The gutted and vacant historic structures built into the densely vegetated slopes above the entry road into Fort Williams Park provide the first hint of the Park’s rich and mysterious layering of culture, geology and ecology. The 30 foot change in elevation within this site is broken by outcrops of ledge and glacial till, and a rich variety of desirable plant species struggle to survive under expanding veils of invasive vines, shrubs and trees. At the intersection of these natural features are numerous early-20th century remnants of the Park’s military past.
Objectives for the Woodland Garden are to suppress invasive plants and foster conditions that support existing beneficial plants, and to create a trail network to connect existing cross-sight walkways and historic relics for exploration of this fascinating woodland.
- Network of Retaining Walls & Steps for Hospital (1901), Hospital Annex (1917) and Hospital Barracks (1941):
- Retaining Wall Below Hospital Stewards Quarters (1903):
- Central Power House (1907):
- Electrical Substation (1910):
- Fire Station (1911):
- Protected Telephone Switchboard (1920):
Please visit the Park History page for more information about Fort Williams’ military past.
Featured Problematic Plant: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Introduced from Russia to the Arnold Arboretum in Boston in the late 1800s, Japanese barberry is a commonly-planted garden shrub with dense, arching stems, small round leaves and numerous thorns. Often used to create barrier hedging, it is admired for its adaptability, attractive fall foliage color and bright red berries. Barberry is now classified as “invasive” in 20 states because of its aggressive spread into many different types of habitat, including undisturbed woodlands. Birds eat its berries then disperse its highly viable seeds wherever they perch. Japanese barberry also spreads by layering and suckering to form dense, thorny, impenetrable thickets that harbor large populations of tick larvae and white-footed mice, and apex host for Lyme disease.
Featured Beneficial Plant: roundleaf dogwood (Cornus rugosa)
Native to the northeastern half of North America, roundleaf dogwood is a medium-large shrub with many upright yellow-green stems, large round leaves with pointed tips, round, flat-topped clusters of cream-colored flowers in early summer, and blue to greenish-white berries on reddish stalks in fall. Occurring in both moist and dry woodlands, it can also be seen in forest edges and dry rocky slopes like we have in Fort Williams Park.
Roundleaf dogwood is a host species for Gossamer Wings and Spring Azure Butterflies, and many species of birds eat their berries. Twigs are foraged by rabbits, mice and deer.