|Large oaks in the open space|
The Klapik property is series of hayfields and woods located in the southeastern part of town, just south of Long Hill School. Many deer, turkey, and coyote are seen in the hayfields, which provide abundant summertime forage, while the woods provide acorns that allow deer and other animals to fatten up for the winter. The woods are full of oak, hickory, ash, birch, maple, and beech trees. The deep shade and oak leaf litter create difficult growing conditions for many plants, so it can be assumed that plants grow slowly under these conditions and are less able to tolerate deer browsing.
Six plots were inventoried, one every 200 feet in an east-west transect across the wood part of the open space. Each plot was 30'x30'. Of special interest were tree saplings above 12" and below 7' (those vulnerable to browsing).
|Plot locations. Laurel Wood Drive is at the bottom|
Plots 1-5 each contained between 2 and 12 beech saplings between the height of 12" and 7 feet, and no other tree species. Many of the beech had been browsed, which is not usually seen. Plot #6, located near the edge of the hayfield, had more diversity overall and had one beech (browsed), one black cherry (browsed), and one birch.
As for shrubs and wildflowers, there is only very sparse cover by a small number of deer resistant plants, such as mountain laurel and Canada mayflower. Most of the forest floor is not vegetated, and woods are very open and easy to see through and walk through.
|Plot #1: Note the browse line about 4 feet up|
|Plot #2. Again, very brown below a level of 4 feet (the browse line).|
|Plot#3 - More brown than green|
|Plot #4. A large beech in the center has toppled and nearly all the green below 4 ft is |
comprised of beech shoots, likely from the roots of the fallen tree.
|Plot #5 - lots of brown|
|Plot #6, looking much greener due to additional moisture and light as well as the |
presence of thorny plant like Japanese barberry
|Although the first five plots looked pretty barren, upon a close examination, I did find a few vulnerable plant species hanging on. For example, there was a tiny 4" maple-leaf viburnum in Plot #2 that showed signs of repeated browsing. This shrub is more often three or four feet high with white flowers and dark blue berries that people often notice along the trails at Shelton Lakes. Here in the Long Hill open space all I could find was a rare sprig a few inches high.|
|Browsed 4" Maple-Leaf Viburnum shrub, normally several feet tall|
And there was the Pink Lady Slipper in Plot #1, chewed up but surviving. At Shelton Lakes, we see the blooms nipped off (which prevents them from reproducing), but we don't see the leaves being eaten.
|Browsed Pink Lady Slipper|
|Browse damage - Highbush Blueberry|
|Canada mayflower was found in every plot|
|Browsed beech, which is a "starvation food."|
The future: Because tree saplings are not able to survive, eventually, the taller and older oaks will reach the end of their lifespan or be toppled in a storm, and the forest will be dominated by the younger birch and beech trees which now grow alongside the oaks. The loss of acorns will have profound impacts on wildlife. Birch and beech will likely dominant the forest for some time, but eventually the birch, which is not reproducing currently, will be lost as well, and only beech will be left.