ENTS, and perhaps special attention for Don:
There is a 20 acre, or so, woodland at what I have been calling the Virginia Arboretum. Perhaps the official name, as required by the conditions set by the original donator of the land, is the Blandy Experimental Farm. The property is owned by the University of VA. It is along Route 50, about 10 miles east of Winchester, VA. I have posted some pictures from this place two or three times in the past, including some of the Norway spruce, and a few from the woodland in question.
This woodland is in terrible shape, but has great potential because of the wonderful soils. It is all class II forest soil, except for one patch which is something very, very rare around here, a class I upland soil.
OK, sorry for the long prologue. This forest is in desperate need of restoration. It is choked with vines, mostly bittersweet, but also evergreen ivy in some portions, and just a bit of Japanese honeysuckle. The deer population is massive, so the understory is mostly spicebush. There is no reproduction of any native trees to speak of.
The forest is a typical oak--hickory type, with black oak the most common tree. Upwards of 30% of the black oak are dead and more are dying, I assume from oak wilt disease, but I have done no diagnosis. Next to the black oak, white oaks are the most common large tree. Many of these are beautifually well-formed and vigorous trees--they are a real treasure here. There are a few--very few northern red oaks--and a very few scarlet oaks. There are a lot of hickory, but not very many of these are in the upper canopy. Most of the smaller ones have been ruined by having their crowns pulled down or distorted by the bittersweet vines.
I have been doing a volunteer project this winter to cut the vines from the better trees. The bittersweet in some cases is all the way to the top of some of the trees, shading a large portion of the crowns, On a great many it is up as high as 100 feet in trees 110 to 120 feet tall.
Where the bittersweet and the ivy are not high up in the trees, they cover the ground and are all entangled with the spice bush. In some places it is hard to walk through this mess. There are few if any native plants on the forest floor.
So here, finally, is my question? What can be done, if anything, to fundamentally restore this woodland? My project is protecting the great trees. Is there a way, and/or a preferred way to restore this woodland. I would like to make a proposal to the Arboretum's director, but I have no idea what to propose. Any ideas? Or any ideas where I could find an expert to advise me?
I would hate to see the surface scraped by heavy machinery in an attempt to remove the exotic species. Would spraying by roundup be a way to clear out the understory so things can start over? Or what?? It is hard to imagine that work by hand to dig out or pull out the offending plants would be possible. The labor involved would be incredibly huge, or so I would imagine. If the noxious plants could be removed, then some planting could be done in the openings, with the planted trees protected by wire cages. Of course if deer could be excluded, natural reproduction could take hold.
Well, any help here would be much appreciated. This woodland could be an absolute treasure. There is very little woodland preserved in any fashion whatsoever around here, and this site is absolutely tops for soil.