Tomorrow and Saturday, New Hanover County citizens can head to Wilmington’s Independence Mall to pick up seedlings to plant for spring. The event, TreeFest, began as a 1997 initiative to help reforest the area following Hurricanes Bertha and Fran. Today, it serves to help build upon the county’s leafy green canopy, and promote local biodiversity.
Growing and maintaining a vibrant treescape is a great way to help area homeowners maintain property value, and prevent damage from storm water runoff. This is according to Jennifer O’Keefe, an environmental educator with New Hanover County Parks and Gardens. She says trees are crucial for supporting indigenous wildlife. For instance, O’Keefe explains that bluebirds require thousands of caterpillars to feed their young.
"And a lot of times these caterpillars, they have to have a specific kind of tree. For instance, the zebra swallowtail will only lay its eggs on a pawpaw tree. So if there’s no pawpaws in the area, then there won’t be any zebra swallowtails, because there won’t have any food for the caterpillars to eat. So, by having these native trees—and most of the trees in TreeFest are native—these native trees will provide the right kind of food for the insects, which will then become the food for the birds."
The TreeFest Committee—which includes members from the county and city, as well as representatives from area businesses like Duke Energy and Tidal Creek Co-op--plans to distribute more than 10,000 native trees and ornamental grass plants. O’Keefe says environmental experts will be on hand to help shoppers select the most suitable plants for their yards. Visitor donations will go toward the purchase of next year’s TreeFest seedlings.
***TreeFest will be held Friday, Jan. 24 and Saturday, Jan. 25 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., or until trees run out, in the JC Penney end court inside Independence Mall. Limit of five plants per household. There is a $3.00 suggested donation.