Hedgerows & Other Corners of Natural Diversity In Our Countryside and Gardens
An Article Prepared in 1999 by KGC's Conservation Committee
How You Can Create Hedgerows and Preserve Habitat
- Identify Possibilities. Look for fence lines, woodland edges, the corners of a field or garden, wet bottom land, a pond edge or hard-to-mow hillside.
- Think Corridors. How does wildlife move from one place to another? Hedgerows can be vital highways as well as a place for wild creatures to live and find food.
- Mow less. This saves energy and your time, and helps reduce air and noise pollution. Mow regularly close to houses but cut lawns farther away from dwellings only every four to six weeks. Mow meadows annually or every two years. Keep road edges cut so that unwary wildlife can see cars in time.
- Control Your Weedeater. Clean ragged edges selectively and leave native plants whenever possible. The livelihood of natural communities is in your hands.
- Help Nature Along. Preserve and plant key native species: these shrubs, vines, trees and wildflowers are ideally suited to our climate and will thrive through the years with much less care from you.
- Talk to Your Neighbors. Spread the word (and this pamphlet, if possible). Cooperate on common borders to allow a hedgerow to thrive. Look for adjoining corners that together will create an oasis for wild plants and animals. Explain the many advantages of “managed untidiness.”
Patches, corners and strips of natural diversity - a meadow let go, a wet field bottom, a part of a yard - can achieve a wonderfully rich succession of habitat. As native plants grow up, or are encouraged by deliberate planting, the native songbirds, insects and mammals will return to enjoy the food, shelter and nesting places amid the natural tangle.
Hedgerows and unmowed edges are wildlife’s highways as well as its homes and supermarkets. Natural areas provide vital travel corridors for birds, insects, toads and others amid the expanses of empty green lawn that act as barriers to animal movement and native plant dispersal.
These natural places, spared the obliterating force of mowers, and weed-eaters, can create islands of wild beauty on your land. Plant these “let-go” places with the same care that you give your more manicured areas and you’ll find them as rewarding as your mowed lawn and weeded garden. Perhaps more so, as an uncut strip of a lawn or field can offer a natural succession of bloom from spring dogwoods to fall asters.
As the 21st century dawns, mankind cannot rely solely on public lands to safeguard the planet’s natural diversity of life. Private landowners who recognize the responsibility and opportunity that their ownership gives them can help ensure the survival of the world’s wild plants and wildlife. Together, many individual private stewards of the planet can achieve much more than any public agency or government policy.
So look out on your personal landscape. What do you see? A perfect expanse of green grass, achieved though hours of labor with weedeater and gas guzzling lawn mower? A manicured landscape that depends entirely on heavy application of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and water during our hot dry summers? Or a more casual combination of lawn, taller growth and hedgerow, home to briar and black-eyed susan, butterflies and goldfinch, rabbits and turtles, frogs and fireflies?
Just a little less tidiness can help restore the natural beauty and ecological heath of our countryside. The choice is yours.
Additional Sources of Information
For field identification of non-woody plants, Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide (by Lawrence Newcomb; Little, Brown & Co.) is excellent, as is Petesons’ Field Guide to Wildflowers. For trees, Trees and Shrubs: Northern and Central North America in the Peterson Field Guide series serves well. Trees: A Guide to Field Identification (by c. Frank Brockman: Golden Press) is available in most bookstores.
For advice on natural landscaping and meadows, consult The Wildflower Meadow Book (Laura C. Martin: The Globe Pequot Press) and American Wildlife and Plants: A Guide to Wildlife Food Habits by Martin, Zim and Nelson; Dover Press reprint).
For an in-depth discussion of many issues raised in this pamphlet, read Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Back Yards (by Sara Stein; Houghton Mifflin Company)
The Virginia Native Plant Society’s Piedmont Chapter offers for sale a select list of outstanding books. The Chapter also makes available reprints of articles on wildflower gardening, lists of commercial sources of nursery-propagated native plants, and other material. Send a SASE for a list of books and additional information.
The Virginia Native Plant Society Founded in 1982, the VNPS is a not-for-profit organization of individuals who share an interest in Virginia’s wild plants and habitats and a concern for their protection. Its work is carried out by volunteers and is supported by membership dues and contributions. For more information, write to the VNPS Membership Chairman, Post Office Box 844, Annandale, Virginia 22003
Reprinted with permission from Piedmont Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society
Some Plants of the Hedgerow and Other Natural Areas
Many of these species will appear on their own if the habitat is right. You can also plant seeds or buy propagated plants from commercial growers. The VNPS has a list of native plant nurseries. Write for more information.
All of the plants listed below grow naturally in Virginia and much of the eastern United States. With one or two exceptions they are all natives. The chart is keyed as follows: Location - H-Hedgerow, Woodland Edge or Thicket, P - Pond Edge, O- Open Meadow, G-Garden, Special merits for the hedgerow community - c- Cover and Nesting Sites, f- Special Food Value, w - important Winter Food and Nesting Sties, f - Special Food Value, w - Important Winter Food Source, b - Attracts Butterflies, h - Attracts Hummingbirds. *Non-native plant, Spp. - Multiples species are of merit.
Leave dead trees standing wherever you can. They provide natural nesting cavities, as well as grubs and insects for birds, especially woodpeckers. Snags provide lookout perches.
TreesBeech (Fagus grandifolia ) G,c,f
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra ) H, f , w
Box Elder (Acer negundo) H, P, C, F
Cherry (Prunus spp.) H, G, f, b
Crabapple (Malue spp.) H, G, c, f
Dogwood (Cornus spp) H, G, c, f, w
Hackberry (Celtis spp.) H, G, F, w, b
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) H, G, c, f,
Hazelnut (Corylus americana) H, c, f
Holly (Ilex opaca) H, G, c, f, w
Maple (Acer spp.) H, G, c, f
Mulberry (Morus rubra) H, c, f
Oak (Quercus spp) H, G, c, f, w
Paw-Paw (Asimina triloba) H, f, b
Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) H, G, c, f
Pine, Scrub (Pinus virginiana) H, P, c, f, w
Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) H, c, f, w
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) H, G, c, f, b
Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
ShrubsAlder (Alnus serrulata) P, c
Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium) H, G, c, f
Blackberry, Raspberry (Rubus spp.) H, O, c
Blueberry, Deerberry ((Vaccinium spp.) H, f
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) P, c, f, b, h
Elderberry (Sambucuc canadensis) H, G, f
Huckleberry, Blueberry (Gaylusaccia spp.) H, f
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) H, P, G, f, b
Sumac (Rhus spp.) H, O, f, w
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) H, P, G, c, w,
VinesGrape (Vitis spp.) H, f,
Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) H, f, w
Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) H, G, c, h
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) H, f
Herbaceous PlantsArrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) P, f
Aster (Asteraceae spp.) H, O, P, G, f, b
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) H, O, G, b
Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) O, c, w
Bulrush (Scirpus spp.) P, c, f
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) H, O, G, b
Cattails (Typha latifolia) P, c
Chickweed (Stellaria media) H, O, f
Foxtail Grasses* (Setaria spp.) O, w
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) P, H
Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) H, O, c, w
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) H, I, P, b
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) H, F, w
Pondweed (Potamogeton spp.) P, f,
Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) H, O, f
Rice Cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides) P, f
Sheepsorrel *(Rumex acetosella) O, f
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) P, f, w
Violet (Viola spp.) H, G, f, b
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) H, O, G, b