McCarty Woods Restoration

McCarty Woods, 2.9 acres of woods, situated on the corner of Museum Road and Newell Drive, was under consideration for removal from conservation status as part of the new campus master plan.  The potential conversion of this area to other uses would be a major loss. Through promoting awareness of the plant diversity in the Woods and tagging some of the large trees close to the trails using tags with scientific and common names, McCarty Woods has been designated for conservation and restoration and is led by the restoration committee of Dr. Doug Soltis, Dr. Pam Soltis, Dr. Matt Gitzendanner, and Dr. Lucas Majure.

 A Floristic Survey of McCarty Woods by Lacey L. Mount

Abstract: This study involves the University of Florida preservation area known as McCarty Woods. The subjects dealt with here are the geology, climatology, hydrology, history, and floristics of the site. McCarty Woods is a mesic hammock with a Millhopper soil type. The past year it has had little rainfall and temperatures above normal, which continues to impact the growing season length, and may have reduced the number of species available for collection. McCarty Woods had almost no human development prior to this century. The university has altered the species composition of the area, due to understory mowing in the early 1970s. This practice eliminated some native species and encouraged their replacement by exotic invasive plants. The major portion of this project is the collection of vascular plant species. The most common trees of McCarty Woods today are Ulmus alata, Cm glabra, Liquidambar styraciflua, Quercus michauxii, Fraxinus American, and Celtis laevigata. A complete set of voucher specimens has been deposited in the University of Florida Herbarium. The results of this study show that McCarty Woods is overrun with nonnative flora, and plant species that thrive in disturbed sites.

During the restoration process, studies and surveys of animal species are being conducted.

  1. Dr. Jose Martinez, Reseach Associate in the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Florida Museum of Natural History, has been surveying butterflies and moths. 
  2. Dr. Maya Saar, Post-doctoral Fellow in the Entomology & Nematology Department, helping with the restoration, is surveying for invasive ant species in restored woods compared to disturbed areas, in attempt to assess restoration efforts. For more information, visit her website at

September 10, 2023 Another fine turnout for McCarty woods restoration…thanks for your help! 

More Coreopsis planted (several plants planted in August were flowering!). Much of the sweetgum that blocked the east-west trail was sawed up with handsaws and removed. Lots of cats claw and Guinea grass removed. Any lots and lots of watering!

Stay tuned for updates on the next (October) event.

August 27, 2023 THANKS! Great turnout today everyone! Wow what a great way to start out the new semester. Fun was had by all. We accomplished a lot – more invasive species removed and more plants put in the ground; plus lots of watering!  Our next effort will be early September- stay tuned.

July 8, 2023 A great workday from a valiant group of volunteers who braved the heat to remove many of the large limbs resulting from the severe storm damage of several weeks ago.  There are two large piles of hand-trimmed branches from downed tree limbs –largest one on NE side and another one on SW side of woods.

More native plants (Eragrostis and Pityopsis) planted on the eastern edge of the woods.

Thanks for the hard work, folks!

Other News:

Wow you made chromosome counts…good for you! We’ve had trouble with DNA sequencing facilities—good luck on that. Keep after them.

The niche modeling might be something we could help with here if interested-we have some talented undergraduates looking for projects. This would be a good one. 

Stay tuned for a big workday in late August.

June 11, 2023 Another great effort despite the heat… Wow! Several shifts of dedicated volunteers helped plant numerous small plants of Sensitive Pea and more native grasses on the east side while also removing invasives, checking plant labels, watering new and recent plants, bagging trash and more. Thanks to the group for working to help our many new native plants get established. Lots of pollinators on that side which is a good sign.

May 13, 2023 Thanks for the wonderful help in McCarty woods today! Another great effort. This was a rare afternoon restoration effort. 

Our focus was removing invasive grasses on the east side. We also pruned, watered and inventoried/recorded the many plants put in this year. Things are looking good!

April 22, 2023 What a massive turnout to celebrate Earth Day – WOW! … thanks again to everyone.

We really accomplished a lot today – more plants in the ground – a fantastic effort removing Guinea grass and putting in lots of native grasses on that east side. More trumpet creeper…a once common native vine returns… instead of cat’s claw.

2023 Champions for Change Award Recipient – Congrats!

Lauren Stefan, Design & Marketing Assistant
Office of Sustainability, University of Florida

The Champions for Change awards ceremony to recognize recipients and celebrate their success took place on Tuesday, April 18th.

These awards are presented annually to those in the university community who have made significant contributions in the areas of sustainability and health during their time at UF. Nominations are judged based upon the uniqueness of the achievement, the level of effort required, the commitment to sustaining the achievement and the significance for personal growth of the impact or the achievement on the UF community.

