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Branch out this week and learn about oak trees! All j-oaks aside, these trees are incredibly important for Ohio habitats!
There are numerous different species of oak trees that are native to Ohio and the Midwest region. Some of these trees include White Oak, Northern Red Oak, Pin Oak, Bur Oak, and Chinkapin Oak, among so many others! These tall, deciduous trees provide countless benefits to Ohio’s woodland habitats. They are host plants for over 500 species of Lepidoptera (butterflies, skippers, and moths), including species like the Cecropia Moth, Banded Hairstreak, Polyphemus Moth, and Luna Moths, just to name a few. Additionally, the fallen leaves provide leaf litter on the forest floor for many insect species to use as over-wintering sites until springtime.
But what are host plants? Host plants are specific species of plants that insects lay their eggs on. They lay their eggs on their respective host plants because the larvae are provided with the particular nutrients that they need in order to survive and grow into adults. Host plants can be important to birds, as well! For example, with the great many insect species that live on oak trees, it’s a feast for hungry birds! This time of year, especially, it’s important for birds to have an abundant food source as their chicks are growing and fledging the nest.
Do you know what the seeds of oak trees are called? No matter the species of oak tree, their seeds are called acorns! The acorns of different oak species come in many shapes and sizes, but are acorns nonetheless. These seeds are very beneficial to wildlife and provide an excellent food source for animals such as deer, birds, squirrels, and other mammals. Acorn-ing to our sources, squirrels have even been known to store caches of acorns and other nuts and seeds throughout forest floors, often forgetting about their locations. When this happens, these seeds can germinate, making the squirrels natural gardeners!
Humans have a use for oak trees as well. The hardwood can be used for lumber, railroad ties, furniture, flooring, and timber. Planting an oak tree near your home will provide great shade, resulting in lower electric bills during the warm months. Plus, imagine all the wildlife that you’ll get to see from your window! With the beautiful fall colors that these trees can turn, they’re a joy to have year-round.
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