You will find the woods of High School Park mainly along the hillside that links the upper and lower levels of the park. Our area of Pennsylvania, known as the Piedmont, was once covered with an extensive deciduous forest prior to European colonization. As we restore the woods at High School Park, we are mindful of planting the trees that once dominated our landscape. The trees in the forests that originally covered our region included American chestnuts, various oaks, hickories, tulip poplars, and maples. American chestnuts, the most prominent trees in the eastern deciduous forest, were killed off in the early twentieth century by a chestnut blight fungus, which arrived in America on imported Asian chestnut trees.
The forest community at High School Park is composed of four layers. The tallest trees in the woodlands are known as the canopy trees and include our towering tulip poplars, beech, ash, and oaks. The layer below the canopy is the understory. Saplings of canopy trees and smaller trees such as service berry, dogwood, and sassafras grow in this layer. The shrub layer grows beneath the understory and includes witchhazel, various native viburnums, and spicebush.
On the forest floor grow the plants of the herbaceous layer, which include native ferns such as Christmas and maidenhair fern, mayapple, and the spring ephemerals. The spring ephemerals are wild flowers that have evolved to take advantage of the high light conditions that exist in the deciduous forest in early spring before the trees leaf out. These flowers emerge, blossom, set seed, and become dormant by early summer. Trillium, trout lilies, Virginia bluebells, and Dutchman's breeches are all ephemerals which you may find blooming in the woods in the springtime in High School Park.
A new woodland is taking root on the lower level in the woody old field near the Mill Road entrance. This site used to be the playing field of the former high school. Because it has moister soil, the trees there include swamp white oak, pin oak, silver maple, American elm, and black walnut.
The woods in High School Park provide habitat for squirrels, opossums, chipmunks, and, occasionally, deer. A Baltimore oriole has been building its nest in our woods. The Friends of High School Park is working to restore our woods by eradicating invasive exotic plants such as garlic mustard, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle, Oriental bittersweet and multiflora rose. We also plan to reintroduce asters, goldenrod, wood geranium, many types of ferns and other native woodland plants.