Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Next Cedar Clearing Area

The almost continual snow cover we experienced last winter made it impossible for me to get to all of the cedar clearing projects I wanted to complete. It’s hard to cut cedars close to the ground when the base of the tree is hidden by snow and you should definitely not be cutting cedars that are bowed because of a heavy snow load caught in their branches. Weather permitting this year, my first clearing project will be adjacent to a small opening created by soil compaction due to use of the area as a log landing during a timber harvest.

The area I’ll be clearing runs downhill for about 120 feet from the edge of the old landing to a flat field along the creek. There are a few small Tuliptrees trying to grow here, but the dominant tree is Eastern Red Cedar.

Most of the cedars are small to medium sized trees with a base diameter ranging from one to four inches. The cutting should go fairly quickly. It’ll be the dragging and stacking of the cut trees that will require a bit of time.

There is a small step at the base of the slope where the level floodplain begins, that marks the transition from shallow soil over limestone to deep soil along the creek. This is also a point of abrupt change from drought tolerant vegetation on the slope to moisture dependent vegetation in the floodplain. This interface should become even more noticeable when sunlight once again reaches the ground.

Dry soil and shade make it difficult for plants to grow well. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any plants here, it just means that they have trouble expressing themselves as we would expect. By putting up a leaf or two and leading a minimalist lifestyle, many plants can survive from year to year until growing conditions improve.

Limestone pieces are abundant on the soil surface. There are also smaller areas of exposed sandstone and shale fragments. After clearing, I’ll have to do some probing to map the various bedrock types present on this small site. I’m hoping that the variety of substrates will produce a great diversity of species within a small area.

There are a couple patches of grasses and wildflowers growing where canopy openings allow in the sunlight. I haven’t noticed any rarities growing here, but many plants are so suppressed by the lack of light that they are not easily recognizable. A year of sunlight will bring forth many of these plants.

I’m always anxious to see what appears after opening up sites like this. Hopefully a new rarity or two will be found. Even if I just get more of what I’ve already got, it’ll be worth the effort.

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