Recently, a group of Luray High School students participated in a water quality improvement project at the White House Farm. Shrubs were installed around the edge of one of the farm ponds to help protect the water quality from stormwater runoff and stabilize the soil.
Mr. Jeff Judd, agriculture teacher at Luray High School, organized the Future Farmers of America (FFA) students who generously donated their time for the afternoon.
A variety of shrubs were planted – all Virginia natives and particularly suited for riparian settings. Below is a list of the shrubs which were chosen:
Arrowwood (viburnum dentatum).The common name of arrowwood comes from the very straight and strong basal shoots which were used by Native Americans for spear point and arrowhead shafts. It grows 10′-15′ tall and wide and can be used in conservation practices as windbreaks. Birds enjoy the dark blue fruits and small mammals use the bush for habitat.
Black Willow (salix nigra). The black willow has many relationships in nature including serving as a food source for the caterpillars of many lepidoptera, deer, rabbits and small rodents. It can reach heights of 75-110′ as a mature tree, providing cavities for possums, raccoons and woodpeckers. The flexible wood is used in wicker furniture, makes beautiful paneling, and toys, cabinets and doors.
Buttonbush (cephalanthus occidentalis). This shrub is named for the flowers which resemble spiky white golf balls. Bees and butterflies enjoy the flowers’ nectar and help pollinate them. The seeds are consumed by geese and ducks who also nest amongst the roots and lower branches. The multistemmed shrub provides cover for small birds, frogs, salamanders and other small mammals.
Carolina Hornbeam (carpinus caroliniana). Growing 20′ tall, the wood of hornbeam – also called ironwood – is very hard, the bark very smooth. It is an understory tree, the leaves turning an attractive scarlet. It is utilized by songbirds and small mammals for habitat and is an important food source for squirrels.
Dogwood – Silky & Red Twig (cornus amomum & cornus sericea). Both varieties provide nice winter color with burnished red stems, attract birds and pollinators and provide food for small mammals. The dogwoods, like the willows, are often used for soil stabilization as their branching habit and affinity for wet conditions make them ideal for streambank and pond side plantings.
Elderberry (sambucus canandensis). Anyone who has tasted elderberry jam knows the culinary value of this shrub/small tree. The dark purple berries have been used for centuries for pies, jams, jellies, and syrups. The abundant flowers provide nectar for butterflies and birds, bats and bumblebees.
Mallow (althaea officianalis). Having a beautiful flower, this shrub is one of the most showy of the riparian selections. It tolerates a wide variety of soil and moisture conditions. Bees enjoy the nectar and pollinate the plants as they move from flower to flower. The marsh mallow is valuable to humans as the leaves and roots are edible and the plant has a host of medicinal properties.