Sourland Conservancy is offering native tree kits

Sourland Conservancy volunteers
Volunteers will help load native tree kits in to vehicles on Saturday, Oct. 24. You must pre-order your tree kit.

Fall is an ideal time to plant trees, and the Sourland Conservancy is making it affordable and easy with native tree kits.

The $10 kits contain one native tree seedling, a 6’ x 6’ or 5’ x 6’ length of heavy-duty metal fencing to protect the tree from deer browse, a metal post, and zip ties. Sourland Conservancy members who participate in the tree sale will also receive scarlet bee balm.

“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, a 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.”

The program is sponsored by Rosedale Mills and the Pinelands Nursery. The sponsors made it possible for the Sourland Conservancy to offer 200 tree kits below cost. Fifty donors also have purchased trees to offer for free to residents who request them.

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 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. Native trees are easy to care for, and they provide food and shelter for native birds, pollinators, and other animals,” said Carolyn Klaube, the Sourland Conservancy’s stewardship program coordinator.

“The birds and butterflies will thank you,” Klaube said. “The Sourland region is a critical stopover for migratory birds and is home for several threatened and endangered species.”

A contact-free tree kit pick-up day has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Sourland Conservancy office parking lot at 83 Princeton Avenue in Hopewell. Participants will receive pick-up instructions via email, including a time and a slot number. Delivery is also available if needed, but arrangements must be made in advance.

The trees are 8 to 24 inches tall, but the fences that come with the kits are large. Participants are advised to wear a mask and come alone if possible to ensure social distancing – and to drive a pick-up, SUV or minivan. 

The tree varieties available include:

American holly (Ilex opaca) – 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) – The tree boasts fragrant white flower clusters up to 5 inches 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.

Sugarberry (Celtis occidentalis) – The tree is a majestic and 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, and mockingbirds) and are eaten through the winter by non-migratory birds (it’s a good nesting tree too).

Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) – Also known as black tupelo, Black Gum 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.

Scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) – Also known as bergamot, Scarlet bee balm 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.

You can order tree kits online on the Sourland Conservancy’s website.