White House Natives was honored to co-host the Shenandoah Valley Nursery and Greenhouse Association (SVNGA) tour on October 3rd, 2018. We were able to show off our nursery for the second time in four years. Attendees got a first-hand look at our liners just planted in September of this year, as seen in the pictures. We also took them on a ride around the nursery to let them see crops of larger size material from 2-3.5” caliper that is ready for harvest this fall and next spring. There was a lot of interest in the fiberglass stakes we use to train our trees, drip irrigation to keep them watered, cover crops used to build up our soil fertility, observations and results of our extensive pruning, along with planting and harvesting techniques.
Growth is hardening off and we’ve done our final inventory counts and pricing for the fall. See the availability here. We’ve got some beautiful material available for you for fall 2018 and spring 2019!
Trees are fascinating. They are all around us, we see them every day, they are beautiful and each provides many ecosystem services; the more you learn about them, the more amazing they become. Take bark for instance. Every tree has bark – it is the outer skin of the tree, and, like humans, comes in a variety of colors.
All trees grow bark in the same way: tissue cells just under the bark called the cambium divides, allowing the bark to stretch and the tree to increase its diameter. On either side of the cambium, the phloem and xylem add a layer each year, creating the growth rings visible in the interior when a tree is cut. Xylem conducts water and nutrients from the roots to the tree canopy and provides strength to the tree. Phloem transports vitamins, amino acids, sugars and hormones throughout the tree.
If damage occurs to the bark, trees often die. Healthy bark means a healthy tree. Insects and pathogens can hurt a tree, particularly when combined with mechanical damage (weed eaters or mowers scuffing the bark, etc.). However, trees do a remarkable job of compartmentalizing damage by creating scar tissue around injuries and separating it from the rest of the tree.
One of the most interesting of barks is that of the shagbark hickory (Carya ovata). On mature trees, vertical lengths of bark pull away from the trunk and turn up on the ends. As with sycamore, white oak and birches, this sheeting habit provides valuable protection to many insects, bats, butterflies, caterpillars, spiders and other forest life.
Many Native Americans traditionally gathered and roasted the nuts, a tasty and highly nutritious fall food. Hickory “milk” is made by pounding the nuts into a paste, boiling and pouring off the nutritious liquid to be used in a variety of dishes. The name “hickory” comes from the Algonquin word “pawcohiccora”, meaning hickory milk.
Carya, the genus name comes from the Greek name for the walnut tree (karya); ovata, the species name, is Latin for ovate, referring to the egg-shaped buds, nut husk and leaves.
Harvest time is in September and October, when the nuts are on the ground, making for easy gathering.
There are four hickories native to Virginia, including shagbark, mockernut, pignut and bitternut with the nuts of the shagbark being the thinnest shell making them the easiest to harvest the meat inside. Shagbark hickories grow in the Piedmont and mountains of Virginia but do not grow along the eastern side of the state or the coastal plain. They extend as far west as Missouri, but tend to be scarce across the entire area and don’t tend to colonize or grow in great abundance in most areas.
Some caterpillars feast on the leaves but the tree is generally-pest resistant. They thrive in full sun but can handle some shade, enjoying moist, even wet conditions.
In the landscape, it is important to provide them plenty of space as they can reach heights of 100 feet and should be planted in areas where their nuts won’t impact vehicles, walkways or create maintenance issues. They can live to be 350 years or more and, but due to their long taproot, do not transplant particularly well after reaching a certain size (though White House Natives takes particular care in the careful digging and moving of all stock).
The wood of shagbark hickory is very heavy, hard, tough and very strong. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, no other commercial species is its equal in combined strength, toughness, hardness and stiffness. It is used for tool handles, furniture, flooring, sporting equipment, charcoal and fuel wood.
Shagbark hickory belongs to the Juglandaceae family and can hybridize with pecan trees. In recipes, the sweet, white shagbark hickory nuts can be substituted for pecans..
Squirrels relish the nuts, as do deer, bear and other mammals. If providing habitat and protection to many small insects and feeding wildlife is a goal in the landscape, shagbark hickory is a great choice.
On 9th August 2018, a group of tree stewards from Arlington County visited White Hiouse Natives along with a Fairfax arborist, and two reps from Davey Tree. The were accompanied by John Biche from South Riding Nurseries and WHN’s Eric Sours. They tagged over two hundred 1¾-2” caliper trees for fall 2018 installation. This is the second year in a row that the Arlington tree stewards have come to WHN to inspect and select each tree. This process insures that Arlington County receives the exact trees they want and helps to build synergy between all stakeholders; client, grower and installer.
