Restoring oak forest gives way to a happy understory

Talahi Woods is an oak forest in Saint Cloud, adjacent to a recreational city park, with trails that open to a bluff view of the Mississippi River. The woods are owned by St. Cloud State University, often used as an outdoor classroom, as well as enjoyed by neighbors.

A few years ago, the university began a partnership with Great River Greening to help combat invasive buckthorn that had gotten very thick at Talahi. Last fall we mowed and mulched acres of the woody plant; this spring, we held the first volunteer restoration event, with St. Cloud state students and neighborhood groups coming out to help.

Staff ecologist, Becca Tucker, said the restoration is going exceptionally well. She was particularly encouraged by the healthy display of spring ephemeral plants emerging through the mulch, and shared her experience in a note to colleagues:

“Last fall, Talahi Woods was packed so tight with buckthorn, I could hardly see two feet off the trail. The forest was a maze of tight footpaths winding around claustrophobic wood. Buckthorn had won out for nutrients and light, over all others, and destroyed any chance for a diverse habitat.

Standing at the edge of the bluff, I could not tell there was a hill right next to me, and definitely couldn’t see the Mississippi, only a hundred feet away.

Once we cleared the buckthorn, I could see across practically the whole property. Still, this spring I expected to see weeds, like garlic mustard, that we often find in similar restorations. Instead, I found so many native, spring ephemerals – jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium, I had to work hard not to trip over the sheer numbers of native plants pushing their way through the buckthorn mulch!”

Partners and Funders: St. Cloud State University, South East St. Cloud Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, Connexus, and Outdoor Heritage Fund.