Healthy Forest – Restoring the Wissahickon

White Oak (Quercus alba) - terminal buds
White Oak (Quercus alba) - terminal buds

Wiegard, Ave. Wissahickon Forest, Fairmount Park

Weather: clear, cool, hi. 48 degrees F, lo 42 degrees F, wind 4 – 7 mph. Habitat: Oak-Hickory Forest.

I volunteered with Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers Sunday. It was a clear beautiful day in the Wissahickon Forest. The sky was clear and that warm blue of autumn.  The glowing gold of Sugar Maples brightened up the forest. The White Oaks still have their dry and crinkly brown leaves firmly attached to branches. Many Tulip Trees are bare. Brown bare limbs and crackly dead leaves litter the forest floor.

We spent two hours this morning cutting down and pulling out Multifloral Rose, Privet and Oriental Bittersweet. In their places we planted the native forest trees of the Wissahickon, White Oak, Red Oak and Sweetbay Magnolia. Black Gum was planted down by the water.

Red Oak (Quercus rubra) transplant
Red Oak (Quercus rubra) transplant

When new trees are planted, white plastic deer guards are wrapped around the trees to stop deer from browsing (eating) the tender young branches.  Deer generally don’t eat the invasive species that we have to chop out of the forest. They eat the native species they evolved with over millennium.  The deer eat some non-native plants but not the ones which become invasive. If they did, they we could walk the forest each weekend instead of digging.

When you buy a plant from a nursery that claims to be deer-resistant, you know that if it escapes into the woods, it can become invasive because the deer can or won’t eat it.

The oak trees are planted according to their likes and dislikes. White Oaks like the deep forest best, so deeper in they go. We plant Red Oaks (Quercus rubra) at the edge of the forest because the Red Oak is not so picky.

White Oak (Quercus alba) - terminal buds
White Oak (Quercus alba) - terminal buds

I like doing restoration work because I am doing something about the environmental mess we are in . If I just sit, all I can think of is the devastation. Restoration work gives me hope.  And I can see instant results. The invasive vines that choke and bring down trees are gone. Privet hedges that block the view of a beautiful creek are removed. The sun shines, Chickadees call and the forest is beautiful again.

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