A day in the woods

Pine Woods
Pine Woods


I took a long walk in my woods yesterday. The weather was warm and foggy making it a perfect January day to be outside for hours. I was looking for sites in the woods where I might plant white pine seedlings. White pine was once very common in the forests of northern Minnesota. But following settlement in the 1800’s and the destructive logging, fires, and grazing that went with it white pine forests have become scarce. In the western section of my woods, which measures about 45 acres, there are nine or so mature white pines. Over the years I have counted 10 old fire charred pine stumps here. These stumps, the standing trees, and other evidence have given me reason to think that restoring white pine to these woods is possible.

The upland woods are at present a mixture of aspen, birch, with many dead and dying balsam fir and white spruce. Many of the trees have fallen over or blown down in storms. This has created a large sunny opening where white pine might be planted.

The next step is to delineate this area of blown down fir and spruce. I can then estimate how many trees could be planted and where. I am not interested in making a plantation but rather want to encourage a return of a native plant community.

The restoration of white pine to these woods is part of a larger plan to protect headwater wetlands and streams. These wetlands and streams are within a watershed that is one source of water for an inland lake that supports cisco, a fish that must have clean cold water to thrive. I am concerned with the ecological integrity of wetlands on my own land and protecting them from excessive runoff and extreme temperature fluctuations. By encouraging regrowth of long-lived species like white pine this may be possible.

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