Submitted by Yvonne Helton, Silviculturist
We recently planted approximately 1500 shortleaf pine and 70 Bur Oak seedlings within the perimeter of the Elk & Bison Prairie. We chose areas where pine mortality occurred and staff burned off debris piles.
So why did we plant Shortleaf Pine? We value fire tolerant traits such as its ability to re-sprout and natural resistance to fire scar rot. Shortleaf Pine also produces frequent cone crops. These attributes suit the Elk & Bison Prairie perfectly.
Shortleaf Pine may also create a more diverse habitat. We observed declines of Virginia Pine in the Elk & Bison Prairie over the years. Tree canopies took a beating during severe ice storms. High wind events damaged/uprooted Virginia Pine too. On the flip side, a large tap root and extensive lateral root systems of Shortleaf Pine allow it to thrive in our environment.
Shortleaf Pine provides numerous benefits to wildlife too. The seeds in the pinecones provide a food source for birds and small mammals. The canopies of Shortleaf Pine offer protection from the wind and cold for many animals.
Land Between the Lakes is considered to be in the very northern range of where shortleaf pine occur naturally. The map below shows the range of shortleaf pine. For more information, visit the Shortleaf Pine initiative website at http://www.shortleafpine.net/.
We also planted Bur Oak. This majestic tree provides shade to some of the more open areas within the Elk & Bison Prairie. We hope they shade spaces near interpretative signs. To create oak woodland habitat we planted several Bur Oaks in open fields. Bur Oak acorns provide food for elk, bison, ducks, squirrels, and other small mammals.