This is a story about the birds and the bees (and the bats and the bugs).
That’s right, it’s a story about plant pollinators. Insects like bees and butterflies, as well as animals such as birds and bats, are responsible for pollinating two-thirds of the world’s food crops.
I felt such joy yesterday at Shrub Club seeing a tray of hackberry trees sprouting!
I had my doubts about whether we would get anything from the hackberry seeds. The main issue was the seeds are small and non-descript, and when we were sorting, there were several moments when I realized that what I thought was a seed was actually just a small ball of dirt.
Growing up, I disliked hackberries. The bark was lumpy, the leaves were irregularly shaped, plus the leaves often seemed to be covered with bumps like they had some disease. It has only been as an adult that I have come to love this tree.
From the USDA, hackberries are great habitat trees for the following species: Wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, quail, grouse, lesser prairie chicken, cedar waxwing, robins, and other bird species consume common hackberry fruit, which persist throughout the winter. Small mammals also consume the fruit. Deer will browse common hackberry leaves in the absence of preferred browse species. Common hackberry provides good cover for species such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, upland game birds, small non-game birds, and small mammals.
The hackberry is also important habitat for a large number of butterflies like the Hackberry Emperor, Mourning Cloak and Question Mark, in addition to a wide variety of insects that are important food for birds!
And that explains the bumpy leaves. The bumps are insect galls, which are basically tiny insect biospheres. From Wikipedia: Insect galls are the highly distinctive plant structures formed by some herbivorous (plant-eating) insects as their own microhabitats. They are plant tissue which is controlled by the insect. Galls act as both the habitat and food source for the maker of the gall. The interior of a gall can contain edible nutritious starch and other tissues. Some galls act as "physiologic sinks", concentrating resources in the gall from the surrounding plant parts. Galls may also provide the insect with physical protection from predators.
If you'd like to get in on the Shrub Club excitement, join me at Glacial Oaks Nursery Tuesdays from 5-7 and Sundays from 2-5! This is an exciting time now that the weather has finally warmed - everything will start popping now!
Glacier Oaks Nursery is located west of Harvard at 8216 White Oaks Road. From Harvard, take 173 west through Chemung to White Oaks Road. Go north for 2.2 miles, and turn right (east) in the driveway with the white farm house. Please pull into the second driveway (the north one) because there's better parking from that side.