Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

‘Cadillac of mulches’ is a wildlife guzzler

Louisiana’s huge cypresses have been destroyed in the name of better gardens. Who needs it?


Cypress stumps cut for garden mulch

in the Atchafalaya Swamp, Louisiana

Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance

“Cutting an 80-to-100-year-old cypress tree for mulch is like taking your dining room furniture and burning it for firewood.”  So says John Day,  Louisiana State University ecologist.

And then the rug and the whole house catch on fire.

imageWaterkeeper Alliance, a group working to protect wetlands, rivers, and more of the world’s environmental H20, has come on strong with gardeners. The organization’s new campaign points the finger right at our flowerbeds, where ground up cypress is the mulch du jour. Cypress mulch has been “preferred” by upscale landscaping companies, mainly because it’s pricey. To chop down a 100 year old tree and grind it into kibbles for your rosebed is the yard equivalent of a polar bear pelt in the livingroom, only in this case the dead tree doesn’t have glass-eyes to glower with.

Waterkeeper Alliance, along with University of Florida scientists, the Louisiana Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation—among others—all say that clear-cutting of cypress trees in swamplands of the U.S. needs to be stopped.

“At a time when the nation must invest billions to restore Louisiana’s wetlands for hurricane protection, cypress forests are being ground into mulch. Cypress wetlands prevent flooding by absorbing excess water like a sponge, controlling flood height and speed. These wetlands save lives and prevent the destruction of coastal cities.” The swamplands are also habitat and migratory stopover territories for hundreds of wild animal species.

imageCypress logs head for the chipper

Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance

And to beat all, cypress mulch, despite its uppity advertising, is no better than pine or many other materials at conserving moisture in our gardens. Sylvia K. Beauchamp of University of Florida recommends “melaleuca chips, pine nuggets and pine straw” as perfectly good alternatives. Actually, the best garden mulch going “is something most gardeners already have on hand: yard waste. Researchers at the Ohio Agricultural Research Center found that composted yard waste increased the number of flowers on rhododendron plants by 300 percent over plants grown without mulch. Wood mulch gave no such benefit.”

Check out these photos of huge tree stumps and logs being chipped to smithereens. Consider that the Louisiana coast is disappearing “at about thirty-five square miles per year or three acres per hour.” Tough to figure where we’re going to toss all that precious mulch if the land itself is submerged.

It’s obvious that without a market for their cypress mulch, these companies would quit clear-cutting. So, who’s behind the wheel of this Cadillac? We gardeners are.

Posted by Julie on 04/19 at 11:12 AM
EcologyGardening & LandscapePermalink