It looks benign, green like all the other plants in the forest, with ornamental white flowers in the spring and golden foliage and red berries in the fall. But Asian Photinia (Photinia villosa) has started quietly taking over Mountain Lakes. In some areas of the park, it has formed a monoculture in the understory, shading out all other plant species.
No diversity means very limited food choices for wildlife. So that other species will have a chance to grow, the Friends of Princeton Open Space began this year a campaign to dramatically reduce the Photinia population at Mountain Lakes.
This is what the woods looks like after a dense stand of Photinia has been removed by our extraordinary volunteer, Andrew Thornton. Other than a few stray ferns, there is nothing native growing here beneath the trees. The cut Photinia has been piled for wildlife habitat. The next step will be to replant the area with natives, or encourage whatever natives sprout.
One of the native species that will benefit from Photinia removal is the spicebush (Lindera benzoin), which forms energy-rich berries in the fall.