When I was a child we had a sturdy pear tree I climbed to gorge on sweet, juicy, pithy pears. As the years passed I watched that tree become gnarly, lose limbs, tumble and rot away. A nearby cornfield where I sat munching green corn, if I wasn’t in the tree eating pears, now supports maple trees I tap for syrup making. These changes happened over decades of my life and I have enjoyed every stage of the journey. The pear tree holds a solid place in my heart along with my grandmother and grandfather, my parents and others who shaped me and are gone. I wish all children a special tree, a special place, they can hold with them throughout their lives.
For the past few years our Earth Day celebrations have included planting trees around the preserve. This spring, the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, we planted a Nuttery in a corn field on the preserve, including oaks, American chestnuts, hickories and white pines along with many other trees and shrubs critical to the wellbeing of the wildlife on our preserve. It is our hope that the young people who lent their hands to the work of our Earth Day projects will find their way, in future decades, to the Nuttery to collect nuts and to enjoy the pleasure of a long pause to watch birds and other creatures, remembering their part in those Earth Day planting parties when the Nuttery began.
Managing Forest Succession
Left to unmanaged forest succession, former agricultural fields have developed depauperate forests of few tree species. Our successional forests on the Baltimore Woods preserve are dominantly maple and ash with black cherry, poplars and occasional other species. The most important mast trees like oak and beech, so critical to the nutrition of our wildlife, are not on that list. A forest of diverse tree species provides a stronger, more resilient food web in the face of so many pest introductions like Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, and the current threats, hemlock woolly adelgid and emerald ash borer. Our plantings include 20 species from 12 plant families, with the potential to more than double insect diversity. That’s a lot of food choices.