By Curt Yeomans
Rangers at the William H. Reynolds Memorial Nature Preserve, in Morrow, are working to boost diversity by adding representatives of six species of native Georgia trees.
The rangers spent the last week and a half planting 350 new trees, which were purchased from the Georgia Forestry Commission. The last of the trees will be planted Friday.
The species, which are going into the ground, are cherrybark oaks; swamp chestnut oaks; longleaf pines; Virginia pines; baldcypresses, and catalpas. All six are indigenous to Georgia, said Stephanie Berens, manager of the nature preserve.
"They're just going to be a great addition to the preserve," Berens said. "We chose them because they are native to Georgia and will add to our ecosystem. We're all about keeping things native and indigenous here."
The species of trees being planted were previously represented at the preserve in small numbers. One species, whose numbers the rangers want to increase, is the baldcypress, which is one of Georgia's oldest trees, according to Will Wagner, a ranger at the preserve.
There are currently 25 baldcypress trees at the preserve. Wagner said the failure rate for new trees pushes 50 percent. If the new baldcypresses survive, they could live to see the ripe old age of 300, according to Berens.
"We got 50 of them, because you are going to have a failure rate," Wagner said. "We're hoping for even a 15 percent success rate, so at least seven to eight trees will survive, and establish their own little community."
Wagner and Berens said the increased diversity provided by the new trees will help wildlife and the community in three ways. There will be new sources of food, such as nuts and berries for animals, hikers will see more color at the preserve in the fall, and biologists and ecologists will have the benefit of more species of trees to study.
"By introducing more diversity to the preserve, we are making it more like a tree museum for scientists," Wagner said.
He said the price for the number of trees the preserve purchased typically runs in the neighborhood of $600 to $700, but the preserve got a discounted price of $200, because of its educational mission.
The Georgia Forestry Commission makes as many as 70 different species of trees available through an annual sale it holds for the public, and preserves like the one in Morrow. Commission Spokesman Larry Morris said the agency begins taking orders for the trees in July, and they are raised at a nursery in Montezuma. The majority of buyers are individual landowners, Morris added.
"If landowners reforest their properties, the roots of the trees will help clean water and prevent soil erosion," Morris said. "We feel there is a great benefit to Georgia, if landowners plant trees on their properties."
Once the trees reach the age of 1, they are ready for sale, Morris added. Pine trees are delivered to local forestry commission offices in December, while hardwoods are delivered in January. The deliveries stop in March, because tree planting season ends that month.
"Winter is actually the time of year when trees experience their growth," said Wagner. "A lot of people think trees only grow in the summer, because that's when the leaves are green, but the roots actually grow in the winter."
For more information on the Georgia Forestry Commission's tree sales, call (770) 504-2238.