Opinion: Plant native species at new town building

I was happy to see the three small flags on the north side of the municipal building that indicate tree-planting sites.
I had been sad when the big tall black locust trees were cut down from back of the white house that was there.
I still miss those trees, especially in June when the big fragrant white flowers bloomed so sweet and buzzed with bees. They were good trees for the birds, too, giving them shelter, shade and insects to eat. Birds and mammals ate the seeds.
Black locust trees are native to the eastern U.S. and, like other native plants, are at home with our insects, birds and weather. (I know they are badly weakened right now by tree-borers…)
But the word on the three flags by the Municipal Building is “Ginkgo.”
Ginkgo trees are native to China and at home inside China’s ecology.
In the U.S., though, ginkgos host few bugs, are avoided by birds and butterflies, give no food or shelter to mammals. One scientist wrote on Wikipedia that ginkgos are “biological deserts.” (Ginkgos do, though, produce a potent pollen rated very high on the allergen scale).
Ginkgo trees are planted in big cities because they resist pollution and are pretty. But Middlebury isn’t a big city. We can grow plants that are both pretty and welcome bees, butterflies and birds.
Next door to the municipal building, the Ilsley Library garden is home to bees, rabbits, moles, beetles, toads, caterpillars, butterflies and lots of birds, as well as a nice place for people. Even a small living green space growing native plants can be a welcoming place for us and for the animals we share our town with. Let’s do that around the new municipal building, too.
Anna Rose Benson
Ilsley Library gardener

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