Planting Trees – Restoring the Wissahickon

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

Nature Journal: Wiegard, Ave. Wissahickon Forest, Fairmount Park, November 14, 2010

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.

White Oak (Quercus alba) crinkly brown leaf
White Oak (Quercus alba) crinkly brown leaf

We spent two hours this morning cutting down and pulling out Multiflora 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.

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

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.

Deer guard around newly planted trees
Deer guard around newly planted trees

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’t 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.



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.




More on Forests and Tree Planting

Forest Bathing: 15 Minutes to Good Health

White Oak (Quercus alba)

Wissahickon Valley Park

Hiking the Lower Wissahickon


autumn in the natural world cover
Autumn in the Natural World

Autumn in the Natural World makes complex processes easy to understand, to the wonders of the autumn season. In easy to understand language the essential natural processes of the changing colors of leaves, why trees shed leaves, and how a pond can still freeze and still support life are explained. Learn the key star constellation which signals the end of summer and the growing season. Learn why the moon’s of autumn loom so large in the night sky.

Excerpt Plants in Autumn section

Little plant growth takes place at soil temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius). For plants to grow well the soil temperatures need to be between 40 degrees (4 degrees Celsius) and 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). Spring planted flowers take longer to mature than summer planted flowers. Spring planted flowers will take 60 to 90 days to mature. Summer planted flowers will take 45 to 60 days to mature. Late summer planted flowers (around July 1st) will take 90 and 120 days to bloom as the air temperatures cool.

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