How it began

The WillowRidge community was established in the early 2000's with approximately 3.5 acres designated as natural space for runoff and flood control with a small canal running through it. The space consisted mostly of native hackberry, Osage orange and honey locust with the usual native fauna and flora expected for the region. Over time and left to its own devices, the area was overtaken by bush honeysuckle and the tree line appeared to fall into decline. Neighbors became concerned about overhanging trees and shrubbery encroaching on the sidewalk so the HOA cleared the perimeter and chemically treated to kill the native grasses. Turf grass was planted with partial success leaving shady areas muddy and bare.

I moved into a townhouse property adjacent and overlooking the natural space in the spring of 2004 and enjoyed the natural area without much understanding of the ecology for many years. Over time, I became concerned by the loss of tree line and natural fauna and disappointed by the lack of flowers and color. In the summer of 2018, I went to a seminar highlighting the importance of native plants to our ecosystem, the harm associated with the loss of native land and the negative impact of this loss on our pollinators. It occurred to me that this unused and neglected land could provide an important reservoir for native species to support our pollinators and reduce global warming. I approached the HOA with a plan and they were extremely receptive to the idea. They granted their permission to remediate and manage the space with some financial support for the project. Their support was conditioned on the incorporation of some larger, more impactful plantings for immediate benefit to the community. This was accomplished by planting 3 black gum (Wildfire) and 4 serviceberry (Autumn Brilliance) at a central location along the walking path in the spring of 2019. Unfortunately, one of the three black gum was killed by a rutting deer in the summer of 2020.

My focused remediation efforts began with the major items listed below including the plant count, dates planted, and sources of each planting:

Black Walnut (10) tree seedlings 3/16/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Nutall Oak (10) tree seedling 3/16/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Spicebush (10) seedling 3/16/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Black Gum tree (10) seedling 4/19/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Redbud tree (25) seedling 4/21/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Ninebark bush (10) seedling 4/21/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Button bush (10) seedling 4/21/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Black Chokeberry (1) plant 4/21/2019 Missouri Wildflower Nursery
Mixed Hickory (10) seedling 4/26/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Chinkapin Oak (10) seedling 4/26/2019 Mo Dept of Conservation
Bald Cypress (2) seedling 4/26/2019 KS Forestry Service
Paw Paw (4) seedling 4/26/2019 KS Forestry Service
White Oak (3) seedling 4/26/2019 KS Forestry Service
Shumard Oak (3) seedling 4/26/2019 KS Forestry Service
Elderberry (2) seedling 4/26/2019 KS Forestry Service

The Monarch Butterfly & Honey Bee Seed Mix from Buffalo Brand Sharp Brothers Seed Company was also cast into an open area along the walking path on 3/16/2019.

This initial effort was not very successful. Most of the seedlings did take root but they were heavily grazed by deer - especially the bald cypress. The planting strategy was also flawed with too many isolated seedlings planted in the tree line and shaded out by honeysuckle. The fall of 2019 was the first mitigation effort to clear honeysuckle from the west end of the area which was followed by a more extensive effort in the fall of 2020. The planting strategy was changed to better target the growing conditions, planting like plants together in well-marked clusters for monitoring and in the hopes that similar root systems will support each other. That effort proved to be more successful.

Posted by ann223 ann223, February 25, 2021 14:54

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