During the month of May, Asbury Woods will be continuing a land management project that was started last year by a group of volunteers who affectionately named themselves the Buckthorn Bandits. You may recall our article several months ago about the work they have been doing to remove invasive buckthorn from a section of our property adjacent to the boardwalk. Buckthorn forms dense, unpassable thickets that crowd out native plants and prevent them from thriving. It can quickly become a monoculture, taking over the understory of a forest.
Now that the Buckthorn Bandits have cleared a significant area of the invasive Buckthorn, the next step will be to remove several Norway maple trees from the same area. Norway Maples are not native to our area. They were introduced in the U.S. in 1756, brought from England to produce shade on farmlands and in towns. Favored for their hardiness and ability to stand up to various adverse conditions, they quickly spread.
In Asbury Woods, the Norway maples are a threat to our native tree species because of their sun-blocking foliage. They create a canopy of dense shade that prevents the regeneration of native seedlings. Their shallow, fibrous root system makes it nearly impossible for grasses and herbaceous understory plants to grow.
Once the Norway maples are removed, the area will be clear for replanting of native trees, in this case, we have chosen Sugar maples. Pennsylvania is located in the center of the native range of Sugar maples and our property already has several distinct stands of the Sugar maple. The Sugar maple was chosen for this site as it provides a food source for a variety of mammals and insects, breeding habitats for birds and they will eventually (40-50 years from now) replace the Sugar maples we current use as part of our education programs around maple syrup production. In addition to all these qualities, Sugar maples are visually pleasing trees with dark green leaves which turn yellow, burnt orange, and red in the fall.
The project will include planting 14 Sugar maples on the area that has been cleared of Buckthorn and Norway maples. This exciting project helps restore a portion of our forest to a more native state. You can watch the progress of the project on the south side of the boardwalk, just east of the Shaw Gazebo.
This project is made possible thanks to the dedication of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors. Asbury Woods is committed to continuing to proactively manage and protect the forests, fields, and wetlands entrusted to our care.