Harriet Wetherill Park Restoration

Colonial Canopy Trees has worked at Harriet Wetherill Park since 2020 to remove invasive species, plant natives, and enhance the local ecosystem.

Our most recent project includes removing several Norway maples (Acer platanoides) from a wooded section at the center of the park (in yellow).

Norway maple is a non-native, invasive tree species in our area. It is native to Europe and Western Asia, but it was brought to the United States several hundred years ago as a shade tree. It has since escaped cultivation many times and ends up in our natural areas, green spaces and parks, like at Harriet Wetherill.

Norway maple outcompetes our native trees and plants and is capable of forming rather dense stands. Its large leaves cast dense shade on the forest floor, preventing native seed germination and shading out native herbaceous plants.

The tree is essentially useless to our insects, birds, mammals, and other wildlife because they did not evolve to use the tree as a food source. Conversely, our native maples such as red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (Acer saccharum), boxelder (A. negundo) and silver maple (A. saccharinum) support hundreds of species of butterflies, moths, birds, and more.

We identified this stand of Norway maples and thought it would be a great site for some restoration work because:

  1. We hypothesize that this small forest fragment could be considered “old growth.” It likely was not cut down, logged or disturbed over at least the last 100 years. Using Historical Aerial photography dating back to 1948, this section of forest continuously contained a canopy of mature trees from at least 1948 – 2023. This fragment of forest remained while most of the surrounding land was farmed, likely because the rocky outcropping of the forest floor likely proved to be too difficult to farm on or to work with. Many of the large trees likely date back to at least the late 1800s. A forest fragment like this is very rare for our area and is worthy of preservation.
  2. It consists of mostly valuable native species like huge white oaks, red oaks, mockernut hickory, pignut hickory, black oak, black gum, and black cherry. The understory consists of some unique herbaceous plants, spring ephemerals and locally-rare woodies like American prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) and blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium). This may be the only site in Plymouth Meeting and surrounding municipalities where some of these plants grow wild.
  3. Most of the Norway maples are still small enough for us to cut them down without having to hire a tree crew. In other words, they’re small enough to fell and drop on site. In a few years, they may be too large for us to handle, and a lack of funds would prohibit this restoration work.
  4. The Norway maples are dense and concentrated in this area. Eliminating them here will prevent them from spreading further into the forest.

1948 aerial imagery shows a mature forest fragment. Trees seen here are likely already at least 50 years old.

In 1959, the trees remained, as some additional buffers were left to grow back.

Our Plan:

  1. Winter 2023 – Cut down as many of the Norway maples as we can. Paint organic herbicide directly on the stumps to prevent resprouting. Identify planting locations to replant with native species.
  2. Spring 2023 – Remove any resprouts from the stumps, and pull any seedlings from mature Norway maples. Plant native replacement trees.
  3. Summer 2023 – Monitor plantings and water new trees until they are established. Continue removing invasive species in the area such as Japanese honeysuckle, oriental bittersweet, privets and more.
  4. Fall 2023 – Re-evaluate first year success/failures and adjust goals or objectives, if necessary.

How can you help?

  1. Volunteer with us at Harriet Wetherill Park! The best way to be notified is to join our mailing list by visiting our homepage and entering your email address into the field at the bottom of the page.
  2. Donate to us by visiting our Donate page! All funds will be used to purchase native plants, fencing, supplies and tools.
  3. Learn about the invasive species present at the park. If you have any invasives on your property, consider removing them and replacing them with native species!

What else have we done at HWP?

We’ve planted over 50 trees at HWP in the last two years including along the walking path, along the stream, near the butterfly meadow, and in the aforementioned forested section. Some of these trees were purchased by Plymouth Township through our organization, and others were purchased by donations made to us. Additionally, we’ve removed countless invasive plants, mostly from this forested area. Lastly, we’ve worked closely with Plymouth Township to reduce mowing in some areas. Visit our Current Projects page to learn more about each of these items!

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