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End of Year Site Report

By Tom Murphy, WRNP Steward

Our nature preserve has come a long way since its dedication six years ago. Visitors comment on the attractiveness of the site and often compare it to the impenetrable jumble of weeds, dead trees and invasive species that preceded its reconstruction. And volunteers make it happen.

In 1921, we tabulated more than 1,000 stewardship-related volunteer hours. These volunteers have turned out for species monitoring, monthly workdays, invasive species control, site maintenance and regular observational walkabouts. While COVID limited the hours in 2020, the time contributed in 021 more than doubled since 2016.

The NP continues to evolve and develop. The heartiness and abundance of many of our native species increased this year, in spite of the prolonged drought, and a new species appeared–Starry campion. We had a good year for seed collection and processing. A total of more than 4 kg of processed seeds (≈half of which is from only nine common species) were collected from 51 different species.

While many parts of the NP have a varied and healthy collection of native forbs, other places do not–the southern border area, along the NE border, west of the stream, etc., and most areas would benefit from a greater diversity of native species. Relatively speaking we are deficient in spring and woodland grasses & forbs..

Old age and high winds took their toll of a number of trees this year, including two big, dead cottonwoods this fall. There were ≈1,000 trees on site after the rebuild, so the tree falls we are seeing are probably to be expected. Of course, the fallen trees are still in their early years of their contribution to the health of our ecosystem.

We fought a continuing battle against a great variety of invasive plant species–some of which are under reasonable control, but there are new-comers: including Siberian stars; greater celandine and butterweed. Rumors that the Japanese knotweed is gone are doubtful. We eliminated much of the Black Knot fungus on the chock cherry trees and will try to ‘get the rest’ this winter. 

A controlled burn did not occur during the fall, but we are hopeful that one will occur in the spring. This should set-back or eliminate some invasive species, accelerate the development of the spring flora and promote germination of our seeds.

The NP served as a deer nursery for much of the summer, with three does giving birth to five, hungry fawns. Besides defoliating all the tree and shrub branches within reach, they browsed many of the forbs (including the vines along Wester Ave.)–that hadn’t occurred significantly in the past. They seem to have exterminated the horsemint (Monarda punctata, a good pioneer plant, from the NP and perhaps others. 

The new signage seems to have limited some of the off-trail walking. We will probably implement a similar project this year.

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