Native Vegetation

Safe Harbor’s Habitat Restoration Guide for the Outer Cape links native vegetation with specific habitats, exposures and height. Using site-specific vegetation for habitat restoration contributes to higher survivability. This “cookbook” style booklet makes choosing plants easier, by integrating numerous, earlier versions of planting lists. We are grateful to Howard Irwin for his review of this booklet.

This Native Vegetation Guide is a compilation of successful Habitat Restoration projects on the Outer Cape. We have linked Habitats and specific sunlight exposures with native vegetation of different heights. Habitat Restorations using site-specific vegetation will experience higher survivability. We are grateful to Howard Irwin for his review of this booklet. Future editions will include your additional planting suggestions

Safe Harbor provides environmental permitting and management services for construction projects and habitat restoration projects under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; Massachusetts Endangered Species Act; Local Wetlands Bylaws and Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

Safe Harbor specializes in sustainable restoration strategies for coastal resource areas. Safe Harbor publications may be copied, circulated, and shared for educational purposes only. This work may be cited but in no way should it be used as an endorsement of other work or for commercial purposes. http://SafeHarborEnv.com  gordonpeabody@gmail.com

Gordon Peabody, Safe Harbor Environmental  2018 508-237-3724 gordonpeabody@gmail.com

 

 

The text below briefly describes soil profile preparation on restoration sites, also referred to as bioengineered revegetation systems. Successful indigenous vegetation systems contribute to restoration of habitat values for indigenous animals.

Cape Cod's soil is composed of some degree of sand/clay mix. Organic material is derived mostly from microorganism decomposition of oak leaves and pine needles. Temperature and moisture cycles control the rate of decomposition. Naturally occurring acids are enhanced by indigenous bacteria and microbes that flourish in these environments. This soil composition and the low pH, acid organic environment, limit the amount of nutrients available for vegetation root systems. The pH factor may also play a role in the actual absorption process in root systems.

In this relatively stable but nutrient stressed environment, specific indigenous plants have evolved and flourished. Insects, reptiles, amphibians and mammals have evolved in parallel. Environmental stresses, such as exposure to extremes of wind, temperature, moisture and salt spray, created local habitat specificity. During the past few thousand years relatively stable communities of plants and animals co-evolved, creating indigenous habitat. Any changes affecting any component of the interactive plant/animal habitat, were immediately compensated for by changes in population dynamics within the overall system. (Population dynamics study how and why populations of plants and animals change). The active interplay between these plants (seeds, fruits, leaves and roots) and animals (insects, rodents, birds and carnivores), profoundly impact each other's survival. The insect that pollinates the flowering bushes may also destroy the fruit by laying its eggs. The larvae of other insects consume the leaves. Birds nesting in the bushes will feed on these insects, preserving fruit and leaves. Rodents and birds will also feed on fruits, spreading seeds and consuming countless insect larvae before they can emerge as adults. Predatory birds and carnivores control populations of birds and rodents, reducing some impacts but creating others. Prey density is significant in predator populations.

Everyone is entitled to a yard and garden. On the Outer cape, landscaped space should be balanced with indigenous space to preserve natural habitat. Indigenous animals cannot feed on non-indigenous plants. The overuse of topsoil introduces more nutrients and higher pH, which translates into more of the nutrients being available. Fertilizers create fatter, sweeter leaves, vulnerable to insects, which have the ability to chemically sense vegetation. So we turn to broad-spectrum pesticides. These impact the microorganism community, which was producing our nutrients. So we turn to fertilizers. Invasive vegetation shows up, like plants on steroids. So we turn to herbicides. These yard and garden chemicals enter the groundwater.

Habitat, as we shall define it for our reconstructive use, consists of: the naturally occurring, site specific vegetation; the naturally occurring microbes reducing mulch from that vegetation to composted nutrients; the naturally occurring pH and soil type, which limits the nutrient loads; the overall, succession driven sequence of plant communities supported by those nutrients; control factors within the indigenous insect/herbivore/carnivore community. Specific interactions relevant to habitat include but are not limited to: daily or seasonal migration corridor; daily or seasonal food source; temporary or long term shelter for nesting or hibernation; reproductive areas; mating areas; prey avoidance areas. When habitats start to unravel, there may not be anything we can do to stop it. The task of habitat restoration should include reducing habitat fragmentation and increasing connected habitats. We should try to learn from past mistakes.

