When you first buy land it can be easy to picture the land as pasture, or large rows of crops – pulling you towards clearing the land in an effort to put it to use. But have you stopped to consider if there is already a harvest to had? The forest can be an area full of bounty.
Even if you’ve already cleared a part of your property there may be a hidden surprise waiting for you. All it takes is the time to look, and perhaps a bit of research or the use of a tree identification guide. If you live in the USA or Canada you could even take a specimen from the tree to your local Extension Office for identification. My extension office even offers a Free Tree Identification Guide for our area.
Forest Full of Surprises
Let me tell you a short story. We’ve lived on our land for over 7 years. When we bought the place we mostly noticed the very large pine trees and thought of clearing out areas ourselves, especially since at the time we weren’t expecting to “homestead“.
Since then things keep catching our attention. After a few years we noticed a tree in the front yard producing a nut. Overtime we learned it to be a Hickory, known as Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa). We were excited to know we had a nut tree, even if it wasn’t the best possibility (after all, Pecan’s are common around here).
As time passed we started to discover many other trees and plants that excited us: Peach (Prunus persica), Yellow Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Elliot’s Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii), Elderberry (Sambucus L.), Persimmon (Diospyros Virginiana), Summac (Rhus glabra), and many more.
But the real story isn’t about the things we’ve found, its that we keep finding things. Plants and trees that have been right in front of us, yet somehow out of sight. Sometimes that’s because we didn’t know what the plant or tree looked like and sometimes it was just because we were overlooking it.
In just the last month we’ve learned we have a virtual cornucopia of Oak trees. It all started with finding a very large acorn, larger than I’ve ever seen on our land. It turned out to be from a big, healthy, White Oak (Quercus alba). In identifying that Oak we started looking for others – and there they were: Post Oak (Quercus stellata), Southern Red Oak (Quercus falcata), Water Oak (Quercus nigra) and Willow Oak (Quercus phellos). We found other nut trees too, like American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)! Will we discover other varieties? Quite possibly, but frankly there are only a few others that grow in our area that we haven’t found yet!
Then, while collecting acorns from the base of one of our newly discovered White Oaks, what to my wondering eye should appear, but yet another new tree – Sassafras (Sassafras albidum).
Nearly 8 years, and there is a new tree. And a young one too, maybe only 2 years old.
Natures Bounty Provides
The point I’m trying to make is simply that nature provides quite a bounty on its own, and sometimes we get too busy to overlook what is already there. Now we have a bounty of nuts to feed our pigs, to attract wildlife like Whitetail Deer and Eastern Wild Turkey, among others. We have fruits for ourselves and wildlife, nectar and pollen for our honeybees, and even some great salad greens and teas, all already on our property, planted and managed by nature, not us.
What have you found that nature has provided?
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