During a meditative stroll, an unsuspecting Arb appreciator might suddenly exclaim in shocked distress, “AH! What’s going on in the lower arboretum now?!” A large fence of sinister proportions looms feet above the head of the mere mortal onlooker, who is now frozen in place, jaw locked in a silent scream. What is this all about?
In fact, the Arboretum is not just building one fence, but two. These fences are being built in preparation for a large scale native planting in the coming spring. This is the latest in a long history of management in what was formerly a pine plantation. In 2001, a large swath of the lower Arb was cleared of non-native pines that had acidified the soil and prevented native plants from growing. At the time, it had been hoped that more desirable species would disperse into the cleared area without the need for planting. However, the principal colonists were non-natives like buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Siberian elm. In 2013, the area was once again cleared of undesirable species with the intention of planting a mix of native trees and shrubs in the spring of 2015.
This time around, the fence will allow for a more successful planting. Small trees often fall prey to the nibbling action of deer and rodents. Without a fence, each newly planted tree would have to be protected by
an indvidual plastic barrier – a strategy that is much less efficient in terms of time and ensuring that the buds are fully protected. Over the long term, these fenced areas will also provide sites for future ecology classes to study the impacts of deer browsing on native community composition. Unfenced areas in both of the planting sites will provide a basis for comparison.To those who are still ‘on the fence’ about the new fence, Arboretum Director Nancy Braker advises, “Take the long view.” An area that was once nearly entirely devoid of native species will transition to an oak-dominated forest, its original identity before human settlement.