world where nature is often not respected, it’s nice to know that each person who set up and maintains this arboretum is “someone” who (in Dr. Seuss’ words) “cares a whole awful lot” for the trees.
Sources of information: http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8075.html, of white pine http://www.dec.ny.gov/pubs/93447.html, http://www.hmienterprises.com/nnytrails/lowville-demonstration-area-forestry-nature-trail, http://www.poplartree.org, http://homeguides.sfgate.com/maple-trees-drop-helicopters-once-year-97016.html, http://www.lewiscountychamber.org/pdf/2011Fallfoliagebooklet.pdf