Scrub Habitat Restoration
The Prairie Warbler Trail is a short trail that meanders along the side of the Kittatinny Ridge above the Osprey House at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. Much of the trail runs underneath a PPL power line right-of-way. Because the power company does not wish to have trees growing underneath (and eventually into) the power lines, they have managed this area by clearing all vegetation (by mechanical means or herbicides). Over time, this leaves a unique scrub habitat. Although much of the area is low shrubs, the clearing does not completely eliminate the taller tree species, requiring the area to be continually cleared, which destroys important habitat.
In order to maintain this important habitat for unique wildlife of the region, Brandon Everett started a fellowship project through the Lehigh Gap Nature Center to clear the area of tall tree species, and replace them with native, low-growing shrubs and wildflowers. Volunteers with this project clear the taller trees annually, so PPL has agreed not to clear the area or spray herbicides on the power line stretch at the nature center.
Numerous species of native plants have been retained or introduced to this habitat to make it a healthy, beneficial native scrub habitat. A scrub is an early succession forest that usually is covered with brushy shrubs and small trees, wildflowers, and grasses. Before the introduction of native plants, some of the existing tree and shrubs species included Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus), Sassafras (Sassafras albidum), Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) , Winged Sumac (Rhus copallinum), American Elder (Sambucus canadensis), and Meadowsweet (Spiraea latifolia). Existing wildflowers and grasses included Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). Some of the plants introduced into this habitat as part of the restoration project are Virginia Rose (Rosa virginiana), Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa).