|Dandelion, a common weed.|
From these examples you can see that a plant's context is what makes them a weed and their weediness usually stands in our way of achieving a goal. For example, the gardener is trying to raise some food for her family. Garden=context. Food=goal. Weeds=reduce food production. Once there is a context and a goal is set, weeds take form. Once a person builds a garden and is committed to growing some food, plants like lady's thumb and sorrel automatically become the weeds, simply because these plants grow quickly in full sun and can crowd out our vegetables. It really has nothing to do with the plants themselves, their weediness is simply a result of our decision to keep a garden. No gardens, no weeds. Simple.
|The mandala garden at the Armstrong House Education Center, where we get our fair share of weeds growing among the desirable vegetables and herbs.|
Lets think bigger than our backyard garden. What are our goals for Pound Ridge's land? Once we set some town wide goals, our town wide weeds will take form. Believe it or not, conservation is a bit like gardening. Conservationists, just like gardeners, decide what we want to remove from the land, what we want to keep on the land and how we want the land to appear/ work. Of course, its easier to control your backyard garden than something huge and complex like a forest or a watershed, but the principle is identical. Gardeners and conservationists follow the same process: we identify our context, set our goals and manage our weeds.
So I'll ask you again, what are our goals for the garden of Pound Ridge?
It is safe to say that the people of Pound Ridge have at least one common goal: forests. People move here because of our beautiful trees. Our forests are pleasing to look at, give our homes privacy, provide us with shade in the summer, keep our soil in place, provide food and shelter for hundreds of forests critters and dazzle our eyes in the fall with their colors. Honestly, our honorary membership in Southern New England would be revoked if we didn't have such forests – the New England states would simply laugh us off stage. Beyond all these reasons, we must admit that there is something magical about forests that touch our soul. Can we all agree, then, that we like our forests?
|An artsy photograph I took of a forest in Pound Ridge, NY. We surely love our trees around here.|
So back to our formula. Context= Pound Ridge. Goal= a forest full of trees. Weed=?
This is easy. The greatest threat to our trees is the cute and fuzzy white tailed deer, period. At their current density, virtually ZERO NEW TREES are being recruited into the forest. Sure, we have trees now (fewer by the storm, mind you) but we will have less in twenty years, far fewer in fifty years and in one hundred years Pound Ridge will be hanging onto its forested past via a few giants. Good bye New England, hello NY metro.
|A white tailed deer browsing a tree branch|
What will our future landscape look like?
In general, the forest will grow older and older and without new recruits, we will see a large gap in the age demographics of the trees. The youngest trees we have now (roughly 10-15 years old), will always be the forest's youngest trees. Therefore, in 50 years, the youngest trees will be 65 years old, standing over an understory that is open, bare, and sparsely vegetated. Instead of an understory of native trees, we will have extensive shrub thickets of deer resistant invasive plants (Japanese barberry, wine berry, multiflora rose) under an aging canopy.
What's the gardener to do?
As conservationist/gardeners we have to decide what we want our landscape to look like in 20, 50 and 100 years. Once we set our goals, lets get to work managing our weeds. I, for one, vote for trees.
If you are new to this white tail deer conversation, there are plenty of resources to become acquainted with. See below. If you are a veteran of this conversation, what are you doing to grow more trees? I currently have 40 young trees growing in a small nursery at the Armstrong House Education Center. Soon I'll have 60. In addition to planting native trees, maybe we should come together as a town and do something about our deer. These weeds are certainly within our power to manage.
Deer related resources:
Background ecological information
Local conservation groups measuring the effect of deer on plants
Deer hunting in Pound Ridge, NY
Conversations about effective control measures