Bringing Home the Woods by Jack Walsh

(originally published in June 2000 newsletter)

What are the qualities of the woods that draw us back time and again? What greatest satisfaction is received by the sojourner amongst its treasures, whether it be spring or fall, winter or summer? Though the reflective woods frequenter may answer these questions in a variety of ways, including by allusion to its visual splendor, quietness or nerve soothing safety from being run over or asphyxiated by motor vehicles; my vote goes to the joy of witnessing the various species of plant and wildlife he or she may happen upon along the way. For it is here in the woods that the symbiotic relationship between plant and animal results in the healthy population of each, with a resulting reward of observation for the human observer.

A walk within the Lynn Woods this spring readily illustrates the salubrious effect of our recent wet weather upon the plant and animal kingdoms. The new growth is dense and luxurious wherever one's eyes alight, and the plants along a trail look a year older the following week. This banner year of burgeoning plant growth has also contributed to the mystery of the place, where one's imagination takes more license in dense, impenetrable growth. Indeed, there is more reason to imagine what hides out of our vision as we walk along. This lush growth feeds the herbivores of the animal world and makes the setting more attractive to the carnivore.

Of course, the lover of nature and observer of wildlife have other alternatives than traveling to the woods to fulfill their passion. One often overlooked alternative is to create a wildlife habitat in one's own backyard by gardening for wildlife. By simply investigating the needs of wildlife and planting to accommodate them, the average homeowner can exponentially increase wildlife visits to his yard.

There are a few simple but important rules in creating a wildlife habitat that will supply the all-important food and shelter needed by our wild cousins. The first rule is to cut back on the size of the lawn. Although large sweeps of closely cut grass have long been considered desirable and a mark of middle class success, it has all the while been at the cost of the health of our native animal population. Thankfully, this practice is falling out of vogue and, especially in affluent areas, folks are precipitously cutting back on the size of their lawns and beginning to bring the woods back home.

The second rule in creating a wildlife garden is to plant only native species. The animals and insects of our native northeast have evolved alongside the native plant species. Birds, reptiles, and mammals have traditional relationships with native plants, and can actually suffer from starvation in the midst of thick pockets of alien growth. And this is a particular problem in suburban towns where homeowners are purchasing exotic species without regard for whether that beautiful plant will be further adorned by our native butterflies, birds, and reptiles. Species like the Norway Maple tree or Winged Euonymous shrub should be diligently avoided and extirpated wherever found in your potential garden. Instead, plant the more beautiful sugar maple or an oak, along with a spicebush or native viburnum.

For many, the magic of a walk through the woods is the potential for seeing a fascinating bird or animal. Think of the increased potential our own neighborhoods would enjoy if many of us began to enthusiastically and judiciously invite wildlife into our neighborhoods through enticing native plantings on our own properties. Be the initiator of this behavior in your own neighborhood and allow your success to convince your neighbors. Illustrate for them the ability of bringing a wonder of the woods to your own backyard!

See Also

Articles

Change and the Woods

Divinity and the Woods

Holiday Greeting

Lions and Pirates and Caterpillars, oh my!

Lynn Woods Reflections

Minutes from SSSP

Old Names in Lynn Woods

Stay Tuned: Arbor Day

Stay Tuned: Dungeon Rock

Stay Tuned: Houghton Horticultural Societ

Stay Tuned: Odd Fellows Hall

The end of an error!

The Vernal Pools of Lynn Woods

What Exactly is a Weetamoo?

Where Did It Come From?

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