The University of Florida’s Office of Sustainability and the Healthy Gators Coalition recognized seven individuals and groups for the annual Champions for Change awards this year. Among the winners was the McCarty Woods Restoration team, led by the Florida Museum’s Douglas and Pamela Soltis, Lucas C. Majure and Matthew Gitzendanner.

McCarty Woods is a 2.9-acre forest in the heart of campus at the University of Florida. The woods were designated as a conservation area in 2000, but the university’s 2020-2030 master plan redefined the forest’s boundaries. Had the plan been enacted as originally written, most of the trees would have been cut down to make way for a new building, but a public outcry from students, staff and faculty convinced university administration to reverse course.

Researchers at the Florida Museum used the victory’s momentum to focus efforts on restoring the woods. Florida is a hotbed of invasive species, and the natural areas on campus are no exception. Tree canopies are crowded out by the fast-growing, light-hoarding cat’s claw vines (Dolichandra unguis-cati), outcompeted by proliferous, shade-tolerant paper mulberries (Broussonetia papyrifera) and hemmed in by evergreen wax-leaf privet (Ligustrum lucidum).

Restoring the delicate threads that tie this ecosystem together requires the continued effort of ardent volunteers. Each month, the restoration team organizes cleanups in which invasives are weeded out and native plants are added back in. During the dry season, additional volunteers head out to water the new saplings that don’t yet have a deep enough root system to withstand prolonged drought.

After nearly two years of work, the results are easily noticeable even to those without a discerning eye for plants. More light streams in through the canopy in the absence of invasive vines, and the previous blanket of cat’s claw and skunk vine (Paederia foetida) along the forest floor has been rolled back. The dappled understory now supports a diverse mosaic of native species, and a clearcut along the woods’ eastern flank — which occured when a groundcrew unintentionally felled trees inside the conservation area — has been effaced by a layer of juvenile trees and shrubs.

March 25, 2023 Another great day of work in McCarty Woods. Redbud was reintroduced after a long absence. Other trees/shrubs planted. Plus, a great turnout and tour of the woods with the Garden Club.

February 12, 2023 Neither wind, rain, nor cold will still our great team!! Another great turnout and a lot accomplished. Many new trees, shrubs vines and other natives were planted. Thanks to our great volunteers! 

We also devoted time to our sister project: Harmonic Woods where we removed coral ardisia.

January 29, 2023 Another great turnout wow!

We continued getting trees and shrubs planted, including elm, one ash (hard to find), several oaks, hickory and more. 

Some firsts –First planting of native pawpaw and of our native honeysuckle. Signs of wildlife were detected. Much fun was had by all!

December 11, 2022 Great turnout and wonderful job today in McCarty Woods!!! We got two group photos because many people arrived after the early photos with the new plants.

We planted 14 trees and shrubs. Some of these are species that were once present in the woods but have disappeared – so these will be the first replanting of these species! Through the help of a great team, several of the species were returned to the woods – fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus), Schumard oak (Quercus shumardii), and southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). The team also planted Aluchua buckthorn (Sideroxylon alachuense, more sweetgum (Liquidambar styracifula), hickory (Carya glabra), hop hornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) and red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). Plus there were some cool discoveries by Lucas — a few small trees of Sideroxylon lanuginosum (wooly buckthorn) are still present in the woods and a small tree of live oak (Quercus virginiana)—the first report for the Woods!

One of the red buckeyes we planted last winter has already broken dormancy and has leaves…. way too early; clearly a confusing winter in terms of weather.

Austin has made great progress in removing cat’s claw…there are now a few more places where it is absent (shock!).

Moss man was spotted again.

October 16, 2022 Thanks for the hard work today folks! A large tree that was downed by Hurricane Ida as well as a smaller one were cut (by hand saws) and removed; our newly planted trees/shrubs watered and more removal of Cats Claw and Guinea grass. We spent time using iNaturalist as we try to catalog everything we can in the woods.

September 11, 2022 Great turnout and great job today folks! We removed a lot of invasives. Many of our plantings that we put in this past winter seem to be doing well – some photos are included of ash, persimmon, and musclewood. We also found more Bignonia capreolata (cross vine) – a good sign!

June 18, 2022 Another successful (and hot!) morning in McCarty Woods. Thanks to a hardworking group we removed invasives and generally cleaned up the east and north sides. We watered native species and removed invasives – privet and paper birch are under control now, but some are growing back. Cats Claw continues to be a problem!



May 15, 2022 Thanks for the good summer turnout folks. Most of the effort was focused on watering and weeding. Plants watered, more cats claw removed, and privet and paper mulberry that were growing back were removed. A few rare swamp privet were planted.

