The Woodland Restoration Project
Fresh Pond Reservation

The 5th year of work on the Woodland Restoration Project has been eventful and satisfying. Colloquially called "Suzanna's Corner" (shortened to "the Corner"), one border lies along the Concord Avenue bicycle path; then it angles to join the Fresh Pond Reservation perimeter path. The area is enclosed by a low temporary fence along those borders.

The 2010-2011 winter was notable for unusually heavy snowfall, and on our walks around Fresh Pond on the perimeter path, we noticed that the snow was even topping the wire plant protection cages that Elizabeth Wylde had so painstakingly made in the fall. Finally spring came, the weather warmed, the snow melted and we surveyed the Corner. To our horror, we saw that our nemesis, "The Bunny," had used the deep snow as a transportation means, walked over the temporary fence which Vin Falcione installed last year, and chewed much of the bark off the sassafras, the azaleas, and the blueberry plants above the level of the wire cages. The snow had been so deep that "The Bunny" had been able to come and go at will and nibble to its bunny heart's content. We despaired.

However as spring progressed, we marveled once again at the amazing resiliency of nature. Our prized chestnut tree had survived un-nibbled. The injured plants and trees developed buds and new branches and grew vigorously. The sassafras were especially remarkable; from being the most damaged trees, they seemed to grow the most robustly and have doubled in height from last year's size. The small wildflowers also did well, protected as they were by snow and by all of the leaves that we brought in and spread around for mulch. What wasn't doing well were the ash trees and an elm tree which were our primary canopy shade trees. The central ash cluster was doing so poorly that it was threatening to leave us with a sunny, not shady, project area. Vin and his crew removed the most disease-stricken tree and planted in the ash's place a red oak which eventually will take over providing shade, leaves, and acorns. In addition, Ranger Jean Rogers led an "Arbor Day Tree Planting Workshop" and planted a red maple in the Corner.

As summer rolled along, another important tree succumbed: our young two- trunked elm tree. It had not been looking well but as summer progressed the tree took a turn for the worse and died. Vin and his crew helped again, removing one of the elm trunks and leaving the other for climbing vines and woodpeckers. Compared to last year, the temperatures were not as hot and there was much more rain. We continued to import leaves for mulch and to divide some plants, prune and shape others, and restrain a few - especially Rubus - from taking over. There was relatively little weeding to do, and we needed to water plants only once all summer. We had very little damage from "The Bunny," which made us think that perhaps Bunny had enough food elsewhere due to better growing conditions. In addition, the shadbush shrub and tupelo trees looked almost healthy in comparison to dry years when they looked as if they wouldn't last another season. These observations made us think that we very much need some sort of watering plan.

With the approach of autumn we could stand and admire our work. The snakeroot and asters and goldenrod made a beautiful show. And now that we have known this land intimately for several years, we have become aware of the microclimates that exist even in such a small place. Up by the bike path, the elevation is a few inches higher, and is best for plants and shrubbery that like dry, well drained areas. On the Lusitania Meadow side of the Corner, the area is the last to dry out after rainstorms and is good for damp-loving plantings such as the red maple and ferns. Along the perimeter path where there is sunshine part of the day, other things do well. Given that the Corner needs less work, our attention has been drawn to contiguous areas, what we call the North 40 along the Concord Avenue bike path and the Side 40, which goes along the Perimeter Path toward Lusitania. I should point out that when we first started this project 5 years ago, I had very modest aspirations and Elizabeth had a tendency to expand the area of operations; I frequently had to urge her to exercise restraint. Now however, Betsy Meyer and I have been eyeing the contiguous area along the bike path (the North 40) and the three of us have been weeding that and planting oak, pine, and arborvitae seedlings as well as extras from the Corner. Then we noticed the buckthorn invasion on the Perimeter Path/Lusitania side (the Side 40), and Betsy and I took on the buckthorn with the assistance of weed wrenches, with Elizabeth muttering "Restraint!" Deb Albenberg and her volunteer force got involved in the buckthorn removal and together we have made a huge difference. In the process of removing the buckthorn we discovered a treasure trove of rocks and spent part of a day with Vin Falcione and Brian Mulrenan relocating them to parts of the Corner. After all, it's a very unusual New England forest that doesn't have rocks strewn around! In November we got in one more "Big Dig" to bring more donated plants from Pepperell and Groton to Cambridge (a country-to-city move) and then the Corner season ended with the storing of the trailer and its wagon of equipment.

The outdoor season may be over but we (Elizabeth Wylde and Betsy Meyer and I) are having indoor meetings to discuss desirable and appropriate understory trees, shrubs, and plants for the cleared areas, which should go where, where we can obtain them, and when we should order them. And we're already anxious to get going next year!

Suzanna Black
January 3, 2012