Replacing an Ash? Here are some native tree recommendations.

Here are some native tree recommendations for replacing your Ash, as requested by one of The Conservation Foundation Facebook followers.  As always, select the best tree according to your site conditions, space available, ornamental value, site usage, wildlife habitat, maintenance plans, and to support diversity.   For diversity, plant a variety of species in an area to reduce the impacts of environmental stresses (invasive species, climate change, weather extremes). The Morton Arboretum recommends no more than 30 percent of trees in an area come from the same tree family. For example if more than one third of the trees in your neighborhood or subdivision are Maples (Silver, Box Elder, Norway, Maple cultivars), don’t plant any more. Also purchase locally grown plants to ensure the plants are adapted to our weather conditions.  For example a Redbud (Cercis canadensis)  from Georgia is not adapted to the same conditions as a Redbud from Northern Illinois. Besides selecting the best tree and location, remember to properly plant, mulch,  and water your new tree.

Native Street Trees:

Hackberry Street TreeHackberry (Celtis occidentalis) –  I  recommend this tree for its unusual bark (see photo) and wildlife value, especially birds who love to eat its berries. It can tolerate a range of soil and street conditions, is a medium-fast grower and is a medium to large in size. It can develop leaf galls (which look like huge pimples) along with witches broom, but these are usually not harmful  and for the most part, can be ignored.

Kentucky Coffeetree bark

Kentucky Coffeetree bark

Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus) –   The roasted seeds were brewed by Native Americans and early settlers, hence it’s name. Kentucky Coffee trees are either male or female. Female trees flower in spring and produce long seeds pods when pollinated by a male tree.  Both have compound leaves, large leaves composed of smaller leaves called leaflets and a neat bark. This tree loses its leaves early in fall and grows new leaves late in spring, so don’t be alarmed by this.  It can tolerate of range of soils and street conditions but prefers moist soils,  and grows large in size. Male trees are usually selected as street trees, but if you have room in your yard, grow both to provide wonderful winter interest and flowers for bees.

Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) –   This tree bring memories of my childhood, since we  often played with the long seed pods which fell from our neighbor’s tree. Beside the long seeds pods, a Catalpa can be identified by its large leaves and beautiful white fragrant flowers in late spring.   Although it is native to southern Illinois,  it grows well in our area.  It’s a little messy since it drops its flowers, pods and some branches during storms, but it can tolerate a range of moisture conditions and is a fast grower. The white flowers make it a worthwhile tree to grow despite its messiness.  It is a medium to large tree.

Below are other native trees (besides Redbuds and Serviceberries) available from local nurseries and plant sales.  A link to the site is provided with each to learn more, but please take a look at other photos and descriptions from the Morton Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Gardens or LBJ Wildflower Native Plant Database websites, in additional to nursery catalogs, and books. I especially  like  “Native Trees of the Midwest” by Weeks, Weeks and Parker. If you have any other native tree recommendations or resources for information, please add them to  comments section below. Thank you. Denise Sandoval Conservation@Home assistant

Small-medium size trees:

Blackhaw Viburnum



Pagoda Dogwood



Witch Hazel

Medium to large trees:

Sycanore Tree - the bark looks like camoflouge

Shagbark Hickory – this “shaggy” bark appears on older trees.

Sycamore Tree - bark resembles camoflouge.

Sycamore Tree – bark resembles camoflouge.

Bur Oaks and other native oaks. Also see blog article: Protect and Preserve our Native Oaks for more info. 

American Basswood

American Sycamore

Black Chokecherry

Black Walnut

Ohio Buckeye

Shagbark HIckory and other hickory species

Tulip Tree

Your New Year’s Resolution: A Low Salt Diet

Photo of oversalting

Shovel first, use just enough salt to prevent icing (consider a chloride free de-icer), and sweep up excess after storm for re-use later.

Make the diet you resolve to keep this New Year’s a low-salt one. Chlorides, including the salts we use to melt ice in winter, are a major contributor to nonpoint-source pollution in our area. Committing to reducing our salt use during the snowy and icy months ahead is good for our pocketbooks and our environment!

Chlorides may become diluted, but they never degrade or break down in the environment; one tablespoon of salt contaminates 5 gallons of water which has an immediate negative impact on fish (acute threshold). Chlorides produce a salty taste in drinking water, cause adverse growth effects on vegetation, are harmful to aquatic life, and are corrosive to our vehicles, roads, parking lots and sidewalks.

You can make small changes for managing your property during snow events to help maintain and improve our water resources:
• Shovel (or use a snow blower) before you use any product; never put a deicing product on top of snow.
• Adopt the “Just Enough” principle, putting down just enough product to keep high traffic areas clear of ice.
• Sweep up un-dissolved product after a storm is over for reuse.
• Consider switching to a non-chloride deicer.
• Support changes in chloride application in your municipality.
• Inform a neighbor about the impacts chlorides have in our streams and rivers.
To view a fact sheet please visit:

Written by John Church,  Kendall County Program Director,

Native Plants 101: Landscaping

Pat Hill’s C@H certified Native Plant Garden in Elgin

I hope to  share with you some tips, resources s and advice to create a landscape that protects our waterways and provides wildlife habitat,  and eventually become a certified Conservation@Home yard.  Not only does this certification recognize your efforts, but  will help others do the same. Feel free to share this article.

In general,  I would suggest starting small or installing  in phases but having an overall plan, and not being afraid to make mistakes. It’s also helpful to tour other yards or natural areas with native plants.  Read the full post »

Hurray for holes!


These small circular holes are made by the leaf cutter bee, who uses the round leaf fragments to line their nests.

When I first started gardening many years ago,  I quickly  learned leaf holes and other types of insect damage on my garden plants were not a good thing. Many of the garden centers, plant  ads, catalogs and  classes I took  at the time often promoted insect resistant plants and pristine leaves.  Although I learned to reduce pesticide use early on by practicing  integrated pest management and  other environmentally friend pest control methods,  I did not  appreciate holes until I started gardening with native plants. Read the full post »

Mulch volcanoes make me want to erupt !

If you don’t think volcanoes are abundant  in northeastern  Illinois, take a look at these “mulch volcanoes”. See photo.

mulch volcano

Mulch volcano – too deep and touching trunk or stems.

A mulch volcano is the name given to the improper mulching technique used by many landscapers and homeowners.  A mulch volcano is a large pile of mulch often too deep but also incorrectly piled against the stem or trunk of a tree or other type of plant.  Mulch touching the bark or stem of plants leads to rot, pests or diseases over time since mulch retains moisture.   Also, when mulch is applied too deeply, it can prevent water for infiltrating down to the soil, causing some roots to grow up through the mulch in search of moisture, which is not where roots should grow. Read the full post »