Home from the Forest


Beloved Canadian singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot penned the words to “Home from the Forest” in the 1960’s. In this song, an old man nearing the end of his life looks back on the wrong turns he has taken and longs for an old house on a hillside when the wildflowers did bloom in, and the river runs down from, the forest. This spring, even if you don’t have an old house, wildflowers, or a river, if you are so inclined, you too can plant trees and come home from your very own forest.

Somewhere shy of 100 native tree species call Ohio home, and the Preble Soil and Water Conservation District has a handful of these species for sale this spring. The following is a sample of what is available.

Basswood, with its fragrant white flowers, is sought after by honeybees which produce a rather strong-flavored white honey from it. The lightweight and light-colored wood is quite valuable for carving. The heart-shaped leaves have a dull green surface with a pale underside. Basswood is in the same family as other well-known trees, shrubs, and garden plants such as balsa, cacao (think chocolate), okra, cotton, hollyhock, and hibiscus.

Black walnut produces a dark wood for veneer, millwork, and a host of other uses. The nuts yield a strong-flavored meat that is either loved or not cared for. Informal research suggests that there’s really no middle ground between liking and not liking the flavor of black walnuts. The nuts that mature in late September and October can be a nuisance when they fall in a yard or on top of buildings but are valuable to both native wildlife and humans who collect them. Please be aware of allelopathic effects of black walnut and its close relatives. Many garden plants, especially those in the nightshade family, will not tolerate growing under or near black walnut trees.

Kentucky coffeetree was considered something of a botanical curiosity by the early settlers. It was used for cabinet wood and is said to be durable in contact with the soil. In other words, rot-proof. The forking habit of the trunk leads to an interesting winter form, and the compound leaves can be up to 3 feet long. It is said to be poisonous to livestock, but I have seen it growing in cow pastures with no apparent ill effects on the livestock.

Black elderberry is well known in the world of traditional medicine. Look for sambucus on the back of the label for many cold and flu supplements. The berries are used to make dye in addition to being a component in very fine jellies and jams. The pith can easily be hollowed out of the stem to make whistles. It takes on an unkempt look with age and suckers out to form something of a thicket.

You can’t come home from the forest tomorrow if you don’t get started on one today. To find additional details on other evergreens, hardwoods, shrubs, perennials, and garden plants available, our Tree Order form is available at the office located at 2789 U.S. 35 E., West Alexandria; on our website at www.prebleswcd.org; or you can request to have a copy mailed to you by calling 937-456-5159.

Reach BJ Price at 937-456-5159 for more information.

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