April 10, 2022 Great job everyone! Thanks so much for the large turnout. A special thanks to our many student volunteers who really have made so much of the progress possible. The mulch on the north side and trail looks great. More new plants were planted. It is even getting hard to find large cats claw vines to cut…wow!

March 30, 2022 Many of you worked hard to clear the north edge of the woods of Cats Claw…many hours removing one plant at a time. Well good news. We surveyed what is now the north edge of the Woods and there are remarkable signs of life where the Cats Claw was removed. Ash seedlings, our native honeysuckle and Ipomea, a seedling of an oak (Q. velutina) and black cherry – neither had been previously reported from the woods. We found two elm seedlings (we have several large elms but we had not found any seedlings previously), small plants of our native mulberry and a resurgence of violets. Help give the woods a chance and there will be recovery!

March 20, 2022 Thanks all for a great turnout and another productive day in the Woods! More shrubs/trees were planted and lots of Cats Claw cut and removed – we could spot them in flower which helped us target some large vines we had missed previously. Many of you commented on how much progress we’ve made since last August. Hard to believe how hard it is now to find privet. We removed 10 that were growing back-that was it. The plants we put in last month look good!

We watered the plants that were put in during our February outing (they look great). Plus a few more small trees and shrubs planted. Also, a kiosk sign was replaced and the plexiglass front repaired.

March 5, 2022 Just a quick update that our small trees/shrubs are doing well. Some photos of new leaves on plants breaking dormancy.

February 12, 2022 Thanks for the great turnout today!

As several students pointed out, this was historic – after six months of taking out plants that don’t belong, we began putting in ones that do!  Lots of neat shrubs and understory trees planted and watered today. For some folks these were the first trees they had ever planted – very cool! All plants were noted on iNaturalist thanks to Meryl (link below). Emilio tagged everything as well so that we can continue to monitor these plants.

 We have some great trees to plant: persimmon, red buckeye, pignut hickory, green ash, possum haw, sweet gum, swamp chestnut oak, beauty berry, muscle wood (blue beech) and more.

Stay tuned for more updates- many of you signed up to be part of the water brigade. That will be critical in the weeks ahead.

If you want to check out some of the species recorded recently in the woods check out the awesome iNaturalist site for McCarty Woods:

Our plantings today can be found at:

The link to give is:

January 30, 2022 Thanks again for a great turnout on such a cold day. GREAT TO SEE SO MANY NEW FACES! 

Great progress! Narrow east-west side trails put in by hand. More invasive trees found on the west side (Camphor, Citrus, privet) were removed. Plus, we held a great Cats Claw competition for the largest tuber – fantastic! Some nice discoveries as we remove the Cats Claw jungle- several more hophornbeams, small hickories and ash trees. A sideroxylon was located – so two remain in the woods!

Our next effort will be February 12– so please mark that on your schedules. We plan to put native trees in those areas cleared of Cats Claw today.

Two links have been set up by some of our wonderful volunteers.

  1. Here is a link to a McCarty Woods collection project in iNaturalist. This will be a useful means to track species in the woods –\
  2. Here is the link to a gofundme for the Woods: This will be used to purchase plants (we will need a lot!), signage, etc in our efforts to restore the woods.



December 12, 2021 What a great effort from the group today!

Another huge pile of invasive trees was removed from the west side. These are about the last of the larger invasive trees in the woods—what progress!!! A huge area was cleared of Tradescantia and Ardisia. We also cut and treated dozens of Cats Claw vines!

During the cleanup today we also saw some encouraging signs – some young ash and sweet gum trees as well as 4 or 5 Ostrya (hop hornbeam). There are 4 or 5 large ash trees in McCarty – the one in the photo might be the largest on campus.

November 20, 2021 Thanks everyone for another great turnout…~50 people plus one helpful dog (McCarty’s Best Friend). Wow, so many helpers just before Thanksgiving! It was very impressive that so many took the time to help.

We cleaned the kiosks and put in new signs. We made great progress removing more invasive trees and took out lots of Cats Claw. With the materials provided by UF Grounds and Natural Resources, we were able to immediately treat the trees and vines that we cut so they will not grow back. We opened up an old trail — with more work in December it should be ready for use. We also tagged some native trees on the edge of the woods that we want to make sure are protected (soap berry, red bay, tilia).

As background, we met with the LVL committee to request permission to begin reintroduction of native plants to McCarty woods. They will grant permission if we can get enough people to show that we have a lot of volunteers willing to help water these new plants for a few critical months early next year.  And if it rains that makes it even easier!  

October 17, 2021 Thanks again for the great turn-out. October was a huge success, our biggest group to date! 

Our focus will continue to be removing more invasive plants. Given our success so far, we are now moving more into the west side in addition to our initial focus on the east side of the Woods. We have made great progress so let’s keep it up!