Wolbach Farm InterpretIve traIl



Wolbach Farm InterpretIve traIl
Illustration by Joyce Dwyer
udbury Valley Trustees’ Wolbach Farm offers a diversity of
woods, wetlands and field for exploration and enjoyment by the
visitor. The oak-hickory-pine forest straddles
the rocky hill behind the main house. Along
Winter Brook, there is a rich diversity of
wetland plants and some very large trees, including sycamore, black birch, and black and
red oaks. The fields behind the barn grade
from a very dry little bluestem grassland to a
wet meadow with many wildflowers including willow herb, goldenrod, swamp candles
and bugle weed.
Wolbach Farm is part of the larger Great
Meadows ecosystem along the Sudbury
River, much of this owned and managed
by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Great
Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. SVT
worked with John Wolbach to transfer part
of his land holdings to the refuge and John
donated the remaining 54 acres to SVT.
Anna and Burt Wolbach purchased the property known as Wolbach Farm in the 1910s.
At the time, most of the property was used
for a dairy farm, though the lower fields near
the barn were used for horse pasture. The
area was most likely cleared for pasture in
the 1800s with the exception of the stream
corridor and seepage slopes.
The Wolbachs converted the farm from an
active dairy farm to a gentleman’s farm. The
lower field continued to be maintained for
horses. In the 1930s, during the depression,
both the Wolbach family and the Newton
family next door employed people to plant
red pine in previously pastoral areas. They
also planted a number of red pines, Norway
spruce and eastern hemlock on the grounds
surrounding the house and barn.
The field behind the barn has been continuously mowed over the years. Just prior to
SVT's ownership of the land, a caretaker
for the Wolbach property mowed the field
more regularly in order to maintain the area
for golfing. More recently, the fields have
been mowed annually to maintain their
open character for wildlife habitat and to
maintain the scenic views.
John Wolbach, Anna and Burt’s son, left
this 54 acre property to Sudbury Valley
Trustees in his will. SVT took ownership
of the property in 2002. John Wolbach’s
wishes were to preserve the land “predominantly in its natural, scenic and open condition.” For added protection, Mr. Wolbach
provided that The Trustees of Reservations
hold a conservation restriction over the
property as well.
The main trail loop, 3/4 mile, takes you
along the Winter Brook stream corridor,
across a wetland and then back through
the woods to the small field adjacent to the
main house. The inner loop trail, 1/5 mile,
goes around a wetland, returning to the
main loop.
We welcome you to enjoy the trails for
walking, skiing, snowshoeing, nature study,
photography, and other quiet activities.
Please carry out everything you carry in.
In order to protect this natural area, the following
are prohibited:
•Motorized vehicles
•Hunting or trapping
•Disposing of trash or yard waste
•Cutting or removing plants
Dogs must be on leash except in the field
near the parking lot.
Wolbach Farm
Interpretive trail
18 Wolbach Road
Sudbury, MA 01776
Sponsored by:
Main Loop
1 See before you and above you
this majestic red oak (Quercus rubra). This oak tree is probably about
200 years old. Oak trees are one of
the top five wildlife food plants in
New England (the other four are
white pine, bramble berries such as
Many large,
mature trees
are preserved
along the
stream corridor.
The crop of
nuts that oak
trees produce
each year is called a “mast.” Masts
are cyclical; approximately every 3-5
years, you will notice a super-abundance of acorns. The theory is that
the squirrels and chipmunks will be
overwhelmed by such an abundance
and, therefore, some of the acorns
will have the opportunity to germinate and grow into trees.
2 In a sense, this
broken dead tree is still
alive! Dead trees, known
as “snags,” provide
excellent homes and
food for wildlife. Woodpeckers and other birds
eat the insects that are
helping to decompose
the tree. Small and
medium-size mammals
such as squirrels and
raccoons use hollow trees for nests.
If you own forested property, be
sure to leave the dead trees standing
and do not “clean them out.”
3 These trees in front of you,
sycamores, are shedding puzzlelike pieces of their bark, exposing
a smooth pale inner bark. Look
behind you and towards the stream
for more of these stately trees.
