Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Woodland Maintenance Area

In 1990 I wrote the first five year management plan for Blue Jay Barrens. Every five year since then, I’ve updated that plan. That first plan was heavy into clearing cedars from the prairies and identifying the plants and animals living here. I’m currently working on my fifth five year plan. This new plan will be focusing on maintaining areas that have been cleaned of non-desirable species. I will also be looking at the management needs of the woodlands, an area that has not yet enjoyed the benefits of management activities.

In the new management plan, I’m identifying maintenance areas within each habitat type that will be monitored to track the rate of infestation by invasive species and to determine the time, resources and labor required to maintain the desired conditions within each area. I’ve just identified what I consider the best woodland area for such an activity. This section of woods consists almost exclusively of deciduous trees, so there won’t be a big workload removing cedars. The watershed is contained entirely within the Blue Jay Barrens boundaries, making it more difficult for exotics to move in from neighboring properties.

The watershed is in a wide oval shape that gives equal amounts of south, east, and west facing slopes. The stand of trees is of mixed species and contains some large individuals. Diversity of slopes and tree species gives the best chance of a diverse ground cover. A wide number of species could make a home within this small area.

There is a healthy, multi-level canopy. This type of canopy can support the greatest diversity of nesting and foraging birds.

Many small to medium sized trees are found in the stand. Several downed logs offer cover to reptiles and amphibians, as well as a home to creatures that live in decomposing wood. This is probably the healthiest woodland area at Blue Jay Barrens.

Something in the history of this area of woods practically eliminated the ground cover. Woodland wildflowers have just begun to reappear. Small Jack-in-the-Pulpit are beginning to appear along the lower slopes. The scarcity of woodland flowers makes this an excellent area in which to monitor efforts to increase flower numbers.

Green Dragon, a relative of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, is also growing here. These are the only Green Dragon plants I’ve found that are not growing in the floodplain of the creek.

Goldenseal is also increasing in this area. The presence of these species indicates that soils and growing conditions are suitable for a wide variety of species. I’ve wanted to work with increasing the Blue Jay Barrens populations of woodland plants by introducing seeds into new areas and I believe this patch of woods would be the perfect place to try.

A fence used to divide this area of woods. The fence posts have long ago decayed, but there’s enough wire sticking out of the trees to be certain of the old line. The possibility that land use was different on each side of the fence increases the diversity of conditions responsible for the woodland’s development. This should be a fascinating area to study.

I found very few invasives here. My first job will be to thoroughly search the area and remove all invasive plants. Once that is accomplished, I’ll be able to monitor how quickly new invaders move in and calculate how much work it will take each year to keep the woods clean. During the next few months, I’ll be designating maintenance areas in the other Blue Jay Barrens habitats.


  1. What a job!! But sounds like fun. And you appear to be doing it well. Love the walk about the woods today. ~karen

  2. Yes, Karen, it is fun and I'll enjoy every second of it. Glad you liked the woods walk.