Native Plant Profile: Common Hackberry
Maryland Wildlife: Opossum
Pruning Trees in Late Winter
Coffee & Orioles
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HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover,
and space -IS THE KEY! This
newsletter is a place to share ideas, information, and help answer
some of your habitat and wildlife gardening concerns.
Native Plant Profile......Common Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)
Hackberry is a hardy slow growing tree. It can grow to 14 feet in 10
years, possible to reach 40-50 feet at maturity. Is capable of living
150-200 years. Occurs on a variety of sites, moist to dry, but best
growth is in alkaline soils. Found growing in open places or mixed
hardwood forests as an occasional rather than abundant species. Fruit
persists into winter, which makes it valuable as a food source for
winter wildlife. The tree is used frequently for nesting by many birds.
Flowers/fruits: Green flowers April to May. Dark red to purple drupes
ripen from September to November and are relished by wildlife. Drupes
are sweet, edible; hence the other name for Hackberry is Sugarberry
Member of the elm family, with the arching similar to
the American Elm. Hackberries do not reach the heights of the elms so
are more suitable for a small location. Lowest branches occur high on
trunk, desirable among street trees. Can be planted as specimens or in
rows for windbreaks or hedgerows.
Subject to disease called witches –broom, which
causes abnormal growth on twigs of branches that resemble brooms.
Disease does not affect its wildlife value.
Hackberries are food for: Turkey, Bobwhite Quail, Pheasant, Common
Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Common Crow, Tufted Titmice, Mockingbird,
Catbird, Brown Thrasher, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Cedar
Waxwing, Cardinal, Rufous Sided Towhee, Fox Sparrow, Evening Grosbeak,
Eastern Phoebe, Raccoon, Gray and Flying Squirrels
Hackberry leaves are food for caterpillars of the Question Mark, Comma,
Hackberry, Tawny Emperor, Snout and Mourning Cloak butterflies.
Additional Notes: Hackberries provide food for a wide variety of
wildlife, including some spectacular butterflies that are not easily
attracted to a butterfly nectar garden.
Wildlife: Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
The Native Americans name for "opossum" means animal that is white in color.
The opossum does look more like a white rat than a relative of the other
marsupials, kangaroos and koala bears. It is the only native marsupial
found in Maryland.
Photographer: Alden M. Johnson, California Academy of Sciences,
CalAcademy Collection. Copyright © 1999 California Academy of Sciences.
Click on photo above for larger view.
Size: 24”- 40”. Weight: 4- 15 1lbs.
Physical appearance: This mammal has 50 teeth and five toes on each foot.
One toe is opposable and can grasp like a thumb. Opossums are excellent
climbers that can grasp branches with its tail.
Food: It is an omnivore. Insects, snakes, toads, frogs worms, young small
mammals, bird eggs, young birds, grapes, pokeberries, blackberries,
mushrooms, and nuts are part of it’s varied diet. Opossums love persimmons
when in season and the same is true for apples and corn. This mammal also
eats garbage and carrion, especially road kill. Weak hearing and poor
eyesight are reasons cars hit many as they go in search for food.
Habitat: Suburbs, edges of towns, cities, farms, woodlots and forests
Home range: Mainly solitary and
nomadic, the average minimum range is 11.5 acres, but can vary depending
on food supplies.
Den: Will seek shelter in hollow logs, groundhog burrows rock piles, tree
cavities, abandoned squirrel leaf nest, under porches, old buildings and
barns. Opossums will change dens frequently.
Lifespan: 1-5 years in the wild.
Natural History: Mates late February to March. Gestation is 12-13 days.
Litters consist of 5-13 young. The young are about ½ inch long and are
born undeveloped. Crawl to mother’s pouch on belly to complete development
as all marsupials do. Young find nipple and begin nursing. The teat swells
in mouth to help keep young inside. Female can close pouch to keep young
inside. The young let go of the teat at 8-9 weeks and begin to search for
their own food at 3 to 4 months. Will stop nursing but will stay with the
mother for a few more weeks. Female opossums can breed again mid- May to
July. Opossums do not hibernate but den during bad winter weather. They
can experience frostbite, so it is not unusual to see opossums with ears,
toes and tips or tails missing or damaged from extreme cold. Opossums are
nocturnal. Some opossums will feign death to avoid attacks from predators,
since many predators will not eat dead food. Typically the opossum lies on
its side with eyes and mouth open and tongue sticking out. This “Playing
possum” can last up to several hours or only a few minutes. Many opossums
will bluff a predator by hissing and showing off its 50 teeth.
Status in Maryland: Abundant throughout Maryland.
Additional Notes: Opossums are the most abundant in Central and South
America. Many folk tales in the U.S. involve stories about opossums.
