Restoration Plant Benefits To The Environment
Restoring a stream adds another interesting layer of complexity to the challenges involved in creating a healthy, natural habitat. When sufficient plant growth no longer exists, the flowing water takes more and more of the soil that’s necessary to maintain the balance needed to maintain the integrity of the environment successfully. Trees have the deep roots that keep the soil in place while the underbrush retains the topsoil. It’s a positive symbiotic relationship that’s threatened when any one of the components is compromised.
The growth running along the stream within about 25 feet of the water is often referred to as the riparian buffer. The slopes frequently found along the river bank, while beautiful, also present a problem. They make it even easier for the soil to be washed away. Once the soil is gone, the erosion of the area begins. The only way to recreate a healthy ecosystem is to reestablish the soil, but this can’t be done without a way to keep the precious soil where it belongs.
Soil bio-engineering refers to using plants to stop the destructive erosion. Seedlings and young trees can be planted along the stream bank to reestablish the underlying, deep root network. Then, the undergrowth will have the protection and soil it needs to thrive.
There is another approach that can be used to reestablish the lush growth found close to the water. Live staking reintroduces the appropriate plant life precisely where it’s needed. Live stakes are cuttings that can be placed in the soil where they’ll do the most good. Because it’s relatively inexpensive, the planting can be as generous as needed. These new trees and the cuttings used in live staking will create a complete network of roots that will provide the basis for the plants that will enhance the habitat. They will also keep the soil and its nutrients in place on the stream bank. Black willow and red osier dogwood are good choices. Other trees that do well in the unique stream habitat include the silky dogwood, buttonbush, peachleaf willow, sandbar willow, silky willow, elderberry, arrowwood, American sycamore, and nannyberry.
Once the framework of trees is established, plants can be introduced that will create the thick undergrowth that will provide wildlife habitat for a wide variety of insects and animals. There are many beautiful plants available. You can consider using the Joe Pye weed, woodland phlox, marsh marigold, Virginia bluebells, blazing star, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. Other choices include the monkey flower, wild geranium, swamp buttercup, and witch hazel. Flowering trees and plants look especially enchanting when they bloom in the Spring nestled in the shady canopy of taller trees. Restoring a stream ecosystem is one way to create a bit of heaven on earth.