Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Trees at the Tennessee Aquarium

(Left to Right: Tennessee Aquarium lead horticulturist Christine Bock with volunteers Jane Corn and Margaret Davis pose in the Cove Forest exhibit with some of the trees to be given away.)

Packaged with planting instructions, black oak and American Plum seedlings await new homes in the lawns of Aquarium visitors.
500 seedlings will be given away in a Tennessee Aquarium Arbor Day tradition.

Tennessee Aquarium visitors looking to add a stately shade tree or flowering fruit tree to their lawn will receive a free seedling on Friday, March 4th. “These trees will make a wonderful addition to anyone’s yard,” said Aquarium lead horticulturist Christine Bock. “We have chosen two native species that should do well with minimal effort.”

Each year the City of Chattanooga celebrates Arbor Day on the first Friday in March. For the past six years, the Tennessee Aquarium has offered free trees to visitors to mark the occasion. This year, perhaps more than others, area residents may be seeking trees. “Unfortunately, many people lost beautiful trees to the damaging winds and tornadoes that rolled through on Monday,” said Bock. “These American Plum and Black Oak seedlings will turn out to be great trees in the years to come.”

The American Plum, Prunus Americana, grows to heights of 20 feet and features attractive white blooms for about two weeks in April. These blooms attract butterflies. “The plums the tree produces are relatively small,” said Bock. “They will attract birds and are quite tasty, especially when made into jelly.” Bock says if residents keep these seedlings watered during dry times the first year, they should become established rather quickly. In the wild, these plum trees are commonly found in thickets near streams.

The black oak, Quercus velutina, grows to heights of 80 feet with a darker trunk than most oaks. “Black oaks are not as common in this area as other oak trees,” said Bock. “But these majestic trees can be found on both Lookout Mountain and Signal Mountain”. The acorns these trees produce are an important food for a variety of animals including white-tailed deer, squirrels, blue jays and turkeys. Black oaks also provide shelter for a variety of animals including wood ducks and barred owls.

The Aquarium has 500 tree seedlings to give to visitors at the River Journey Gift Shop entrance beginning at 10:00 am on Friday, March 4th. They will be available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last.

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