Swampscott plants a microforest – Itemlive : Itemlive

Suzanne Hale leads a group from Swampscott Conservancy as they plant a microforest at the intersection of Walker and Paradise roads on Tuesday. (Spenser Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT – Conservancy volunteers have finished planting nearly 600 seedlings that will grow into a microforest at the intersection of Walker and Paradise Roads, on the northern edge of historic Olmsted.

“It’s wonderful to see people roll up their sleeves and contribute to these types of investments,” said City Manager Sean Fitzgerald.

He said the microforest will give the intersection a sense of place and serve as a reminder of Frederick Olmsted’s contribution to the city’s green spaces.

The project was initiated by Swampscott Conservancy member Suzanne Hale, who was inspired by an urban micro-forest at Danehy Park in North Cambridge.

“I thought it would be a great idea in our town, we just needed to identify the right space for it,” said Hale, who calls himself a career volunteer.

The Swampscott Tree Committee helped Hale identify space that might be suitable for a microforest – a parcel of city-owned land at the intersection of Walker and Paradise Roads. Symbolically, the plot is at the northern entrance to the historic district of Olmsted, marked with a respective sign.

Hale asked the city to use the land as part of the Adopt-an-Island program.

“I would like to put a forest there,” Hale told the city.

The city agreed to finance the purchase of plant material.

“This island hasn’t been maintained for years,” said Gino Cresta, director of the Department of Public Works, adding that the city was paying a contractor to cut the grass on this land.

Hale did a lot of research on native species that would work for Swampscott’s habitat and grow well on dry rocky ground.

The microforest concept features dense planting, biodiversity, native species and a multi-layered design to recreate the complexity of a native forest. Microforests mimic the regrowth of a forest after a fire, for example, Hale said, when plants almost help each other grow faster and denser.

Some of the plants she selected for the Swampscott Microforest include chinkapin oak, American hazelnut, red mulberry, dogwood, and wild black cherry.

“By year three, we should see a real big difference,” Hale said.

Hale also thought about buying the seedlings at a reasonable price. She ended up buying nearly 600 plants from the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery and Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association seedling program for under $700.

About 15 city volunteers helped Hale plant all the seedlings in less than a week. The DPW used their machines to turn the soil and promised to water the microforest.

“We expect deaths,” Hale said. “But after the first year, it shouldn’t require any further work.”

Hale also plans to put a pollinator garden at the front of the microforest.

“The species we planted should provide intense biodiversity to this specific area,” Hale said.

Some plants will harbor caterpillars that will turn into butterflies or moths. Others, such as beach plum, black aronia or hazelnuts, can provide food for birds and small mammals.

The city will benefit from having a microforest in many ways, Hale said. First, it will sequester carbon.

“While getting to net zero in the city around emissions is very important, the flip side is making sure we’re also sequestering carbon,” she said.

Besides purifying the air, tree roots provide better stormwater management than grass. Native plants have much more dynamic root systems, which handle much more water.

The microforest will also provide some privacy for neighbors on Walker Road.

“It’s a great idea,” Cresta said. “We need more trees.”

The Tree Committee and DPW are also planting 40 trees across the city this spring, Cresta said.

Alena Kuzub can be contacted at alena@itemlive.com.

About Charles Holmes

Check Also

11,000 potted plants destroyed in 2 raids – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Police use a Kubota tractor to destroy cannabis during a raid in the Eagle Point …