Turning Lawn Back to Woodland

In early 2023, we were awarded funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) to convert 0.25 acres of mowed turf grass back to a native woodland at Fort Washington State Park’s Flourtown Day Use Area!

Our plan is to turn a portion of this grass field back to native woodland full of a diverse selection of native trees and shrubs. This area is a low-lying riparian zone along the Wissahickon Creek. Historically, Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) dominated the canopy here, until the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) caused their demise. There is a need for more trees to improve the riparian zone, provide more wildlife food and habitat, and to replace the dead Ash.

Improving the riparian zone is crucial to the health of our local waterways. Planting native trees and shrubs near a stream will reduce flooding by improving water infiltration into the soil, reduce streambank erosion and soil loss, and help clean the water by filtering out toxins. These plants will also sequester carbon dioxide, clean our air by filtering particulates, and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Trees and shrubs were planted on the current woodland edge. Notice the many standing dead Ash trees in the background. Here are more photos of the event! While we usually like to avoid planting in rows, these were planted in 3 long rows to facilitate maintenance and mowing.

What Did We Plant?

We focused on selecting a planting list for moist, lowland soils. We chose to plant 36 trees and 15 shrubs to get a diverse understory and canopy. Here’s our planting list:

Large Canopy Trees

2 Black WillowSalix nigra
2 American SycamorePlatanus occidentalis
2 Pin OakQuercus palutris
3 Swamp White OakQuercus bicolor
2 Willow OakQuercus phellos
2 Silver Maple Acer saccharinum
2 Red MapleAcer rubrum
2 Bitternut HickoryCarya cordiformis
2 Kentucky CoffeetreeGymnocladus dioicus
2 River BirchBetula nigra
2 Eastern CottonwoodPopulus deltoides
2 Tulip PoplarLiriodendron tulipifera
2 Black Gum Nyssa sylvatica
4 Baldcypress Taxodium distichum
3 American SweetgumLiquidambar styraciflua

Small Understory Trees

2 Smooth Alder Alnus serrulata
2 Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis

Understory Shrubs

2 Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis
1 Eastern NinebarkPhysocarpus opulifolius
2 SpicebushLindera benzoin
2 Red Osier Dogwood – Cornus sericea
2 Witchhazel – Hamamelis virginiana
1 Arrowwood Viburnum – Viburnum dentatum
2 BlackhawViburnum prunifolium
1 Fragrant SumacRhus aromatica

An interactive map of what we planted can be found here.

More about PA DCNR’s Lawn Conversion Program

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Lawn Conversion Program is available statewide and aims to support those who wish to convert excess acres of lawn to woodland or meadow. We received $1,500 to convert 0.25 acres for this project.

The department can provide technical assistance and resources, support partnership development and projects, and fund eligible plantings.

Many conservation partners are involved in these efforts, including non-profit organizations, local governments, and private landscape professionals; and there may be local assistance available.

Learn more about how you can get involved by clicking here.

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