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Nonprofit Offers Native Tree “Kits” to Residents

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees. A local nonprofit has developed an affordable way to plant a lovely native tree in your yard — and protect it from deer damage. The Sourland Conservancy is offering 200 native tree “kits” for just $10 each.

Montgomery Township Mayor Sadaf Jaffer planting a native tree in Veteran's Park. (File photo.)

“We are grateful for the tremendous community support,” said Laurie Cleveland, Sourland Conservancy’s Executive Director. “Rosedale Mills and Pinelands Nursery have sponsored the program, so we can offer the kits to everyone below cost. Fifty generous donors have purchased trees to offer for free to residents who request them.”


“The Conservancy’s Ash Crisis Team developed this idea as a way to raise awareness of the over one million trees being killed by the emerald ash borer in this area,” said Marylou Ferrara, Sourland Conservancy Trustee. “This is not a fundraiser, we just want to give everyone the opportunity to connect with nature and help restore the forest. This has been a difficult time for everyone. Planting a tree is a wonderful, positive activity for individuals and families.”

Fraxinus, otherwise known as the Ash Tree, is facing its demise as a bark-eating beetle grows hungrier every day. The Emerald Ash Borer was mistakenly brought to the U.S. in the early 2000s in a shipping container coming from its native northeast Asia.

The New Jersey Forest Service estimates that the invasive emerald ash borer is on track to kill more than one million trees in the 90-square-mile Sourland Mountain region within the next few years. The conservancy’s staff and Ash Crisis Team volunteers urge all residents, land managers, and municipalities to help restore the forest by helping to replace this generation of ash trees.


“Approximately one-third of the Sourland Region is privately owned. Homeowners can provide critical habitat by simply choosing native plants for their landscaping,” said Carolyn Klaube, Sourland Conservancy’s Stewardship Program Coordinator. “Native trees are easy to care for, and they provide food and shelter for native birds, pollinators and other animals. Last spring, Sourland residents planted over 600 trees purchased or donated through our ACT program!”


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The conservancy staff and Ash Crisis Team volunteers have scheduled a contact-free pick-up day, October 24th, at their office parking lot at 83 Princeton Avenue, Hopewell. Participants will receive pick-up instructions via email including time and slot number. Please measure your vehicle’s capacity. Fencing will be rolled and can be cut to 5’ height if needed, but still takes quite a bit of space to transport. Delivery is available if needed, but arrangements must be made in advance.


Roger Thorpe, Stewardship Committee Chair, said, “We’re very fortunate to have a great group of volunteers who are very dedicated to the environment. Our no-contact pick-up works very well. Participants order their tree kits in advance, and everyone gets an email with their pick-up time and spot number. Staff and volunteers set out the orders in designated areas in the Conservancy parking lot. Folks just pull up and load up their own fence and trees. We’re on hand to help, if needed.”


The trees are small (8-24” tall), but the fences are large. Participants are advised to wear a mask and come alone, if possible, to ensure social distancing — and to bring a pick-up, SUV or minivan. “We knew we were going to need a lot of room,” said Conservancy member Meg Harmsen. “So we emptied out the Subaru!” 

Sourland Conservancy member Meg Harmsen and a friend with a trunk full of tree kits.

“The birds and butterflies will thank you,” Ms. Klaube continued. “The Sourland region is a critical stopover for migratory birds and is home for several threatened and endangered species. We’ve selected a nice variety of native trees for this fall’s sale. They will look attractive in your yard or woods and strengthen the ecosystem. Everyone wins!”


Shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) is well known for its edible nuts, a favorite of many animals in the Sourlands.  They can live to be 350 years. They are also easily recognizable due to their "shaggy" bark which also provides a great place for bats to roost. 


American holly (Ilex opaca) is a spectacular tree, well known for its use in holiday decor, but even more spectacular is the food it provides for animals in the winter months.


Blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) boasts fragrant white flower clusters up to 5 inch across from April to May are followed by blue/black persistent berries, deep green oblong 3 inch leaves turn a beautiful purple/red in fall, distinctive checkered bark, good nectar source (honeybees enjoy it!), good rain garden plant, salt tolerant.


Sugarberry (Celtis occidentalis) is a majestic & versatile shade tree, inconspicuous small greenish flowers are followed in the fall by persistent small (1/4”) hard orange to dark purple/red sweet fruits that are a favorite of many birds (including fox sparrows, towhees, robins, cedar waxwings, bluebirds & mockingbirds) & are eaten through the winter by non-migratory birds (it's a good nesting tree too!), finely toothed 4-foot tapering leaves, attractive large corky warts & ridges develop on the bark, mature trees have an elm-like shape with a fine branching habit, tolerant of tough conditions such as high acid soil, drought, air pollution, constant wind, salt spray & short term flooding (once established), host plant for caterpillars of many butterflies including the Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis), Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton)), Question Mark & Eastern Comma (Polygonia interrogationis & P. comma)), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)) & American Snout Butterfly (Libytheana carinenta)), fast growing under favorable conditions. Give these plants some shade for the first few years after transplanting to help them establish – they take a year to two to adjust before they put on a growth spurt.


Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), also known as black tupelo, is one of the most attractive native trees around - and may live up to 500 years! Summer leaves are a dark green with a high-gloss appearance, but the most spectacular part of this tree is the fall foliage with many shades of yellow, orange, bright red, purple or scarlet that may appear on the same branch. Bark matures to medium gray and resembles alligator hide. Fruit is bluish-black and is loved by many birds. Makes a strong specimen tree. Grows 30'-50' high, with a 20'-30' spread. Prefers well-drained, acid soils, and full sun to partial shade. 


Scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma), also known as bergamot, is a perennial member of the mint family. It will grow 2-4’ tall in sun or part shade, attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and bloom from midsummer to fall.


The conservancy has posted a series of informational videos on YouTube to help participants choose, properly plant, and care for their new trees. Subscribe to the Sourland Conservancy’s YouTube channel for free or visit https://youtu.be/ihKDeznyJWs to learn how to plant a native tree.


The Sourland Conservancy’s ACT program is sponsored by Rosedale Mills in Pennington and Pinelands Nursery in Columbus, NJ. Rosedale Mills is a family-run store located in Pennington that has been in operation for over 65 years. They carry small animal and pet foods, horse and livestock needs, lawn and garden equipment and supplies, wild bird feeders and seed, and more. Same day call-in/pick up services are available on orders before 11 am. During quarantine, Rosedale Mills offers delivery service to accommodate the special needs of seniors, expecting mothers and those with disabilities and compromised immune conditions. Call 609-737-2008 ext 101 or visit www.rosedalemills.com for details.


The Sourland Conservancy is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect, promote and preserve the unique character of the Sourland Mountain Region of Central New Jersey. The Conservancy achieves this mission through education, stewardship and advocacy. To learn more, purchase or donate a $10 a tree kit, or to request a free tree kit, visit the Sourland Conservancy’s website www.sourland.org or call 609-309-5155.


Sourland Conservancy’s fall tree kits are available online while supplies last. All orders must be made in advance on the Conservancy’s website https://www.sourland.org/act-ash-crisis-team. Contactless pick-up on Saturday, October 24. Participants will receive pick-up information via email. This project is sponsored by Rosedale Mills, Pinelands Nursery and the Sourland Conservancy.

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