Forests that were once in Beverly have changed over the years. Originally Beverly was in the “transition forest zone”, so described because the northern hardwood hemlock pines found in Vermont and Maine overlapped with the oak-hickory forests of the mid-Atlantic states.
The transition forest zone had three types of forests: hemlock, oak, and spruce. Hemlock forests included white pine, white oak, ash, birch, red oak, and maple. Forests dominated by white pine occurred primarily on dry, sandy soil and in dynamic environments such as pond shores, beaver meadows, and abandoned Indian fields and villages. The oak forests included beech, birch, maple, hickory, chestnut, red oak, and scarlet oak. The last type of forest during colonization was the spruce forest that consisted of balsam, maple, beech, birch, aspen and juniper. 1
Beverly has some southern species that are in more exposed areas and drier sides on ridges, and well-drained soil. There are also northern conditions, which consist of cool ravines, on north slopes, and high elevations with cool mist conditions.
Beverly’s forest changed over time due to natural disturbances such as ice storms, fires, hurricanes, and windstorms. One factor that controlled the dynamics of the landscape was the availability of soil and water. Another type of disturbance was human activity. Before the arrival of the Europeans, Indians made the only human alterations to the landscape by burning forests to improve hunting and clearing fields for villages. 2
As population pressures on land and timber occurred in late sixteenth century England, more and more people migrated to the new world. This was the beginning of an evolution in the forests of the northeast. While the population increased in America the size of the forests decreased. Many families cut down acres upon acres for their own farms. A flourishing timber trade in mid-17th century New England continued until the 18th century creating a paucity of virgin forest trees. New England families moved away from their relatively small, rocky and hilly farms, which could not compete with large stone-free mechanized farms of the Midwest. By this time they had built railroads and the Erie Canal to ship products to towns like Beverly. 3 Many farms were abandoned and trees started to come back from the seeds of nearby trees carried by the wind and animals.
In the mid-19th century, family farmers left their lands, creating a forested landscape that had been previously open farmland. There are very few trees that are older than 150 years old. And since the early 1900’s Beverly’s Department of Public Services has been planting trees all around Beverly to beautify the city.
In May 1916 there were 10 Norway maple trees and 13 Rock maple trees planted. There is one particularly noteworthy Norway maple that was planted on the corner of Dane St. and Lovett St. that is still there today, making it one of the older trees in Beverly.
1. Berkeley College of Natural Resources. 2003 <http://nature.berkeley.edu/site/index.php> [September 2003].
2. Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University. “Landcape History of Central New England” 2003. <http://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/museum/landscape.html#farm> [September 2003].