Managing Your Woodlot

Benefits of Your Woodlot

Homeowners with wild wooded space on their properties have good opportunities to spot birds and mammals. We can breathe deeply where tree leaves filter particulate matter and absorb carbon dioxide. These same trees give us seasonal beauty while cooling our local environment. Woodlots reduce noise level in a neighborhood and improve water quality in ponds and streams.

Structure of a Woodlot

  • Tall trees provide the shade canopy that determines how much light reaches the layers below. Many bird species that require tall trees time their nesting when emerging leaf caterpillars are abundant to feed the young.
  • Emerging trees may eventually replace larger declining canopy trees due to wind fall, disease and other factors. In a healthy woodlot these may be of the same species as the canopy trees. These emerging tree species may range from small oak seedlings to large saplings with a height just beneath the mature canopy.
  • Shrubs are the bushy woody plants provide important habitat for many bird and insect species. Flowering shrubs including dogwoods, elderberry, highbush cranberry and currant bushes provide food for pollinators and berries for many bird species.
  • A ground layer of ferns, sedges and wildflowers holds the soil and covers the ground.
  • Tree snags sustain many wildlife species for food and nest sites including woodpeckers and other birds, raccoons, bats, etc. Cavities may provide nesting sites for squirrels, raccoons and screech owls.
  • Logs are habitat for invertebrates which become food for many other creatures. Fallen logs also help maintain moisture on the ground.

How to Take Care of Your Woodlot

Unfortunately most woods in our area are dominated by the dense shade of buckthorn stands which inhibits the growth of most other plants in the emerging tree, shrub, and ground layers. On the other hand, wherever the sun penetrates along the edges of the woods, there is hope for oak seedlings when buckthorn is removed and the seedlings are caged from deer browsing. Also, flowering shrubs such as flowering plum may get the sunlight needed to grow flowers and fruit along the woodland edge.

  1. The 1st step is to determine your goals. For instance, do you wish to improve habitat for wildlife or remove invasive plants? Sometimes accomplishing one goal helps achieve another.
  2. Make a quick inventory of your woodlot. Do you have several different kinds of large trees? Does you have a shrub layer?
    1. Identify the tree species.  Typical native tree species in Maplewood woods include oaks, black cherry, box elder on upland sites. Cottonwood, elm, silver maple and willows on wetter sites.
    2. Look for problem species, including buckthorn, garlic mustard and other invasives.
  3. Remove invasive plants.
  4. Plant desirable trees and shrubs, then protect them from deer and rabbits.

Identifying Native & Non-Native Plants in Your Woodlot

Native plants in your woodlot have co-evolved for thousands of years with the native animals. Plants from other parts of the world can establish and become a problem in your woodlot because the predators they co-evolved with and keep them in check in their originating areas are not here. The non-native plants can become very aggressive and out-compete your native trees and wildflowers, resulting in a woodlot with low diversity in its plant and animal life.

Maplewood Nature Center has resources to help you learn which plants are desirable for a healthy woodlot, and which are not. Information is also available on best practices for controlling invasive species and for restoring your woodlot.

For online help in recognizing native non-woody plants, visit Minnesota Wildflowers.

Controlling Invasive Plants in Your Woodlot

There are many ways to control invasive species, and these techniques can vary with the age of the plant and the season of the year. Learn more about which species can become invasive in your woodlot and how they can be controlled.