It’s been raining all week so the plan was to pull as much of the young bittersweet as possible from the hillside between the small area in front of the big maple and hollies and the larger area up on the ridge. My son and I had worked on this area several years ago, cutting things down but not pulling. You can see the long term impact of simply cutting things down. Absolutely nothing accomplished. The key culprits in this photo are young bittersweet and rose. We also pulled autumn olive, porcelain berry, and English ivy. It was hard going, harder than usual. The forest floor was tangled even without the invasives; there were a significant number of downed limbs and other detritus. Finding our way to the roots of the multi-flora was much more complicated than simply pulling back the stalks, stepping on them, and swinging the pulaski to sever and pull the root. I don’t think we got all of them. I know we will be back to clean this up further, likely in the winter. This area is really a bald patch in the forest. Either the larger trees need to extend their coverage within the canopy or some saplings need to come in; without this, I am concerned that we’ll be back in a few years, doing the same job. I believe this is a northern red oak in the foreground. Those leaves are immense, 9″ to 10″.
The following photo shows progress being made; the large oak in the foreground of the above shot is now just behind me, to my right, as I take this photo. There was not much to salvage in the tangle. One small oak sapling and several sassafras. We did not completely recover the ground (to protect from erosion and to provide cover from invasive seeds returning all too quickly) with what we had pulled as I was concerned about the bittersweet re-rooting. We pulled yard upon yard of young vine. One small success story was one fern plant. Rather pathetic but perhaps it can now spread. Another success were a few stalks of native blackberry; I am not sure that this is a good thing as that might mean that a significant amount of sunlight is penetrating through the canopy. We’re supposed to be standing in the middle of the woods not in a thicket. Now that I think about it some more, my son did uncover two small hollies.
This is another, closer shot of the mess we left behind. The ivy has been cut and pulled from the ground; that is just remnants left on the tree. There is still much to be cleared in the background. Next time.
The photograph on the left is Virginia Creeper, a native vine. This vine will provide a winter food source for birds. I’m not sure this vine is old enough to produce berries, but the presence of native vines is a welcome sight. On the right, are the flowers on the American holly. The red berries of the holly tree are also an important winter food source.
This next photograph is of the ridge. The work today is part of my year long goal to clear twenty to thirty feet in from the trail, starting at the beginning, at the field, all the way up to the top where the big cherry tree is. Maybe a quarter mile? The big cherry tree is about thirty feet to the left of this photo; the trail is behind me and to my left where it takes a sharp right at the top of the ridge. The ground is partially cleared and there are a number of young saplings of a variety of trees. Under the big cherry, things do not look good. It is a big, unhealthy old tree with significant openings in its crown. There is garlic mustard and bittersweet growing like you would see in a meadow underneath that tree. I am very worried that this tree will come down in one of our summer storms. It will fall right on the spot I’ve worked so hard to clear and it will open an immense hole in the canopy. I am hoping that we will have this clearing project done by the winter. Then we’ll start moving north, heading slowly toward the more open woods and the two old farm oaks. The heat hasn’t hit yet so I am being very optimistic about our desire to get in here come July and August when even six in the morning can feel pestilential and tropical. The ticks are predicted to be bad this year and this is a major hesitation for me.
On the way out, coming down from the ridge, I took another shot of the area in the front of the big maple. No significant changes from last time; it is just good to see the forest floor and to see that it is obvious that work has been done. I have other projects in other places and other plans so it may be June before I return.