How Do White-Tailed Deer Change Ecosystems, Anyway?

Credit:  Robert Woeger ,  Unsplash Some facts about deer  An adult white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus , that might weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, must eat about 8-12 pounds of fresh forage every day. They eat a wide range of plants, from flowers to shrubs, to tree saplings, and in oak woodlands, acorns. All of these plants share the characteristic of a certain softness: deer lack upper front teeth, so their browsing involves a sort of mashing and tearing unlike the cutting and biting employed by many other herbivores, large and small, from rabbits to cows. It’s easy to identify deer-browsed areas, once you know the signs. Often there are browse lines at about four feet, below which everything looks as though it’s been trimmed—mature trees and bushes lack lower limbs and leaves, saplings remain stunted, if not eaten to the ground, and flowering plants have lost buds and flowers. In addition, there might be few flowering plants or shrubs, and a preponderance of grasses, sedges

Something New to Do With Your Lilacs

In my opinion, every home gardener should join the USA National Phenology Network. What's that, you ask? The teacher in me wants to say "go to the website and find out," but I'll say something about it here. USA NPN is an organization that, among other things, is collecting data on plant phenology from citizen scientists. According to the site, "phenology is the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, or phenophases, such as leafing and flowering of plants..."

Why are they doing this? To monitor changes possibly caused by global warming (or climate change, global weirding or climate disruption, as others call it). What you do is pick a plant or two from their list of over 200 species, observe it daily or weekly to record leafing out and blooming dates, and enter your data at the site on an incredibly simple-to-use form. Do this and you have just become a citizen scientist doing your part to study the effects of climate change.

Two lilacs happen to squat at the back of my yard next to the compost heap, overlooking the raspberries, rhubarb, oregano, and beebalm. It's high time they worked for their keep! So out I toddle on a fine, early spring day such as this one (sun and 58 degrees) and check them out. Today there were no leaves (late winter budstage), but there'll definitely be action within three days, with the weather this warm. On the way back I greet a red squirrel who is up on hind legs like a meercat facing the sun. Then indoors, about one minute on the computer, and I feel I've done the ecosystem a small good deed.


Anonymous said…
I think your lilacs are a good choice. They signal their changes pretty visibly, and getting near their lovely scent is a good thing for any reason.