Treasure hunting in the Old Woodlot

by Sandy Garland

It may be easy to see this young tree, but can you see the other smaller ones in the background? Stakes help.

It may be easy to see this young tree, but can you see the other smaller ones in the background? Stakes help.

This Tuesday, we took a break from scything DSV and went on a bit of a treasure hunt.

Ted pointed out that as he’s been weeding he’s coming across all sorts of small trees that we’ve planted over the past few years. Many are still so small that they are easily overgrown by the prolific jewelweed, ferns, etc. Armed with stakes and ribbons, Ted and Jesse marked a bunch of the young trees and cleared some of the surrounding vegetation to give them more light.

Meanwhile, Kate, Luke, and I tackled a previously untouched part of the woods near the north end. Jesse joined us, and we dug and pulled DSV out from around a couple of large dogwood shrubs, resprouting ash trees, and young oaks. Hard work, but pretty satisfying, especially when we find “treasures” like the oak seedlings that Luke uncovered.

Luke dug and pulled DSV, uncovering many oak seedlings (see inset) - offspring of the 50+ year old Red Oak nearby.

Luke dug and pulled DSV, uncovering many oak seedlings (see inset) – offspring of the 50+ year old Red Oak nearby.

Jesse worked farther into the "jungle" and ended up with a huge pile of DSV as well a lot of untangled trees.

Jesse worked farther into the “jungle” and ended up with a huge pile of DSV as well a lot of untangled trees.

Triumphant Kate waving a huge DSV root.

Triumphant Kate waving a huge DSV root.

Kate prefers to dig up DSV rather than pulling it. This is much harder work, but I think she likes the idea that when you get the root out the job is done – that one won’t grow back. The area where we were working has been a neglected tangle for many years, so the DSV plants were quite large. We all cheered when Kate held up this huge mass of roots!

We also uncovered a great “nurse log” – a fallen tree trunk, mossy and decaying, feeding an ecosystem of insects and other creatures that break down dead material, and fostering new growth.

Next to a chip pile, I found a dozen small current plants – no doubt the chip pile is covering their parent shrub.

By the end of the afternoon, we had two huge piles of DSV. Time for clean up, but what to do with all that DSV? Because the plants have not produced any seeds yet, they didn’t have to be bagged, but would a pile of DSV bleed chemicals into the soil?

We decided that many “good” plants had been growing alongside DSV for many years, so it was unlikely that DSV would suddenly kill them. So, we put the DSV plants to good use as “mulch” around a large Red Osier Dogwood shrub, to prevent DSV seedlings from growing back. Meanwhile, Kate is going to consult a research scientist – just to be sure this isn’t causing damage.

Disposal is always an issue and we like to reuse or recycle as much as possible. As much as we hate DSV, the plants DO contain nutrients they extracted from the soil; might as well put them back!

Disposal is always an issue and we like to reuse or recycle as much as possible. As much as we hate DSV, the plants DO contain nutrients they extracted from the soil; might as well put them back!

Note to self: Next week, let’s mulch around the “good” plants and cover all the tiny DSV seedlings with newspaper and wood chips. This technique doesn’t really work for mature plants (unless the mulch is over a foot deep and packed), but it’s an effective way to kill tiny ones.

Mid-sized American Toad

Mid-sized American Toad

We didn’t see much wildlife today or maybe we were too busy to notice. Lots of toads of all sizes can be found – I almost stepped on this little guy (left) who was sitting at the edge of a trail.

I haven’t seen a Red Admiral for a while, but I’m hoping all those caterpillars we saw on nettle plants are pupating and will soon emerge. Cabbage White butterflies are evident and we are seeing skippers now. During the Nature Walk on Sunday (21 June), we saw a Banded Hairstreak, several Eastern Commas, and a White Admiral. Our June photo blog contains many photos of interesting insects: a White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillar, beetle eggs, a lacewing cocoon, a Fourteen-spotted Ladybeetle, a Long-horned beetle, and a Four-lined Plant Bug, just to name a few.

We saw our first Monarch of the year, a female, last week and are now hoping for eggs.

Finally, I’ve put up some signs around the Old Woodlot explaining some of the things we’re doing to try to control DSV. If you see them during your walk, please let me know what you think. Are these useful? Interesting? Annoying? If you find them useful, what other subjects would you like to know more about? Contact us at fletcher@ofnc.ca

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One thought on “Treasure hunting in the Old Woodlot

  1. In general this has been an unusually good year for trees sprouting new seedlings, and they appear particularly where trees have been removed. Tony

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