Engineered Solutions. Indigenous habitat can't be restored without indigenous revegetation, which can't be restored without indigenous compost/mulch systems. One advantage of a Bioengineered System is that we can learn what we need to from the Earth itself. This critical information can be found in the soil horizon profile (specific depth/volume relationships between the compost and mulch layers) on indigenous, abutting sites. Assessing the composition and depth of the layers, allows us to specifically design, (or engineer) successful indigenous revegetation on site. A usually thin later of decomposed compost provides the microorganism community, already producing nutrients. The upper layer of semi-decomposed mulch should be topped with a thin, " ground litter" layer of pine needles and oak leaves when they are present on adjacent sites. These upper layers moderate thermal spiking and maintain moisture levels. Plantings and seedings should reflect adjacent indigenous habitat. Windblown indigenous seeds will be welcomed by the pH and invasives will be discouraged. Limited hand watering may be necessary, during drought, in the first four months. Watering should be done in the early morning to prevent temperature shock to the new plants. Indigenous plant communities create habitat by providing shelter and food for indigenous animals. Bioengineered revegetation systems jump-start plant succession, contributing to the restoration of habitat functions and values.

Transplanting indigenous vegetation requires a slow careful dig, to secure the root mass with surrounding soil. Pre-cut burlap can be dug under the root mass with the blade of a shovel for sandy soil plants. For more stable soils, transfer the root mass onto the burlap. Burlap should be gently slid out after the root ball is in the new setting. Transplanting is most successful in the spring, to similar light and moisture exposures. Use a little indigenous compost, initially watering bi-weekly. 50% survival should be considered successful.

 


 AMERICAN BEACH GRASS    Ammophila breviligulata

AMERICAN BEACH GRASS

Ammophila breviligulata

AMERICAN BEACH GRASS

 LOCATION/BEHAVIOR:  Dominant plant within dune systems

DESCRIPTION: Stems are stiff and rise upwards, roots may spread under sand. Leaves are long and curved outward; many stems per clump

HEIGHT:  May reach height of two to three feet

FLOWER/FRUIT:  Seed head is spike-like; fruiting September to October


 Beach Plum        P  runus maritima

Beach Plum  

Prunus maritima

Beach Plum  

DESCRIPTION:  Low, woody shrub with reddish brown branches, Leaves are oval shaped and dull green, folding inward

HEIGHT: 3-5’ tall

FLOWER/FRUIT:  Flowers are snowy-white and blooms from late April to early July. Fruits are round, reddish-purple to blue-purple August to October


 Salt Spray Rose    Rosa Rugosa

Salt Spray Rose

Rosa Rugosa

Salt Spray Rose

STATUS: Considered naturalized

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR: Dense thickets on beaches & dunes

DESCRIPTION: Leaves: wrinkled, almond shaped. Stems, covered with thin, spines.

FLOWER/FRUIT: Flowers are white to dark pink and bloom throughout summer. Fruit ripens late summer; large, smooth shiny, deep red “rose-hips”


 Virginiana Rose    Rosa Virginiana

Virginiana Rose

Rosa Virginiana

Virginiana Rose

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR: Found on beaches, primary dunes and inter-dune areas

DESCRIPTION:  Small deciduous shrub native to North America. Alternate leaf arrangement with compound leaves.

FLOWER/BLOOM: Single, pink flowers that bloom June until August. Flowers are generally smaller than flowers of Rosa rugosa. Fruits have rounder shape and are smaller than “rose-hips” of Rosa rugosa


 Beach Pea    Lathyrus japonicus

Beach Pea

Lathyrus japonicus

Beach Pea

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR:  grows trailing stems, Found on primary and inter-dune areas

DESCRIPTION: Waxy leaves in two to five pairs of leaflets on each stem

FLOWER/FRUIT: Violet to purple Flowers blossom throughout summer. Has elongated, flatened pods about two inches in length late summer, fall



 Dusty Miller    Artemisia stellariana

Dusty Miller

Artemisia stellariana

Dusty Miller

STATUS: Nonnative, naturalized plant.

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR:  That is typically found in dune systems. Found on beaches, primary dunes and inter-dune areas

DESCRIPTION: Leaves are pale green and covered with white, woolly hairs

FLOWER/FRUIT: Flowers are yellow, blooming July – September. 


 Seaside Goldenrod    Solidago sempervirens

Seaside Goldenrod

Solidago sempervirens

Seaside Goldenrod

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR: Tall perennial found in dunes and near beaches

DESCRIPTION: Thick leaves that are long and wide

FLOWER/FRUIT:  Conspicuous, yellow flowers blooming throughout summer to November.  The latest blooming wildflower on the Cape


 Butterfly Milkweed    Asclepias tiberosa

Butterfly Milkweed

Asclepias tiberosa

Butterfly Milkweed

DESCRIPTION: Tall perennial with multiple stems emerging from root.  Shiny, alternate leaves with presence of tiny hairs.

