Keep your eyes open for some exciting additions to the Mason Deciduous Woods coming this spring. Thanks to a native pollinator grant from Pheasants Forever, we’ll be bringing a variety of native woodland wildflower species to our deciduous woods.
For most of the time since the original planting of the deciduous woods more than 40 years ago, the tree canopy has been too sparse to create enough shade for the forest floor to sustain native woodland wildflowers. In recent years, however, the trees have reached maturity and are casting enough shade on the forest floor to create a suitable environment for these wildflowers.
A few species of native wildflowers like bloodroot and Virginia waterleaf have shown up on their own over the past several years, but there are many like wild columbine, wild ginger, jack-in-the-pulpit, etc. that are ready to be introduced.
Given enough time, Mother Nature working on her own would eventually bring many of these species to the forest floor. This project will help foster the natural process of ecological succession by creating colonizer pockets of these native wildflowers. These colonies will then serve as the seed sources to allow these plants to spread and find their various niches throughout the deciduous woods over time.
About a half-dozen different areas throughout the woods have been chosen as the locations for these wildflower colonies. The areas were chosen based on their suitable light environments, their general lack of competing plant species, as well as their proximity to the walking trail so visitors can enjoy them.
This spring, in early May, we will be working with Gustavus students and area elementary students to not only plant these species in the woods, but also learn about them and their importance in the deciduous woodland ecosystem. Signage may also be created to help visitors learn about the project and to help identify the plants as they grow.
So be watching for these beautiful plants this spring and for many years to come.
Scott Moeller, Naturalist and Director