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Old 05-11-2010, 01:50 PM   #1
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bookwithbutterfly Managing a Forest

The Mt. Cuba Center is 600 acres of managed land, mostly forest land. And besides a few nonnative indulgences they have made a beautiful native plant garden. The nonnatives are there mostly because of the Will to the former owner of the property I believe. But their Wildflower Celebration this year was spectacular. Native Azaleas, Silver Bells, Red Buckeye, Assorted Dogwoods, carpets of Phacelia bipinnatifida, Virginia Bluebells, Quaker Ladies, May apple, assorted carnivorous plants etc... all in bloom.

So then I go to our local nature preserve and had probably the most boring 3 hour walk of my life. It's a nature trail that runs through some protected forest land. The trails are maintained as apparent from the sawed up tree limbs but other then that the forest is left to grow. Flowering highlights include an Azalea or two, skunk cabbage, and Summer sweet. There were a few others but there were so few of them they aren't worth mentioning. A 3 hour walk through a forest with almost nothing growing under the trees as far as the eye can see. But is this a problem? Should our nature reserves be left so boring by comparison?
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Old 05-11-2010, 02:04 PM   #2
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A 3 hour walk through a forest with almost nothing growing under the trees as far as the eye can see. But is this a problem?
Is there some reason this natural area is so lacking in understory plants? Just curious.
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Old 05-11-2010, 02:18 PM   #3
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I don't think so. There is a blueberry plant or two, maybe a summer-sweet here or a young tree there. There are some big patches of ferns, skunk cabbage and lots of under story plants but they're all along the forest edge and where the stream runs through.
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Old 05-11-2010, 04:34 PM   #4
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Is there some reason this natural area is so lacking in understory plants? Just curious.
Don't know about there, but we asked about the lack of an understory in a preserve near us; the rangers said the deer eat everything they can reach.

Ooooo... just had a brain flash. Why don't we make something to spray on invasives to make the leaves taste better to deer? We could sell "Buck catsup for buckthorn"... "Deer honey for honeysuckle".
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Old 06-20-2010, 11:13 PM   #5
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acorn Too many deer and rabbits

It looks like a young forest by the trees, So the rabbits and deer eat everything in sight. If it was a mature forest with oaks,black walnut, and hickory/beechwood the wildlife would fill up on nuts and berries leaving the less desirable saplings to grow. However we fragment the forests and the predators like owls and wolfs don't keep the herbivores in check. Even on my small piece of land the resident bugs bunny has chewed off the leaves of hawthorns and mountain ash.
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:04 PM   #6
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And why doesn't Mt. Cuba Center have a similar problem?
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:17 PM   #7
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No I know why the Mt. Cuba center doesn't have the problem. It's all fenced in with iron gates.

The issue I initially had was why wasn't there anything growing in this forest at all. It's a nature preserve but only if you're 20 feet off the ground. The forest seemed fairly old to me but maybe I was in a part that was more recently grown. There are a number of towering chestnut trees and assorted ones I can't identify that just dwarfed the oaks that surround it. There's a wonderful diversity of tree but it seemed like the only place under story plants were growing is by the forest edge or where water ran through.

Would it be wrong to introduce perennials that were full shade?

Also here's a picture of the forest edge from far away. I'm going there tomorrow, I'll try and get better pictures.
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Old 06-22-2010, 03:29 AM   #8
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MrILoveTheAnts,
That sure looks like the result of uncontrolled deer to me. That is what most of what's left of the forests look like in NJ. At this point many of the forests are in peril because none of the tree seedlings have grown and there will be no replacement trees. Fortunately some areas are culling deer on a regular basis and reforesting by installing large plantings surrounded with fencing. The hope is as the plantings mature and they seed the surrounding areas the deer will be reduced to the point that the plants will survive. It is an uphill battle because each town can approve or opt out of the yearly culls.

I would not recommend planting shade perennials on your own but instead contact the NJ Native Plant Society and see if there is a group working on the forested area you are concerned with. You might want to attend a monthly meeting or two because it's encouraging to hear about all the groups working in the state. You can also check locally to see what organizations might be in working for that particular forest.
In Northern NJ the South Mountain Conservancy is very effectively changing things for the better. They received grants to reforest 240 acres. There is also a Raritan River group. Finding out what worked for these groups will help you realize what can be done to save the forest near you.
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Old 06-22-2010, 05:15 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Calliandra View Post
Ooooo... just had a brain flash. Why don't we make something to spray on invasives to make the leaves taste better to deer? We could sell "Buck catsup for buckthorn"... "Deer honey for honeysuckle".

Now, THAT is a great idea!
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Old 06-22-2010, 08:26 AM   #10
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Perhaps you are right about the deer, but if all the browse is gone from the interior, why haven't the deer also worked the edges? Conservancy groups can probably help shed light on this situation. Some knowledge of the history of the property would also help.
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