Print this page


Posts categorized Volunteer.

Mariton: Band Aids for Chestnut Trees

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

American Chestnuts have issues. Since the early 1900’s a fungus that results in Chestnut Blight came to North America with Chinese Chestnut trees.  It infected and nearly wiped out American Chestnuts on this continent.  Some barely resisted the blight.  Some died, but continue to send up new shoots from old root stock.  Mariton is blessed with some of these so called stump sprouts that grow, get the blight, die, and then resprout.  These wild trees offer hope if they can survive long enough for humans to discover a way to combat the blight and return full grown American Chestnuts to our forests.

For the past several years I have been working with volunteers Mike and Kieu Manes, who are volunteers with the American Chestnut Foundation. We have planted chestnut seeds (and blight resistant hybrids) at Mariton.

Blight affecting a young chestnut sapling.

Recently we have been trying an experimental technique to fight blight on young saplings. We call it the band aid technique.  The theory uses the fact that the fungus that causes the blight cannot grow in soil.  We wrap the area where blight is starting with black plastic and then fill the wrapping with soil.  We seal up this band aid for 2 months and then remove it.  This “smothers” the fungus and the tree can keep growing blight free a little longer.

Mike Manes (l.) and Tom Levendusky (r.) performing the treatment.

We first performed this technique in 2015 on a shoot that was badly damaged by blight when we found it. The band aid did stop the blight, but the damage to the tree was too extensive, and it died last summer.  Last fall, I discovered that blight was just beginning on that sprout’s “twin” (they are both sprouting from the same stump, so genetically identical).  This week we put a band aid on the new sprout.  Stewardship Assistant, Tom Levendusky, helped out with the procedure.

Mike, Kieu and Tom with our latest experiment. The area by the shovel handle was treated in 2015.

We will know better in two months, but I am hoping we caught it early enough to extend this sapling’s life a few more years.

Mariton: American Chestnuts 2015

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Mike and Kieu Manes-chestnuts

American Chestnuts (Castanea dentata) got another boost at Mariton last week.  Volunteers Mike and Kieu Manes are dedicated chestnut enthusiasts who do a ton of work to reestablish the American Chestnut in our region.  I feel particularly honored that they appreciate our work at Natural Lands Trust, and have focused efforts on a few of our preserves, including Mariton.

Just to recap, the American Chestnut was the dominant tree in many of the forests in the eastern United States until it was brought to the brink of extinction by blight in the early 1900’s.  A fungus Cryphonectria parasitica, was introduced with nursery stock from Asia, where many Castanea species are adapted to the blight. Pre-blight, American Chestnuts were the backbone of many economies, especially in the southern Appalachian’s where the nuts were collected to feed both humans and livestock. The wood was ideal for railroad ties, utility poles, barn siding and even furniture. Besides its human uses, it was important to wildlife as the nuts fueled passenger pigeons, bears, deer, turkeys, squirrels, woodpeckers, etc. The flowers attracted lots of native pollinators, which in turn attracted birds. This species’ dominance in our forests is probably the result of Native American horticulture, which promoted the growth of certain useful species like chestnuts. The American Chestnut Foundation is dedicated to returning this species to our forests through a variety of experimental techniques.

Chestnut w/blight

One of our projects last week was an experimental bandage on an American chestnut in Mariton’s forest.  This tree may have re-sprouted from the roots of a tree affected by the blight over a hundred years ago.  It was doing pretty good, but we noticed signs of blight on the trunk last year.  Mike and Kieu researched an experimental technique to pack soil around the scarred area, which is then wrapped in plastic.  The idea is that microbes in the soil can battle the infection from the fungus and allow the tree to heal itself.  When we got together to apply the bandage, we realized that the blight had done more damage to the tree than we could see from the trail.  We may not be able to save this tree, but it is worth a try.  Fortunately, there are two more shoots on the same root that look healthy and that we will continue to monitor.

Chestnut blight bandage

We then planted about two dozen seeds.  Mike and Kieu spend many fall days collecting chestnut seeds (with permission) to send to State College for germination.   They keep a small percentage of what they collect to germinate and replant in the spring.  They collected nearly 100 nuts from Mariton’s trees (that were planted by Mariton’s founders, the Guerrero’s).  We planted several of these germinated seeds, as well as some 15/16ths highbreds.  We replaced the few seeds that didn’t survive last year’s planting, and expanded planting into new areas.

The Chestnut is an American classic, and I am really grateful for all of the Manes’ work in helping to re-establish this species in Mariton’s forest.

Mariton: Planting American Chestnuts

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Kieu and Mike Manes

Yesterday, Mike and Kieu Manes planted American Chestnuts at Mariton.  The Manes’ are active volunteers in The American Chestnut Foundation as well as the Appalachian Mountain Club.  Their hiking on The Trail led them to the discovery of American Chestnut trees, which led them to learn more about these trees and get involved.  Last fall I collected several nuts from the American Chestnut trees that the Guerrero’s planted here, and gave the seeds to Mike and Kieu to germinate.  They also brought seeds from two other sources.

