Putting a value on trees can be more difficult than you might think

Assessing a particular trees value can entail much more than simply its value for pulp, logs or firewood. Aesthetics, wildlife value and additional factors other than simply how much the wood is worth can add value to forestland trees and shrubs.

Juneberry in bloom. Photo credit: Berrien County Conservation District
Juneberry in bloom. Photo credit: Berrien County Conservation District

One of the species of trees we had to be able to identify in forestry school was Juneberry (Amelanchier arborea) also known as serviceberry, shadberry, Saskatoon and locally in my area as sugarplum. We had to learn twigs, leaves, fruit, range, scientific name and its value to the forest products industry; which was “weed tree” or of no particular value.

At the time this education was ongoing, I was living at a farm in the area working off my room and board. Following my first full winter of working out-of-doors in the snowy “North Country” I was tired of winter and really ready for spring.

One bright Saturday morning, along the edge of the woods across the pasture, I saw a tree in magnificent full bloom. I trudged across the forty to see what kind of tree was responsible for such a glorious introduction into the season. Much to my surprise I discovered it to be a Juneberry, the same species we were labeling as a weed in class.

Following some additional research, I learned the tree, which is really more of a shrub (in addition to being one of the first woodland plants to bloom in the spring in much of the eastern United States) produced a small fruit that was used by many wildlife species. The tasty little berry like fruit can also be collected and used in jams and jellies.

Michigan State University Extension lists this plant as one that is only occasionally damaged by deer. So in those areas where deer damage is a problem in the successful establishment of plantings, this is a species that might be considered.

In our zeal to manage our forest resources to sustain the needs of the wood consuming public, or for our own personal interest, we need to remember that timber production is only one area of importance in the woods. There are many species of plants that have little or no economic/commercial value, but are vitally important to the continued health and wellbeing of the overall forest ecology.

It can be difficult to assign a dollar amount to peace of mind, or wildlife’s well being but there is value in these non-commercial species. To maintain a healthy and balanced forest ecosystem, we need to include wildlife, visual aesthetics, recreational and environmental impact in our management decisions along with managing for timber production.

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