Woodland Remnants

May 11, 2011

Spring in Wisconsin is glorious, but until you have seen a woodland remnant, you have no idea what we have lost.

A “remnant” in ecology is a word that means a site that has remained undisturbed or minimally disturbed since pre-European settlement.

How many species can you see in this small area?

An area can be developed and still have some remnant sites.  When I moved to Lake Geneva (again) 14 years ago, I lived in a small subdivision that had been developed in the forties and fifties.   Many lots in the heavily wooded subdivision were empty of structures, undisturbed.  The native stands of oaks and hickories lorded over a woodland floor that included claytonia virginica, geranium maculatum, and Mayapple.


Trillium recurvatum, which goes by the colorful common name of bloody butcher, carpeted the floor in spring.

Dutchman’s Breeches

While I lived there, sewer and water lines were put in, raising property values like mad.

Woodland Floor

Every vacant property sold, was cleared, and now contains a crappy new house and a weed free lawn.

The Bloody Butcher

I watched as garlic mustard, an invasive European biennial, swept through the subdivision to become the dominant species in the few remaining wooded areas.


One of my neighbors where I now live has a tiny little A-frame on an amazingly beautiful 5 acre remnant.


When I first saw it 5 years ago, it was nearly pristine.  All of the pictures in this essay were taken there.  Now it, too, is threatened by garlic mustard.  Woodlands are frustratingly hard to photograph well, even with a patient helper.

The Woodland

I am working on an article that will be all about how to identify and manage garlic mustard. I hope to post soon. My landscaping company can help you preserve or restore your own woodland remnant.  Help over the phone is  always free.

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Give us a call at 262/248-7513 if you need help with your landscape in the Lake Geneva area.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

SJ May 27, 2011 at 12:18 am

I love woodlands. They are my favorite spaces and agree with above poster that incorporating as many woodland natives into shade gardens is the best.

I have been lucky enough to manage a couple of properties that adjoin each other with some remnants. It is amazing what has been lying dormant for decades suddenly appears when you clear out the buckthorn & garlic mustard.

Sometimes I wait to pull the garlic mustard when it is full flower as the root system is very week at that point since the energy is being put into the flowers instead. At that point I don’t even half to use a tool but come out by hand very easily.


Danniel May 28, 2011 at 4:55 pm

SJ, we manage garlic mustard very similarly-We hand-pull it in flower, before it goes to seed, and try to create minimal soil disturbance. We have manged a 17 acre woodland that was completely dominated by garlic mustard with a combination of carefully timed, expertly applied glyphosate applications, fire, and manual control. The first year we did manual control (3 years ago), it was about 100 hours of labor–this year, it will be about 15. It takes perseverance, but garlic mustard can be successfully managed and the results are encouraging.


stone May 21, 2011 at 12:40 am

Let me try listing the plants I saw in the pic where you asked how many types we saw…
solomon’s seal, hepatica,dutchmans breeches, may apple, merry bells,trout lilies
Not sure about the trout lilies, on a later picture, you called them claytonia…
I hope that you’ve gotten a plant rescue organized…. those woodland natives are invaluable… I build shade gardens…
With your interest, you should too.


Danniel May 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thanks for commenting. I will post more pictures of trout lilies and claytonia when I come up again for air!


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