Species diversity is what has allowed life to spread across our planet and should be a guiding principle for any planting plan. Forest Park is already an extremely diverse landscape, but we are always working on making it better!
Back in December, we introduced a previously unrecorded native species to Forest Park's ecosystem: Forestiera acuminata, commonly known as swamp privet. A riparian species (native to stream banks and wetlands), swamp privet is a woody plant species that straddles the line between tree and shrub, depending on the environmental conditions that shape its growth. Riparian species often do well in urban areas because of their tolerance for low levels of oxygen in soil. This is a common problem in urban soils due to compaction from human actions ranging from construction to heavy foot traffic.
Swamp privet is unique in that its fruit is commonly eaten by channel catfish, who then disperse the seed after it has passed through their digestive tract. While this is common in South America, fish-assisted seed dispersal is quite rare in North America. The shoreline of Catfish Cove, one of the ponds in the Forest Park fish hatcheries, is now home to swamp privet. Hopefully the resident catfish appreciate this supplement to their diet! Like catfish, the fruit is a favorite of the cedar waxwing, birds that may also assist in dispersing its seed.
Since December, we've planted a total of 10 specimens of this plant in several of the Park’s micro-climates. Some of these areas closely resemble its native habitat, while others feature poorly drained or compacted soil so we can compare growth rates and vigor in these different areas. Our hope is that planting swamp privet could prove to be another useful tool for healing damaged soils.
Special thanks to Forest ReLeaf of Missouri for providing us with these swamp privets, along with over 1,600 other trees that will be planted throughout Forest Park this winter. A fellow nonprofit, Forest ReLeaf helps us keep our urban forest healthy and beautiful.
Mark is a Forest Park Forever Horticulturist responsible for maintaining 123 acres on the Park's east end. For more information about Mark and the rest of our Land Management team, please click here.