Earth Day is celebrated once a year, but individuals can make this celebration matter by making a year-round commitment to a healthy planet. Two Cornell University experts note that you can make a difference by choosing native species of trees and plants for your land.
Todd Bittner, director of natural areas for Cornell Botanic Gardens, says that people can have a long-lasting, positive impact on the planet by planting native tree species.
“Earth Day is a great time of year to celebrate our connections to the natural world and renew our efforts to help conserve our collective natural heritage. One small effort that pays lasting dividends is planting native tree species in backyard landscapes,” he said.
“A simple act, such as planting a two-inch diameter native swamp white oak, can sequester more than 12,000 pounds of carbon, and offset nearly as much carbon dioxide in energy savings from the resulting shade over a 40-year time period.”
“This single tree will intercept a whopping 51,000 gallons of rainfall, helping reduce damaging storm water pulses to our local creeks and rivers, while also scrubbing air pollutants like ozone and nitrogen and sulfur dioxides,” Bittner said.
“This oak tree will also host more than 100 native insect species, such as moths and butterflies that form the foundation of our food web and benefit numerous other species of wildlife, including migrant songbirds. So, take this time to celebrate the earth, and make a difference by planting a tree.”
Krissy Boys, a horticulturist and native plants specialist at Cornell Botanic Gardens, says that people can boost biodiversity by planting native plants at home.
“By using native plants in your home gardens, you are providing essential components in the landscape that support a biodiverse community of plants, insects, animals, and people. Be adventurous and successful in your habitat gardening by combining grasses with flowering native plants,” Boys said.
“Early spring brings forth cool-season native grasses and the wild ryes: Virginia, riparian, and bottlebrush. Flowering native plants, such as pink wild geraniums, red wild columbines, yellow golden alexander’s, highlight the native grasses and attract pollinators—beneficial insects and birds.”
She added “In May, the hummingbirds, in search of nectar, are arriving in Upstate New York, just as the wild columbine flowers are opening. Make them at home with native plants, for Earth Day and years to come.”
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