Trees and the Chesapeake Bay
Forests used to cover 95% of the land around the Chesapeake Bay, but now they cover less
than 58%, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program. Trees work to protect clean water, clean the
air and provide food and shelter for wildlife making the Bay area cleaner and healthier for all
of us. Trees planted near streams and wetlands form a buffer filtering and cleaning storm-water
runoff from parking lots, streets and farm fields before it reaches waterways. Trees planted
around homes can reduce energy use by providing shade in summer and windbreaks in winter.
Choose one of these 3 common Chesapeake Bay region trees to make your home more
The Majestic White Oak
Planting a white oak leaves a legacy. They take a long time to grow into big trees, but they
are a symbol of strength and abundance. Many animals feed on the acorns, including turkey and
deer. Even people used to eat the acorns ground up into flour. The tree supports more
kinds of insects (which in turn feed birds) than any other tree. The wood was used to make
stout sailing ships and wine barrels. Leave lots of room for your oak tree to grow tall
and for its branches to spread out, and plan for it to live for several hundred years.
Loblolly Pine Stands Tall
Loblolly pine forests dominate the southern Chesapeake Bay region. Although thought of
as a tree for forestry, they make a quick growing addition to a home landscape. Pines thrive in
poor soils and tolerate wet or dry conditions. The pine needles produce a natural soft
mulch on the ground and the air always smells sweeter around a pine tree. If you are lucky, a
grove of pines might provide just the right conditions for pink lady's slipper orchids to
appear, a species that can't be cultivated because of its reliance on particular fungi
associated with pines.
Sweetgum for Fall Color
Sweetgums are often overlooked as a landscape tree because they are so common in the
forests. Many homeowners dislike the gumballs that hold sweetgum's seeds, but there are sterile
cultivars available. The gumballs do provide an important source of seeds for birds in winter.
Sweetgums display beautiful purple and red foliage in fall, lighting up the landscape. They are
easy to grow in poor sandy or clay soils. A mature sweetgum makes a beautiful shade tree.
Article by Sylvan Kaufman. Dr. Kaufman is a writer of popular scientific and gardening articles. She is also an ecological consultant.