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Post Fiona: Tree Planting

Welcome back to Ask a Naturalist: your own personal ‘Google’ for all things wild on PEI! I’ve gotten lots of great questions since launching this series, but one question has been asked more than all the others combined: what are the best trees to replant following Fiona?

Photo 1: I lost many trees on my property, including some large Eastern Hemlock and White Pine, shown here (with my pal Ruairidh).

I wish I had a clear list, but like most things in nature it’s not that simple. It depends on your goals and the environmental conditions of your site – things like soil type and compaction; exposure to wind, salt, or pollution; sun versus shade; and coastal versus inland locations among other things.

In addition to current site conditions, it’s also important to consider potential future site conditions and climate change. Again, this is easier said than done. Climate is complex and forests are complex; predicting the effect of one on the other is a gamble, at best. Additionally, there are emerging challenges that complicate things further. For example, Red Oak and White Ash are often cited as two species likely to fare well under projected future climate conditions. Unfortunately, both also have climate-change-facilitated pests knocking at our door (Oak Wilt and Emerald Ash Borer).

Photo 2: Some considerations to think about regarding our needle-leaved trees.

All this complexity isn’t an excuse to do nothing, but it is a reason to be humble about what we know and what we don’t know. To me, the best approach is to maintain as much native diversity as possible. I’m not a fan of “assisted migration”: moving species beyond their current ranges. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and I can cite far more examples of imported wild species being problems than I can of them being benefits.

Photo 3: Some considerations to think about regarding our broad-leaved trees.

So, I can’t really tell you what to replant following Fiona. I can tell you what I am doing on my own land and give you some information to help you choose what’s right for you. I lost some beautiful old Eastern Hemlock and White Pine (Photo 1). Other than possibly re-opening my trail access to this area, I will leave it alone to regenerate naturally. I also have fields in various stages of returning to forest. In those areas, I am planting White Spruce and White Pine where needed and adding Red Maple and Red Oak; I’m allowing additional species such as Trembling Aspen, Large Tooth Aspen, Eastern Larch, Apple, Serviceberry, and Pin Cherry to move in naturally. In my hedgerows and around my home, I’m also adding a variety of flowering, wildlife-friendly, edible species including Chokeberry, Chokecherry, Hawthorne, Serviceberry, and Wild Rose among others.

Photos 2 and 3 list attributes of some of PEI’s native coniferous and deciduous trees. The information is far from comprehensive and is just intended to get you thinking about which species may be right for you and your site.

If you have a question about PEI’s wild side, it’s likely others do too! So, follow me here or on Facebook, join the conversation, and Ask a Naturalist about PEI untamed!

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Bryan D. Cook
Bryan D. Cook
May 17, 2023

Would butternut and walnut work if PEI is blight free?

Replying to

Yes, another non-native. I have fond childhood memories of packing a suitcase full of horse-chestnuts and putting it back into the closet at my Grandparents’ home in Parkdale. When it was found many months later, it was quite the mouldy mess! 😂

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