Some great overviews of the nursery with the fog and mist off the Shenandoah River on the mornings of 6 and 7 August 2018.
The abundant rains this year have kept our crops growing strong. Take a look!
There are about forty species of birch, growing in widespread habitats from the sides of streams and rivers to forest boundaries and open fields. They are one of the oldest known trees, with leaf imprints found from the Late Cretaceous period, which ended about 67 million years ago. These living fossils are wind-pollinated and tend to colonize quickly, particularly in disturbed areas, creating beautiful stands with trees reaching heights of 60-80 feet.
They typically enjoy a lot of water, making them a good choice for rain gardens or landscaping for natural stream restoration projects. They are so attractive that they can easily serve as a specimen in a front yard or formal landscape, their small leaves turning brilliant yellow in the fall and blowing away in autumn breezes, creating less of a maintenance chore of leaf collection than some larger-leafed species. Their graceful trunks and branching structure can be stunning focal points when illuminated from below by landscape lights, particularly in the winter when their “bones” are easy to see.
Birch belong to the genus Betulacea, along with alders, willows and hornbeams.
Common names for birch come in a number of colors: white birch, black birch, gray birch, silver birch and yellow birch; each distinguished by certain characteristics, often by how their bark naturally peels from the tree.
Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) bark is silvery bronze at maturity and peels in small, papery pieces. The peeling occurs when lenticels, the dark horizontal lines in the bark, stretch due to the tree’s growth and then peel up and away from the trunk. Lenticels serve an important function by allowing air and gas exchange between the atmosphere and the tree’s internal tissues.
Yellow birch is the most important birch species commercially, used for fine furniture and woodturning, as it is strong and develops a smooth and satiny finish.
One location to admire yellow birch is along the Limberlost trail in Shenandoah National Park. At 1029m (3,377 ft) elevation, the birch grow happily along the trail. The area tells the tale of a quickly-changing forest as the birch are growing prolifically following the mighty hemlocks that have succumbed to the invasive non-native hemlock woolly adelgid. The hemlocks’ demise open up opportunities for the birch to fill the void.
Native American Indians possessed in the past and practice of the uses of native plants. The birch is a valuable survival food and was utilized by indigenous people during starving times. The ground bark of the birch when mixed with flour may support life when other food is unavailable.
‘A Jesuit missionary noted that the bark of oak, birch, linden, and that of other trees, when well cooked and pounded, and then put into the water in which fish had been boiled, or else mixed with fish-oil made some excellent stews’ notes Horace Kephart in a 1917 version of Camping and Woodcraft.
Native peoples have long made use of birch bark for canoes and storage containers, tapping for syrup in the spring, enjoying the twigs which have a wintergreen taste (found in both yellow birch and sweet birch), making birch tea and utilizing the paper-like bark to start fires, even after rains, due to volatile resins in the outer layer.
Euell Gibbons, wild plant expert, notes that sweet birch (Betula lenta) sap flows about one month after maples and that the sap can be consumed straight from the tree and ‘tastes more like spring water than anything else, but it has a faint sweetness and a bare hint of wintergreen flavor and aroma’.
He also provides directions on how to make birch beer by boiling honey and birch sap, pouring it over finely chopped sweet birch twigs and letting it ferment with the help of a little yeast. He cautions consuming it with restraint as it has a ‘kick like a mule’ (Gibbons, 34).
The bark allows hiding spaces for many insects over the winter, treats which woodpeckers enjoy ferreting out. Birds eat the seeds in the winter and the foliage supports several hundred species of moths and butterflies.
In conclusion, for an attractive and valuable native tree in all four seasons, consider the yellow birch or planting a stand for increased wildlife benefit. They can live 150 years and maybe up to 300 years in old growth forests.
White House Farm Foundation
1917 Kauffmans Mill Road
 Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1917) p. 420.
 Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus (New York: David McKay Company, 1962), p.34.
 Douglas Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home (Portland: Timber Press, 2007), p. 163.
Last fall, White House Natives supplied four 3½” caliper pin oaks (Quercus palustris) for a renovation of a green space at Brambleton Town Center in Loudoun County. The trees are settling in nicely as these recent photos show!
Some photos of our rapidly-growing stock with this year’s great spring weather and abundant rains.