FLOWER/FRUIT: Has clusters of bright, orange flowers towards top of the plant.  4-5” slightly hairy pods develop late summer


 Bearberry or Hog Cranberry    Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bearberry or Hog Cranberry

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

Bearberry or Hog Cranberry

DESCRIPTIONLow, ground-hugging shrub. Small, dark-green leaves that are arranged densely along woody stalks

FLOWE/FRUIT:  Light-pink flowers bloom early in spring. Bright-red, round berries form in early September


 Bayberry    Myrica pensylvanica

Bayberry

Myrica pensylvanica

Bayberry

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR: Shrub that inhabits areas between fields and forests; also seen in backshore dunes

DESCRIPTION:   Leaves are slightly toothed at the tip. Plant capable of fixing Nitrogen

HEIGHT: 2 – 4′ tall shrub

FLOWER/FRUIT: Females form clusters of round berries, covered with greenish-white wax. Male or female (with berries)

·     


 Arrowwood    Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood

Viburnum dentatum

Arrowwood

LOCATION/BEHAVIOR: Shrub with tall, slender stalks in moist thickets along borders of woods

DESCRIPTION: Shiny, toothed leaves that are ovate in shape. Important food source for migrating birds.

FLOWER /FRUIT: Flowers are white and bloom late May to early June. Clusters of round, bluish-purple berries.


 Pitch Pine    Pinus rigada

Pitch Pine

Pinus rigada

Pitch Pine

·      50 – 60′ tall evergreen found in woody uplands

·      Sappy wood found in crooked postures

·      Needles come in bundles of three

·      Round, prickly cones about 3" long


 Lowbush Blueberry    Vaccinium angustifolium

Lowbush Blueberry

Vaccinium angustifolium

Lowbush Blueberry

·      1 – 2′ tall bush found in forest understory’s

·      Flowers are whitish pink that bloom in sping

·      grow into edible blueberries

·      Leaves are grey-green and turn deep-burgundy in fall


 Huckleberry    Gaylussacia baccata

Huckleberry

Gaylussacia baccata

Huckleberry

·      Deciduous shrub found in forest understory’s

·      Several feet high

·      Shiny, alternating leaves with resinous dots

·      Produces purplish-black edible berries

·      Produces red leaves in Autumn


  Narrow Leaf Goldenrod     Euthamia   graminifolia

Narrow Leaf Goldenrod

Euthamia graminifolia

Narrow Leaf Goldenrod

o   A common, near coastal and inland Goldenrod

o   Characterized by narrow leaves

o   Thinner flower stems compared to Seaside Goldenrod.

o   Found in abundant groups.


 New England Aster    Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

New England Aster

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

New England Aster

·      Tall, slender perennial

·      Hairy, clasping leaves densely arranged on the stems

·      Conspicuous, bright purple flowers with orange-yellow centers

·      Flowers form at the tips of stems


 Highbush Blueberry:    Vaccinium corymbosum

Highbush Blueberry:

Vaccinium corymbosum

Highbush BluEBERRY

·      Larger berries appear on bushes in summer.

·      Bushes may be over six feet tall

·      Leaver similar to lowbush but larger


 Cranberry:    Vaccinium macrocarpon

Cranberry:

Vaccinium macrocarpon

Cranberry:

·    Found in low bogs with some water nearly year round

·    Very long, thin stems lay across each other to form a mat

·    Red berries ripen late fall

·    Small green leaves


   
  
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     Some British Soldier Lichen shown,   Lichen sp.

Some British Soldier Lichen shown, Lichen sp.


  Salt Meadow Hay:                                 Salt Marsh Cord Grass:    Spartina patens                             Spartina alternaflora

Salt Meadow Hay:                               Salt Marsh Cord Grass:

Spartina patens                             Spartina alternaflora

Both of these grasses are only found in salt marshes. The Cord grass needs to be flooded daily and the Hay has slightly higher elevation which only floods four times a month.

The Hay used to be a valuable harvest crop for Cape farmers until the 1950’s.


 Eel Grass:    Zostera marina

Eel Grass:

Zostera marina

Eel Grass:

Critical linkage creating habitat on inshore sand bars

Stabilizes moving sand

Very sensitive to light levels

Rarely found below 30’


   
  
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     Rockweed:                   Knotted Wrack:   Ascophyllum       Fucus vesiculosus              nodosum                                       (ECAD with Spartina altinaflora)

Rockweed:                 Knotted Wrack: Ascophyllum     Fucus vesiculosus          nodosum  

                                (ECAD with Spartina altinaflora)


    
  
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     Glasswort:                                                   Irish Moss:    Salicornia europaea                                Chondris crispus

 

Glasswort:                                                 Irish Moss:

Salicornia europaea                              Chondris crispus


   
  
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     Green Fleece:                                          Sea Lettuce:    Codium fragile                                          Ulva lactuca

Green Fleece:                                        Sea Lettuce:

Codium fragile                                          Ulva lactuca


   
  
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     Shelter Weed:   Enteromorpha intestinalis

Shelter Weed: Enteromorpha intestinalis