Trees & Shrubs in Late Winter
Trees and shrubs will be healthier after a good pruning. Pruning enables a
plant to produce more leaves, nuts, fruits, or flowers, which will provide
wildlife with more food and shelter. Shrubs and trees that produce berries
fair better if they are pruned during their dormant time. This is late
winter or early spring. Diseases which affect trees and shrubs are less
active during the colder months of late winter.
A good rule to remember is it is
best to prune a tree or a shrub when it is neither flowering nor producing
fruits. Pruning in the later winter can also help you create branch
interest in the design of your wildacres. Trees and shrubs have a natural
shape that they could grow into if they have perfect conditions of light
and water. However, perfect conditions are rarely found and shrubs and
trees grow leggy and unbalanced in response to lack of light, or too much
moisture. Thinning, (pruning) helps bring these plants back to their
natural shape instead of always doing the traditional hedging of the
plant. Even topiary, pruning plants into formal shapes, can be used to
recreate the shape of a shrub that you saw in its natural shape in the
Ice storms can damage long,
leggy branches. Pruning produces stronger stockier stems and branches that
can tolerate ice damage. Prune summer – flowering shrubs, which flower on
new wood in late winter and early spring.
For the details on what to prune and how to prune check out our fact
sheet- www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Habitat/WildAcres/waprune.asp, an additional bonus for
wildlife is, you can take the twigs and branches from your pruning and
build bush piles for additional shelter for wildlife in late winter
www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife//wildlife/Habitat/WildAcres/wabrush.asp If you would like more
information on tree and shrub pruning. Contact the Maryland Forest
Service, www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/ the Home and Garden Information center of
the Maryland Cooperative Extension, University of Maryland,
Coffee & Orioles
Wintertime is often a time when many escape to the tropics to enjoy sun
and palm trees. For Baltimore Orioles, winter paradise is a coffee
plantation, shade and Inga trees. Every year, Baltimore Orioles and over 200
other migratory birds leave their summer habitats in North America and
travel to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean Islands. As in North
America, habitat loss in the tropics has paradise hard to come by. The
answer may lie in your cup of coffee.
Coffee is the developing word’s second most valuable export. Two thirds of
the word’s coffee is produced in Central America and the Caribbean. It is
grown in the world’s tropical rainforest regions on hillsides at 1500 to
4500 feet above sea level. Coffee can be grown large scale in harmony with
native forest. Up into the mid 1970’s most coffee was grown on coffee
plantations in the under story of wild figs, mangos, citrus fruits, and
Studies in the tropics suggest that coffee traditionally grown in the shade
of the tropic rainforest trees provides habitat for numerous migratory birds
and other wildlife. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird center found that shaded
coffee plantations can support 150 bird species and is especially important
habitat for wintering Baltimore Orioles. The structural diversity offered by
these plantations and their rainforest canopy also provides habitat for
reptiles, small mammals and other wildlife. Coffee agro ecosystems do work.
Of all the agricultural transformations that have taken place in the
tropics, shade coffee has been the least harmful to birds. Encouraging
farmers to grow shade coffee can have an immense impact on habitat for all
wildlife, not just migratory birds such as Orioles.
So what can you do to help the Orioles and still enjoy that cup of coffee?
Buy shade-grown coffee for your home use.
Ask your retailer to carry it.
Convert the office to brewing only shade-grown coffee.
Educate friends and co-workers. Give gifts that include shade-grown
Learn more about the issue from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center:
Click here for online back issues.
Botanical illustration of Common Hackberry (Celtis
occidentalis), courtesy of USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A.
Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 1: 629.
Photograph of Common Hackberry, courtesy of USDA-NRCS PLANTS
Database / Herman, D.E. et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook. USDA NRCS ND
State Soil Conservation Committee; NDSU Extension and Western Area Power Admin.,
Photo collage of Common Hackberry tree, bark & foliage courtesy
of Conservation Trees and Shrubs, Pocket ID Guide, United States Department of
Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Photograph of Opossum family in tree, courtesy of photographer Alden M. Johnson, California Academy of Sciences, CalAcademy
Collection. Copyright © 1999 California Academy of Sciences.
Photograph of single Opossum on log, courtesy of Bob Gress,
Illinois Trapping and Furbearer Image Library.
Photograph of Shade-grown coffee, courtesy of Courtesy of USFWS,
Photo by Francisco Osuna, Elan Organic Coffees.
Photograph of coffee tree Courtesy of USFWS, Photo by Francisco
Osuna, Elan Organic Coffees.
Illustration of Baltimore Oriole, courtesy of Wade Henry.
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at
backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each
species they see at their feeders from November through early April.
FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird
populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project
FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership
with the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian
Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Bioimages, a project of
Vanderbilt University, provides educational information to the public on
biologically related topics, as well as a source of biological images for
personal and non-commercial use.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Habichat, the newsletter for Wild Acres participants, is published by the
Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Click here for online back issues.
The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.
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