Celery Farm Habitat Restoration

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Over the years the vegetation in the Celery Farm has changed with the proliferation of invasive species crowding out the native plants, reducing the wildlife diversity that depends on the insects and other animals that eat the native plants. Consequently, our active intervention is necessary to preserve the Celery Farm as habitat for many native species. This ongoing work is done by Fyke volunteers who are the stewards of the preserve.

The Celery Farm soil has a high organic content and the pH is in the ideal range for native plants, something to be expected in a place that was a working farm in the 1950s and which has been confirmed by this Rutgers Soil Report.

Current Projects


East Side Trail and Meadow Lane

The area between Meadow Lane and Lake Appert is scheduled to be cleared of invasive vines and shrubs, including both sides of the East Side Trail and along the Allendale Brook. The work will be done in annual stages with initial work clearing beginning this winter and beginning replanting with native species in the spring, then continued with follow-up maintenance work in the summer through fall and ending with a site assessment of the following year's needs.

Through careful planning and execution, the Celery Farm land between Meadow Lane Road and Lake Appert can be restored over time. In the coming years it can be part of a beautiful native ecosystem that gives new meaning to the idea of biodiversity at Celery Farm, as we manage a gradual rehabilitation over the next few years.

Butterfly Garden Meadow

The large meadow area next to the Pauline Oxnard Butterfly Garden is overrun with bittersweet and porcelain berry vines and other invasive species. A 30 x 30 plot has been cleared and tilled in preparation for planting to make this area an attractive butterfly-friendly pollinator meadow. Phragmites reeds, an invasive species, have been cut from elsewhere in the Celery Farm and repurposed, placing them on the tilled area to protect it over the winter. Burning bush branches, another invasive, have been placed on top to secure the phragmites cover. In the spring of 2024 a volunteer team will plant 600 seedlings, including milkweed, purple coneflower, liatris, blue aster, and several native grasses.

As it matures over the next 3 years, this pollinator meadow will establish vital native wildflower habitats for endangered butterfly and bee populations, provide food sources and nesting sites for birds and improve plant biodiversity in the Celery Farm Nature Preserve.

Phragmites

The invasive phragmites reeds that dominate the margin of Lake Appert have been an ongoing problem at Celery Farm. The frozen ground in winter provides an opportunity to cut down the phragmites. The volunteers who cleared the area along the trail from the No Name culvert south to the observation bench worked very carefully, removing and enclosing the phragmites seed heads first, to prevent the seeds from dispersing. Then the Phragmites were used to provide winter insulation for the new Butterfly pollinator meadow site. The aim going forwards is to cut the phragmites in late July before it sprouts seed heads, thereby weakening them over a number of years.

This is part of a long term plan to first try and stop the spread of the phragmites, and then use cattail seeds and select tall native plants to try and compete with Phragmites.

Autumn Olive Removal

Autumn olive is a deciduous shrub native to Asia that has spread as an invasive species throughout the United States.

Autumn olive is a problem because it outcompetes and displaces native plants. It does this by shading them out and by changing the chemistry of the soil around it, a process called allelopathy. Loss of native vegetation can have cascading effects throughout an ecosystem.

Fyke volunteers removed many hundreds of Autumn Olive shrubs including roots, this past fall from beside Phair’s Pond and along the Allendale Brook.

Some of the invasive material was recycled and used to make neatly stacked piles of cut branches creating small bird habitat structures. This project required dozens of work sessions over several months. A large area to the north of the Pirie-Mayhood Tower is now open space except for a dozen native dogwoods that were struggling to survive amongst the mass of invasives.

This project will be followed-up with replanting the area with native plants beginning in the Spring.