Celebrating Arbor Day - Kickapoo Creek Park gets new shrubs

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[April 28, 2017]  LINCOLN - Trees and shrubs are critical to our environment. They purify our air, supply oxygen and support all forms of wildlife. And there are all those other things mankind uses trees for - paper, cardboard, fuel, wood products including furniture; it's a long list, you know it, you knock on wood every day.

This is a story of a group of local volunteers, master naturalists, who have taken their commitment to the environment to another level. Of them, some might say - every day is like Earth Day or Arbor Day.

Master naturalists practice stewardship of natural areas and are committed to educate others about nature. Members come from diverse backgrounds, but all share a deep interest in nature.

Thursday, April 6th dawned bright and sunny, the start of a perfect spring day, though a might chilly as temps were in the upper 20's the night before. While not yet much above 30 degrees, 8 a.m. found this group working with chipper spirits in a cold shed at Kickapoo Creek Park, their hands dipping in and out of cold water.

Might not sound like fun to most people, but this was a special day. They were heading into a final phase of a big project. New shrubs for the park had arrived. The shrubs arrived packed in wet paper to keep the roots hydrated.

The local group has been working on the KCP shrub project for the past couple of years.

Last year and earlier this year the group labored clearing large areas overgrown with invasive shrub species - Japanese Honeysuckle and Russian Olive found throughout Kickapoo Creek Park.

The shrubs crowd out native species, reduce biodiversity and nutritional values to wildlife. Recent studies suggest honeysuckle harbors a type of tick.

Fifteen new shrub species were selected to counter negative issues, some allow more lower ground growth, several support more pollinators, others provide greater nutritional food values to birds and wildlife and they supply other environmental benefits.

Plant choices and placements were decided according to each location with consideration given to light, soil conditions, moisture and other environmental factors, such as flooding or wind.

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The group will continue to monitor and care for the young shrubs until they get established. Jim Struebing said that will be a couple to a few years of seeing what works, and then replacing what doesn't. There may be some other species tried later.

You can see the full list shrubs planted this round at the bottom of this article.

The work on Thursday entailed sorting the various species for where they would be planted on Friday.
The new shrubberies are located in groups along the asphalt drive and the periphery of the park.

The fully rooted starts were purchased from Alpha Nursery in Michigan. Most varieties from the company are sold in bulk and bundled in counts of 25.


Fifteen new varieties offer greater diversity that would invite pollinators, and feed more birds and wildlife a healthier diet:

Red twig dogwood
White flowering dogwood
American wild plum
Red bud
Allegheny serviceberry
Saskatoon serviceberry
Shadblow serviceberry
Wahoo tree
Blackhaw viburnum
Button bush
American hazelnut
Fragrant sumac
Highbush cranberry

Master naturalists is a University of Illinois Extension program. For more information on the program, see http://web.extension. illinois.edu/mn/.

[Jan Youngquist]

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