Diseased Pines Come Down at Bennington Museum
The George Aiken Wildflower Trail is an engaging garden covering six acres of Bennington Museum’s ten-acre property. Located in the Hadwen Woods, it provides a pleasant retreat and showcases the native plants, ferns and wildflowers that Aiken grew and wrote about in his book ‘Pioneering with Wildflowers.’ While the wildflowers continue to thrive, the Eastern White Pines have been almost universally infected by red rot (Fomes pini), a fungus that severely weakens the tree trunks. Every year a large number of the trees are lost, and after over a decade of study, the Museum’s Executive Committee voted last June to remove them and implement a new landscape designed by Reed Hilderbrand, one of the foremost landscape architects in the nation.
The problems go back to 2007, when over 30 trees fell. On the advice of a state forester, the Museum removed 270 of them in the hope that those remaining would get stronger. However, in 2008 another 20 fell. Further evaluation remained consistent; the pines were initially grown too close together, facilitating the spread of the rot; they could not be treated and would continue to fall if not removed first. Another 55 trees went down in a single devastating storm in December 2012, creating a domino effect; the loss of trees opened up the heart of the woods to the wind. The losses caused further expense, demoralized volunteers who maintained the Wildflower Trail, and posed a danger to visitors and houses on neighboring properties
“Most of the pines were cut in November and December 2018, and cleanup is underway,” states Robert Wolterstorff, executive director of the Museum. “Already spectacular vistas have been opened up. Plans are now being developed by Reed Hilderbrand for a natural New England landscape that preserves the George Aiken Wildflower Trail in the context of meadows, a successional forest, a fern walk and the existing hardwood forest in the bottomlands near the creek.”
Hadwen Woods was donated to the Museum by the late George Hadwen, a former museum trustee. The George Aiken Wildflower Trail was developed over the last decade through private donations by a team of volunteers led by Jackie and Tony Marro. It is open to the public dawn-to-dusk, free of charge, and is a delightful place to hike, walk your dog, picnic or relax on one of the artist-designed benches. Those interested in volunteering or donating money or plants cam contact Jackie Marro at [email protected]