In addition to our native plants educational series, I will also start highlighting specific native plants we can use in our South Central PA landscapes.
Usually we are thinking about perennials, but I will be including trees and shrubs as well. First up is our national tree, the mighty Oak.
Oak trees are found all across the world - 530 species in total! There are 19 oak trees native to PA, 8 are native to SC PA. They are found in all different types of habitats, vary widely in leaf shape, can be deciduous or evergreen. You are sure to be able to find one suited to your particular site's conditions. The primary identifier for an oak is, of course, its acorns. These acorns provide food for a wide range of wildlife from black bears to turkeys to mice. Oaks also provide homes for birds and bird food - caterpillars, beetles, katydids, and wasps. In fact, oaks may support the highest quantity of wildlife of any plant you can use in your landscape.
I particularly enjoy watching the squirrels in my neighbor's oak tree faithfully pruning off acorn-bearing twigs each fall. I'm not so thrilled about the mess they make on the lawn or in my mulch while burying their treasures, but it's fun to see nature in action.
To keep the list brief, here are the oaks native to SC PA - compiled by Susan Skender, posted on George Weigel's website. Let me know if you need helping choosing one to fit your landscape!
White oak (Quercus alba), swamp white oak (Q. bicolor), scarlet oak (Q. coccinea), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), chinkapin oak (Q. muhlenbergi), pin oak (Q. palustris), chestnut oak (Q. prinus or Q. montana), northern red oak (Q. rubra), and black oak (Q. velutina). .
"Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of SC PA - Susan Skender "PA Native Trees and Shrubs" - Lancaster Co Planning Commision "Bringing Nature Home" - Doug Tallamy "The Tree Book" - Dirr & Warren