100-year plan to rebuild forests takes root in Delaware

HOCKESSIN, Delaware (WPVI) -- "We all rely on nature and I think that's something we forget about," said Nate Shampine. "And without trees, without these open habitats, without forests, we wouldn't have that clean air. We wouldn't have clean water."

Shampine is the Natural Lands Manager of the Mt. Cuba Center, a botanic garden home to native plants in Hockessin, Delaware. It was founded in the 1930s by the Copeland Family and expanded as a space where gardens could thrive. In 2013, it was opened to the public.

"We plant thousands of trees every year and it's one of our goals, is to reforest these old agricultural fields and build these core forests again," said Shampine.

Mt. Cuba Center has committed to planting 12,000 native trees and shrubs between 2015 and 2024. But that window of time is just a sliver in their 100-year-long reforestation experiment.

Staff designed six different strategies for building a forest. Some plots contain both trees and shrubs while others plant trees at different proximities to one another. With the data obtained, Mt. Cuba Center will be able to recommend a blueprint for the fastest, most effective way to build a forest from scratch.

A plot of land with trees planted in 2021 is directly adjacent to one planted in 2015. The results are night-and-day.

"This side over here was planted in 2015 and we already have a forest developing here," said Natural Lands Intern Lizzie Wilson. "So, it happens pretty quickly."

To learn more about the Mt. Cuba Center, visit their website.

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