Here in Pennsylvania, May is all about flowering dogwoods, crabapple trees, viburnum shrubs and even some Cercis siliquastrum (Judas trees). It's as if the cherry blossoms and beautiful magnolias bow out gracefully, giving these other beauties the chance to take center stage for us to admire. I'm not reticent about the love that I have for the numerous trees which surround our home.
It is the layers of the woodland, however, during the warmer months that deserve to be noted for what they are. I have been wanting to share with you the various noteworthy layers which are crucial to any property, big or small, and I've even included two short videos taken while on my walk around the meadow for you to see what I'm talking about. Layers in the woodland have several benefits in promoting biodiversity for plants and animals. The more 'structures' one provides near and around one's home, the more flora and fauna it can sustain throughout the seasons.
The Woodland Layers
The deciduous trees in our woodland far outnumber the coniferous specimens, but both are equally important. If we observe closely, from day to day, we'll note that during the months of April and May, the layers, from ground to canopy level, fill in very rapidly. The only thing to complain about is the amount of pollen that gets dropped.
Let's explore the ground layer, shrub layer, sub canopy layer and canopy layer around my home.
The ground layer consists of many crucial plants and vegetation. Thick grass, moss, herbs, plants and flowers play a vital role in our woodland. The hundreds of bees and butterflies that forage our herbs, wildflowers and perennials need these in order to exist. They in turn pollinate countless other flora. Many other invertebrates use these low-lying areas for their day-to-day existence, which then get consumed by countless woodland birds, such as bluejays, robins, crows, mourning doves, cardinals, woodpeckers, finches and wrens.
A freshly mown meadow gives you a clear picture of the various woodland layers. Those large deciduous trees on the horizon, wind their way around the field. Let me assure you, they are quite majestic to behold up close.
The meadow is dotted with clusters of wildflowers which range in color, from whites and yellows, to light mauves and pinks.
This short video is really meant to be listened to. There is quite a lot happening here. Do you hear the crickets?
Let's not forget the herbs and beautiful ostrich ferns which thrive enthusiastically. The flowering herbs (I do let them flower) are very popular with the bees and butterflies. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than watching them buzz from flower to flower when the weather gets warmer.
The proliferating ostrich ferns provide a lot of shelter to smaller animals, such as woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks and foxes.
At the moment, we have a fox with her kits taking refuge behind a hill of ferns and forsythia. We've spotted them on the lawn next to our house (photo above taken on Mother's Day), so it's only a matter of time before they become bolder and venture out beyond the surrounding acres.
Shrub layers provide a number of benefits to the woodland and one's property. Not only do they serve as windbreaks and barriers for privacy, but they also have the added advantage of providing shelter and food to the wildlife (look at the fawn standing next to those raspberry shrubs). Some of our favorite shrubs here at home include: rhododendron, viburnum, azaleas, forsythia, holly, and of course, raspberry.
You know it's May when the azaleas are in full bloom. They seem to punctuate the landscape with glorious colors this time of year, and they aren't shy to show just how beautiful they are.
Looking down our driveway, you can see the various woodland layers. We have a lot of shrubs that line this steep path, and yet, the dense canopy of trees provide most of the shade here. Even on very hot days, this area stays cool. This photo was taken in the thick of summer.
Sub Canopy Layer
Dogwoods are among my favorite trees. You can always count on their flower show in May. Although we have mostly white dogwoods here, I noticed a few pink and coral-colored ones in a wooded area behind the barn.
Our trees include:
- Eastern Hemlock
- Eastern White Pine
- Pitch Pine
- Black Ash
- Flowering Dogwood
- Norway Maple
- Silver Maple
- American Beech
- American Chestnut
- American Linden
- Black Locust
- Black Walnut
- Black Oak
- Tulip Tree
- White Oak
- Yellow Birch
Standing at the western end of the meadow, you can hear how much activity there is on this particular afternoon.
Note: If your speakers are on high, I suggest you lower them a bit, because of the birds. They can be loud!
|Layers in the Woodland
Improving one's landscape by planting trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs or reseeding lawns is always a wise thing to do. Knowing how each of these layers works and recognizing the importance of biodiversity will help guide your choices when planting. As stewards of the land which surrounds us, how we treat our woodlands, properties and landscapes today, will have a tremendous impact on what we leave behind for generations to come.