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  • Bob Rorabaugh

Pruning Forest Trails

Ever gone for a summer hike and spent almost the whole time getting smacked in the face or legs by over-reaching plants and spider webs?

You're not the only one.

Springtime growth often means more maintenance is required in the summer to keep trails clear. Sword Ferns that grow along trail edges area a major culprit. The fronds, looking like the cutter bar of a hedge trimmer, and up to four feet in length, can visually obscure the trail, not to mention discourage those with claustrophobia. Rather than hacking these over-reaching fronds with a machete, try this simple technique to keep trails looking natural, yet passable.

1. Trace the overreaching frond down to the plant's base. Clip it here where the cut will be nearly invisible.

2. Take the cut frond and place it behind the same or a nearby fern plant, dark side up. It will soon look like last year's growth, its decay giving nutrients back to the soil or providing shelter for shade-dwelling critters like salamanders and frogs. Note: Do not leave trimmings on the ground! This leaves trails looking cluttered and can be a trip hazard.

Compare the first photo with the one below. A little pruning makes a big difference!

Happy trails!

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