Prepping the planting

We planted the seeds on one of the logging roads left over from cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy.  From the beginning, I’ve wanted to return these areas to wildlife habitat, rather than become trails for humans.  There is already some natural regeneration of tree seedlings, but we will augment that with some tree plantings, including these American Chestnuts.

A Baby Ready to Grow

After the first couple seeds, the three of us developed a system.  I went ahead, chose a site, broke up the soil with a shovel, and drove a stake for a protective tube.  Mike came behind and chose which strain should be planted there.  He labeled and set up the tubes for placement after the planting.  Then Kieu fine tuned the soil, planted the seed, and installed the tube.  These shorter tubes protect the seeds from squirrels, who would love to dig them up for food.  (Natural Lands Trust uses higher tubes on our big tree plantings to protect young trees from deer browsing.)  Later on, I’ll put protective fencing around tree seedlings to protect them from the deer.

American Chestnuts have an interesting history at Mariton, and it is neat that now we are part of that history.

Mariton: Garlic Mustard

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis) is blooming.  This is one flower that I hate to see.  It is an invasive plant that not only squeezes out other plants, but kills mycorrhizal fungi.  Soil mycorrhizae increases access to water and nutrients for many plants.  Some plants won’t grow or germinate without soil mycorrhizae.  So, not only can Garlic Mustard take over a forest floor by its prodigious seed dispersal, but it works underground to weaken and eliminate plants that depend on mycorrhizal fungi to survive.

At Mariton, we have been working for more than five years to control Garlic Mustard simply by pulling it out before it goes to seed.  This is one of the success stories.  It takes a lot of time, but we have greatly reduced the amount of Garlic Mustard growing at Mariton.  It has paid dividends.  I think the removal is one of the reasons that we are seeing wildflowers like the Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) expanding into new areas in the forest.

(Showy Orchis)

Saturday, April 28, you can help us pull Garlic Mustard between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.  Bring gloves.  Can’t make it then, but would like to help?  No problem.  This is a great project for someone wanting to spend some time on the trails.  Just let me know, and I will point you in the right direction.  Oh, and this is the one plant that you can collect at Mariton and take home.  Some people eat the flowers like broccoli and there are other recipes for Garlic Mustard.

Bear Creek Preserve Meet and Greet

Sunday, April 22
11:00 AM
Bear Creek Preserve, Buck Township, PA

Get to know Preserve Manager Joe Vinton, Bear Creek Preserve, and fellow conservationists. We will hike Bear Creek’s new trail and explore volunteer opportunities along the way. You will also learn about Natural Lands Trust’s exciting plans for Bear Creek Preserve and how YOU can get involved.

This event is free and open to the public. To register, please contact Preserve Manager Joe Vinton at or (570) 647-9175. Meet at Bear Creek Preserve’s driveway and parking area along Rt. 115. From the Village of Bear Creek at White Haven Rd and Rt. 115 intersection: travel 2.8 miles South along Rt. 115. Parking is on the right. From Blakeslee: travel 8.5 miles North along Rt 115. Parking is on the left (.5 miles North of Brother Shim’s Bar).

Youth Conservation Corps at Binky Lee Preserve

Over the past week, our Binky Lee Preserve manager, Darin Groff, had the pleasure of working with a group of 18 young adults on a number of preserve improvement projects. The volunteers came from all over the country and there was even a girl from France! They split up into six different groups, each headed by an experienced stewardship staff member, who they dubbed the “crew boss.”

These volunteers are part of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). This organization, founded by the National Park Service, sends kids between the ages of 15 and 18 to national parks and other nature preserves on weekly summer programs. While there, they work to help restore and protect the natural and historic resources of these natural areas. The volunteers reaped the benefits of working closely with our experts here at Natural Lands Trust, by learning some extremely valuable land stewardship skills.

While at the Binky Lee Preserve, these young adults had the opportunity to work on a number of projects. One major project was the cutting and controlling of invasive plants in the area. Invasive species can damage local ecosystems and habitats, while decreasing the number of native plants. Native plants are important to natural communities because they support beneficial pollinators, naturally clean ground water, and help to protect the land from floods. Not to mention, they help to increase the diversity of wildlife that visitors enjoy spotting on our preserves.

The volunteers at Binky Lee also power-washed equipment, edged and weeded gardens, and helped clean out the preserve’s barn. The amount of work the 18 kids completed in one day normally would have taken Darin and a fellow worker two weeks to complete! And for that, we thank them!



  • expand2017 (41)
  • expand2016 (141)
  • expand2015 (167)
  • expand2014 (197)
  • expand2013 (192)
  • expand2012 (241)
  • expand2011 (244)
  • expand2010 (223)
  • expand2009 (233)
  • expand2008 (201)
  • expand2007 (227)
  • expand2006 (269)
  • expand2005 (187)
  • expand2004 (5)