Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What Trees Do Beavers Prefer?

Popular trees on the beaver's menu

The passage about Teddy Roosevelt's "beavered-down" trees aroused my curiosity about beavers. I've read several dozen webpages this evening, trying to learn exactly what trees they prefer.

I've read about beavers chewing down white cedars and cherry trees in Washington D.C., elm, cottonwood, hackberry and maple in Tennessee, and willow, maple, birch, aspen, cottonwood, beech, poplar, and alder trees in New Hampshire. In Colorado, willow, aspen and cottonwood are mentioned again.

On several sites, I read that beavers prefer to cut down soft-wooded trees which enables harder-wooded species like oaks and hickories to get more sunshine and flourish. However, Bob Arnebeck provides images of oak trees taken down by beavers, so I wonder if that theory holds true.

American Wildlife and Plants by Martin, Zim, and Nelson (full citation at bottom of the page) cites the following trees as used by beaver in various parts of the U.S.:  poplar (cottonwoods and aspens), willow, birch, hazelnut, serviceberry, maple, alder, ash, sweetgum, pine, dogwood, oak, sycamore, redcedar, and Douglasfir.

According to Martin, et al, poplar trees are especially important to the beaver's diet in the Northeast U.S. and in the West, and sweetgum makes up a significant portion of their diet in the Southeast.

I can testify from personal knowledge and observation that beavers in the Nebraska Sandhills thrive in little streams with willows on the banks.

Why do beavers cut down trees? They eat the bark and wood, as well as using the branches in their dams and lodges.

Photo of the "beavered-down" tree courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

2 comments -- please add yours:

Anonymous said...

Please check your facts about beavers eating wood. They eat the thin layer of bark called the cambium which is beneath the hard outer bark. They do not eat wood but prefer just about any vegetable material, particularly leaves from the trees which they have cut down and a variety of water plants.

Genevieve Netz said...

I guess you agree that beavers eat bark. You admit that cambium is a layer of bark. Apparently, you disagree that they eat wood. Keep in mind that wood might simply be tender twigs, consumed without regard to layers.

More information from the source I quoted in my post: "The beaver is entirely vegetarian. It subsists chiefly on the bark or wood of twigs, branches, and tree trunks."
The authors then list a number of trees that beaver have been observed eating. I don't know what parts of the tree they were eating. The list includes Poplar (including Aspen,) Willow, River Birch, Hazelnut, Serviceberry, Maple, Alder, Ash, Sweetgum, Pine, Dogwood, Oak, Elm, Redcedar, Sycamore, Douglasfir. This information comes from Page 235 of American Wildlife and Plants by Alexander C. Martin, Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson.

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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