The ice storm of January 1998 caused considerable damage to the ash trees in our woodlot. We managed to put the many downed branches to good use, however, by making brush piles in and around the woodlot. The birds seemed to love these jumbles, and they were acting as edge cover until natural growth occurred. In the spring, we planted a number of Nannyberry and High-bush Cranberry shrubs on the south and west sides of the woodlot and scouts planted ash seedlings in the semi-circle. In the fall, we were lucky to receive a number of “hard maples” through Project ReGeneration (organized by the Evergreen Foundation and sponsored by Ontario Hydro).
In 1999, we continued to weed out invasive species like Garlic Mustard, Motherwort, and Dog-strangling Vine (DSV). We replaced buckthorn shrubs with several dozen young Sugar Maple and beech trees. With help from our excellent crew of volunteers and an enthusiastic group of baccalaureate students from Colonel By Secondary School, we were also able to establish several stands of trembling aspens at the edges of the woodlot.
In 2001 and 2002, we made a concerted effort to remove the buckthorn that was beginning to dominate the understory. Volunteers Dale Crook, Malcolm Leith, and Tony Denton made great progress by using a weed wrench to pull out both Common Buckthorn and Glossy Buckthorn trees by their roots. At the same time, other volunteers weeded out the DSV that is a ubiquitous problem on our site.
Over the next few years, we continued to remove invasives – Garlic Mustard, DSV, buckthorn – as well as several Manitoba Maples and many honeysuckles. Although pulling DSV seemed to be of some help, many plants grow back every year, from remaining roots or seeds. Digging is more effective, but difficult to do without disturbing everything else. Our general strategy is to pull out DSV growing near “good” plants every year. In small areas, we’ve been digging it out or covering an area with a tarpaulin until the DSV is dead, then planting native species.
In 2005, we planted a variety of small trees donated by Albert Dugal. These included Blue Beech, Sugar Maple, Basswood, Pagoda Dogwoods, White Ash, White Spruce, Butternut, Bitternut hickory, and American Elm. Other plants included sedges, ferns, Bloodroot, Mayapple, and White Snakeroot.
In 2006, we removed a lot of buckthorn trees and seedlings, all Garlic Mustard plants that bloomed, some motherwort, and some DSV. We continued to plant woodland wildflowers and other plants, including Sugar Maples.
Bill Holland Trail passes through the woodlot
The FWG did not escape the arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer to Ottawa. The ash trees that formed the core of this habitat slowly succumbed to this deadly pest, and, for safety reasons, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada decided to remove them in spring 2015.
The Tuesday afternoon volunteer group met the challenge of recreating the woodlot and looked upon it as an opportunity to introduce a more natural mix of native trees and shrubs, such as Sugar Maples, Balsam Firs, Eastern White Cedars, as well as birch, Hackberry, beech, hickory, and other species known to be used by wildlife.
The disturbance of this habitat caused many unexpected changes, which will no doubt continue until the new trees grow to the point where it begins to look like a woods again. In 2015, many farm plants arrived likely as hitchhikers on the equipment used to remove the 60 ash trees. In 2016, Stinging Nettle was a dominant species – favouring Red Admiral and Eastern Comma butterflies. In 2017, the farm crops had disappeared, and nettles were overpowered by raspberries, which grew so prolifically they had to be cut back from the centre trail several times over the summer.
Although Dog-strangling Vine continues to be a problem, the “logging operation” had a good effect and the centre of the woods has very little DSV. This year, the Tuesday group tackled some of the edges and we are slowing replacing this invasive species with locally native wildflowers and other plants.
One of the storyboards found along the trail through the woodlot; photo D. Gordon E. Robertson