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Tu BiShvat, the New Year for Trees, Provides a Chance to Support Invertebrates

By Sara Morris on 5 February 2020
Sara Morris

This ancient tradition fits into modern life—and invertebrate conservation efforts—perfectly.

Celebrated as the “New Year for Trees” for thousands of years, the biblical holiday Tu BiShvat (ט״ו בשבט‎) is an ancient tradition that fits into modern life—and invertebrate conservation efforts—perfectly. Literally translated as “the fifteenth day of Shvat,” this holiday is celebrated by eating a feast of dried and candied fruits the night before a day spent planting fruit trees.

In Israel, Tu BiShvat is the national Arbor Day, where millions of trees are planted annually. In North America, Jews celebrate through religious and secular organizations by planting trees in public and private spaces. This year, Tu BiShvat begins at sundown on February 10 and ends at sundown on February 11. Though it may seem counterintuitive to plant anything in February, this is actually a great time of year to move larger transplants; waiting until later in the season can run the risk of “shocking” plants. Most plants are dormant during the winter season in temperate regions and are therefore less likely to be stressed by changes during this time.

 

A kid stands in a verdant landscape with blue sky. He is putting something into his mouth as he stands near a hedgerow with fruit and flowers on it.
This “edible” pollinator hedgerow in Minnesota provides abundant foraging resources for pollinators and berries for foraging humans. (Photo: Xerces Society / Sarah Foltz Jordan)

 

While it’s traditional to plant fruiting trees like apricots (Prunus armeniaca) or figs (Ficus spp.), modern festivities frequently focus on planting ecologically important trees and shrubs—such as pollinator-friendly or butterfly and moth host plants. During one of the more memorable Tu BiShvat celebrations from my childhood, our synagogue planted a large community butterfly garden replete with Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) to attract swallowtail butterflies and giant silkmoths. (Spoiler alert: it worked!)

If you’re interested in participating in Tu BiShvat this year—no matter your denomination, all are welcome!—we encourage you to find the best trees or shrubs for your site and your conservation goals. The Xerces Society has created numerous Habitat Installation Guides, Plant Lists, and other resources (see Recommended Resources, below) that can help you determine the species best suited to your location and needs. If you’re interested in finding a place to start and getting general suggestions, see the table below for a breakdown of which invertebrates (and vertebrates!) these ten recommended plant genera support.

 

Recommended, Widespread Trees/Shrubs for Tu BiShvat

This chart lists ten recommended tree genuses to support invertebrates: Amelanchier (juneberry, serviceberry), Citrus (etrog/citron, lemon, lime, orange), Cornus (dogwood), Malus (apple, crabapple), Prunus (almond, apricot, cherry, plum), Ribes (currant), Rosa (rose), Rubus (raspberry, blackberry), Sambucus (elderberry), and Vaccinium (blueberry, cranberry).
Resources: Habitat Planning for Beneficial Insects: Guidelines for Conservation Biological ControlConserving Bumble Bees: Guidelines for Creating and Managing Habitat for America's Declining PollinatorsMonarch Butterfly Nectar Plant Lists for Conservation Plantings; “Xerces Society Recommended High Value Plants for Pollinators” in Habitat Assessment Guide for Pollinators in Yards, Gardens, and Parks; and Xerces Society Habitat Installation Guides.

 

Recommended Resources

  • Create, Restore, and Manage Habitat—This educational series details the myriad ways that every landscape can be optimized to support pollinators.
  • Habitat Installation Guides—Developed in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, these regional and state-specific guidelines provide in-depth practical guidance on how to install and maintain nectar- and pollen-rich habitat for pollinators in the form of wildflower meadow-type plantings or linear hedgerow-type plantings.
  • Pollinator-Friendly Native Plant Lists—These research-based, regionally appropriate plant lists and guides can help you pick the very best plants for pollinators.
  • Monarch Nectar Plant Guides—Regional lists of plants that have been documented to attract monarchs.
  • Nesting Resources—This educational page explains how pollinator habitat can also provide access to both natural and man-made nesting sites.
  • Tunnel Nests for Native Bees—This fact sheet provides an overview of tunnel-nesting bee biology, and guidance on how to make and manage nests.

 

Authors

Sara designs layouts and edits manuscripts for publications, and does a variety of other communications work for the Xerces Society. Sara has previously managed websites for several local businesses and provided technical editing and design services to numerous companies. A graduate of the University of Oregon, Sara is a skilled graphic designer and an avid photographer of native pollinators.

 

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