The Woodland Restoration Projects
The “Habitat” and the “Corner”
at Fresh Pond Reservation
2021 Report
There are many rewards as well as challenges for the volunteers working in the Woodland Restoration Projects at Fresh Pond.  In 2021 the rewards included observing that the trees and shrubs we have planted over the past ten years are growing tall and healthy, and that many of the native wildflower species we reintroduced are propagating naturally, including white wood asters, which produce clouds of white flowers in the fall, illuminating the woods. Our most pressing challenges involved protecting the trees, shrubs and wildflowers we have cultivated from being eaten by four-legged animals.
A wet spring and summer this year stimulated lush growth and abundant flowering throughout the growing season.  In early April the white daisy-like flowers of bloodroot began popping up in new locations. (See list of common and Latin plant names below) Ants are doing the job of spreading the plants by carrying their seeds to their nests. Soon the showy golden orbs of marsh marigolds appeared, then the abundant blue and purple flowers of wild violets and geraniums, speckled above the green carpet of these low-growing plants. Next, red and yellow wild columbine and bright yellow golden ragwort added their cheerful hues, followed by the white flowers of false Solomon’s seal, shadbush and chokeberry and the exquisite flowers of the mountain laurel.  The spring woods glowed in numerous shades of green: fresh young leaves of trees and bushes, plumes of ostrich, marginal wood and Christmas ferns, the vigorous early shoots of the fall flowering perennials. In July the dogwoods and meadowsweet bloomed while the aromatic flowers of summersweet and spicebush perfumed the woods. All of this abundance was crowned in the fall by the prolific golden plumes of multiple species of goldenrod, soon joined by mounds of white and purple asters.
If the visual drama of the growing season were transcribed into music, I imagine it might sound like George Frederick Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus: gradually building up and up throughout the spring and summer to the grand crescendo in autumn of the goldenrods and asters, and finishing with the extended “Amen” of colorful falling leaves and puffy white seeds scattering in the wind until silenced by a blanket of snow covering the landscape.
The Woodland Projects offer many delights for gardeners, but these woods are not gardens. Our goal has been to create healthy environments with native plant species, where native animals can be safe and are able to thrive. Birds have found the area to their liking: robins and grackles scuffle for insects in the leaf mulch, warblers and finches flit among the treetops, woodpeckers drum on our snags, and red-tailed hawks stop by looking for a meal. American toads also have discovered the area: we regularly see them in the spring. Pollinators are abundant, especially in the sunnier areas.
Thanks to our restoration efforts, rabbits and deer are a significant presence. In the fall of 2013, almost as soon as we started planting in the “Habitat” eastern cottontail rabbits began eating our new plants. We now protect our most vulnerable specimens with poultry netting cages, while the rabbits still find plenty to eat among the more abundant species. White-tailed deer arrived in about 2019, having discovered that our fences offer protection from dogs and people. This year a family of five or more deer feasted on our false Solomon’s seal, mountain laurels, maples, and other woody plants, doing considerable damage. It is not difficult to understand why these native herbivores prefer to eat the native species they evolved with. Our problem is that the project areas are not large enough to sustain even one adult deer, let alone five*. Unless deterred, they will eventually destroy these ecosystems by eating everything they can reach. We have attempted to spook the deer by stringing glittery Mylar tape around the borders and above our most vulnerable shrubs. The Cambridge Water Department has made plans with the local company “ohDeer” for a trial project in the spring, during which environmentally safe botanical chemicals that deer find distasteful will be sprayed on vulnerable plants in several restoration areas of the Reservation.
This year the Water Department purchased 6 shadbushes, 6 filberts, and 2 black gums for the area of the “Habitat” we call Richard’s woods. In addition, the Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation helped us purchase 10 mountain laurels. We volunteers purchased 96 marginal wood ferns, and 15 rosy sedges. We also grew a variety of perennials from seeds, and planted them in the area. Our Tuesday workdays were spent planting, watering, mulching with leaf mold from leaves collected for us by Reservation landscaping crews, weeding, pruning, and transplanting violets and asters to fill in empty spots. We recorded a total of 945 volunteer hours during those workdays.
People walking past the Habitat while we are there occasionally stop to ask what we are doing.  We explain that we are working to create a healthy native woodland from an area that had been degraded by invasive species. If they ask why we are doing it, I simply tell them that it is a labor of love.
Elizabeth Wylde
March 13, 2022
*One estimate is that at least 10 to 20 acres of good quality habitat are required to support one deer.  The Woodland Habitats encompass no more than one acre of land.
Alphabetical List of Plants Described in the Report
Aster species (White wood, Flat-topped, New England) and others
Eurybia divaricota, Doellingeria umbellatus, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and others
Black chokeberry
Aronia melanocarpa
Black gum
Nyssa sylvatica
Sanguinaria Canadensis
Christmas fern
Polystichum acrostichoides
Dogwood species (Pagoda, Silky, Gray, Red twigged)
Swida alternifolia,Swida amomum, Swida racemosa, Cornus sericea
False Solomon’s seal
Maianthemum racemosa
Corylus americana
Golden ragwort
Packera aurea
Goldenrod species (Blue-stemmed, Zigzag, Rough-stemmed, Showy and others
Solidago casea, Solidago flexicaulis, Solidago rugosa, Solidago speciose and others
Marginal wood fern
Dryopteris marginalis
Marsh marigold
Caltha palustris
Spiraea latifolia
Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia
Ostrich fern
Matteuccia struthiopteris
Rosy sedge
Carex rosea
Amelanchier Canadensis
Lindera benzoin
Clethra alnifolia
Wild columbine
Aquilegia Canadensis
Wild geranium
Geranium maculatum
Wild violets
Viola sororia
2021 Volunteer Stewards: Suzanna Black, Richard Bosel, Giselle Hart, Pamela Hart, Betsy Meyer, Joanne Mullan, Chris Powers, Rebecca Ramsay, Elizabeth Wylde, Candace Young.
Thanks to Water Department Staff for their support: Vince Falcione, Dave Kaplan, Brian Mulrenan, and Tim Puopolo, as well as the landscape crew members who delivered leaves to our leaf mulch piles.
Thanks to The Friends of Fresh Pond Reservation for covering the cost of various expenses, including the purchase of planting materials.
Thanks also to the volunteers who donated plants they purchased for the projects, donated plants they grew from seeds, and donated plants from their own gardens.
Special Thanks to Brett Mason and Jonathan Ellis from the Cambridge-based ecological landscaping company All Gardens, Inc., who spent the morning of December 7, 2021 doing a heroic job of hauling woodchips for our many paths in the woods.
Woodland Habitat Restoration Project Complete Species List, Fall 2019