snags

Over the years, the Arboretum staff has worked on several expansion projects to add to the beauty of the land.

The newest addition to the lush gardens? Dead trees.

“These aren't just two dead trees,” Kim Steiner, the director of the Arboretum, said. “They are two pretty unique dead trees.”

Steiner has been the director of the Arboretum since 1999. He has been with the Arboretum through every project, and this newest installation just happens to be one that turned some heads.

He said that while the snag trees are dead trees, they serve a purpose.

Arboretum Director of Operations Shari Edelson said snag trees are mounted dead trees that will attract various insects that either feed off decaying wood like termites, or use the bark for laying eggs like borer beetles.

“Different insects will start to use those tree snags as habitats, and that in turn will attract other bird species such as woodpeckers and nuthatches, who will try to dig into those dead trees to get those insects as a food source,” Edelson said.

In addition to the woodpeckers, Edelson said the tall branches of the snag trees will provide perches for predatory birds such as raptors, hawks and owls to sit and survey their hunting grounds.

Edelson has worked closely with this latest expansion of the Arboretum, and the planting of the snag trees is only one part of it.

According to Edelson, the installation of the snag trees is part of a larger garden expansion project to build a 3.5 acre pollinator and bird garden.

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Edelson said for the pollinator garden specifically, they are looking to attract the widest possible array of native insect pollinators, such as squash bees, bumble bees, and native flies and beetles.

Edelson added that they will be maintaining honeybee hives in the garden.

According to Steiner, the Arboretum staff has been working on these new gardens for about eight years.

“We've actually been through three iterations of plans for this garden from three different consulting firms, and this is the one we liked the best,” Steiner said.

Patrick Williams, the director of development, is in charge of all fundraising associated with the Arboretum. He also commented on the longevity of these garden plans.

“It seems like five years, I've been talking about the pollinator garden and raising funds for that,” Williams said, “so it's exciting to see it finally getting to the point where it's not just a picture on a piece of paper.”

Despite the looming presence of the snag trees, Steiner said he hopes to not only attract pollinators, but human visitors as well.

“With my background in forestry, I thought a table mountain pine would be an excellent choice, because it tends to be rather limby and picturesque,” Steiner said.

Edelson said she likes the craggy look of the snags, because they will look “really cool” when all of the needles fall off.

“Part of the goal in the garden is to be able to communicate all of these complex processes that happen in nature, and to do it in a way that is visually striking and will be interesting and fun for visitors,” Edelson said.

Edelson said it really all comes down to providing appropriate habitats to support the life-cycle needs of multiple pollinator insect species, as well as all of the resident and migratory bird species.

“We can’t think of any other gardens that are going to such lengths to plant dead trees,” Edelson said.

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