Sycamores grow along the floodplains of rivers and streams. Sycamores are often used as street trees
because they are able to grow in
fine, compact soils
(like those
that you
find along
as well
as along
4 You have been walking through
the stream corridor of Winter
Brook, an intermittent stream. As
you can see, the land slopes down
to the stream from the trail and up
to the oak-pine woods on the other
side. This corridor of Wolbach
Farm has the greatest diversity of
plants due to the sweet and moist
soils. We have some unusual plants
here so keep your eyes peeled for
nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum),
red baneberry (Actaea rubra) and
doll’s eyes (Actaea pachypoda).
Riparian corridors, areas along a
stream or river, are known for their
importance to wildlife, as many
mammals use these corridors
to travel from one place to
the other. Such areas are very
popular with birds because of
the abundance of both water
and insects.
5 You are walking through a
wetland. Wetlands are intermediary habitats between aquatic
areas, such as streams and
ponds, and upland dry habitat
such as oak-pine forest. Wetlands
tend to be very rich with vegetation
– all that water and nutrients make
plants grow quickly and abundantly.
We have to trim the trail edges four
times as frequently here as everywhere esle!
The dominant wetland specialty
plant here is spice bush (Lindera
benzoin). Spice bush has oval or
Inner Loop
A Death and decay brings new life into our world. This old tree
stump is being broken down and decomposed by microorganisms
and insects. The trunk becomes a nutritious soil element for new
vegetation. This process of recycling nutrients is one of the most
fundamental and important cycles in our natural systems.
B You are standing in a grove of black gum trees, also known
as tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica). Notice the deep grooves, known as
fissures, in the bark. These trees are much more common in the
creek swamps of the South, but can be found here occasionally in
our wetlands. Black gums are famous for their brilliant red display
in the fall. The wood of this tree is very difficult to split, resulting
in its use as durable handles for hand tools.
C You would have a hard time exploring the woods beyond the
trail here because you would quickly become entangled in the
thorny greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia). This is a very important
plant for food and cover for wildlife. The fruits remain on the
plants through the cold months and become very important in
late winter when more desirable fruits are gone. They are eaten
by raccoon, turkey, grouse, catbird, mockingbird, robin and most
thrushes. The leaves and stems provide critical food for deer and
rabbits. The dry brittle stems of dead greenbrier make a great
eggshaped leaves
with a smooth
margin. If you
pick a leaf and
crush it you will
smell a pungent aroma
of lemon.
The berries
were used by
early colonists
as a spice for
cooking. These
berries are one
of the best high
energy foods for migrating song
birds. The fruit provides a critical
food supply for birds in migration.
6 Rock walls are a common theme
in the New England landscape.
These are lands
that were once
cleared of forest and used for
crops and pasture.
The rocks were
piled up as property boundaries
or in between the
fields and to keep
animals in or out
so that the fields
could be better
used for crops
and pasture. Once
agricultural lands
were abandoned,
our forests
quickly grew
back in. Formerly
cleared agricultural lands made up
the majority of our landscape; now
forests and housing development
Three properties come together
at the corner of these stone walls.
How have the different land uses
altered these areas? Look at the
differences in vegetation and habitat
values. Can you tell a story about
the land use history?
7 This dead red cedar (Juniperous virginiana) tree and the pile of
rocks on the slope below it are signs
of this land’s history. Red cedars require full sun and dry soils to grow,
so how did this tree come to be
here under the shade of these forest
trees? And what about the pile of
rocks? Did the animals collect them
here the way squirrels collect and
hoard acorns?
This land probably was a pasture,
and red cedars grew up in it.
Once the pasture was abandoned
and tall trees began to grow, the
cedars died
As ground
and thaws,
it heaves
up stones
and rocks.
would collect these rocks from their fields
and pile them off to the side (usually within an existing stone wall, but
not always). So, this pile of rocks
may indicate that a farmer was using
part of this land to grow crops, or
perhaps a home garden.
8 There is dense undergrowth of
buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) at
this forest edge. Buckthorn is one
of many non-native plant species
that have invaded our natural habitats. These plants were brought over
on purpose or by accident from
Asia or Europe. Invasive plants are
those that crowd out our native species, often becoming monocultures,
reducing our native plant diversity
and decreasing wildlife habitat value.
Other problem invasive plants in
our region are oriental bittersweet,
Japanese barberry, multiflora rose,
purple loosestrife and certain varieties of honeysuckle.
Illustrations copyright 2007: Nuthatch,
Chickadee, Red Fox by Gordon Morrison;
Woods Road, Barn by Joyce Dwyer;
Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora:
Field office illustrated guide to plant
species. USDA Natural Resources
Conservation Service.

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