Special Habitat Areas
The Preserve’s meadow is located on a gently sloping hillside at the entrance of the Preserve. The roughly 4-acre plot features about 105 different species of native grasses, sedges, rushes and wildflowers—all divided into two distinct habitats.
The lowest end of the meadow remains rather moist and so supports those grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs that don’t mind or, in fact, require “wet feet.” Late in the summer, some of these plants reach impressive heights of 6 to 8 feet or more. The upper portion of the meadow, meanwhile, tends to be drier and the variety of plants growing there are well adapted to this condition. The trees growing in the meadow—red cedar, black walnut, ash and sycamore—are all native to Pennsylvania.
For decades, the current meadow was maintained as mown lawn. Early in the spring of 1998, the Preserve began to develop a true meadow by limiting the mowing to just once each year, which deters the growth of woody plants. In the eastern United States, unless a meadow is “maintained” by naturally occurring fire or intentional mowing, it will eventually evolve into a forest.
In 1999, seedlings of the native grasses that form the foundation of the meadow—such as switchgrass, Indian grass and bluestem—were planted among the non-native turf grasses along with sedges, rushes and wildflowers. Since then, shaded out by taller meadow plants, most of the non-native turf grasses have been eliminated. Their eradication was critical, since they form dense, matted roots that crowd out other plants.
In their place, native, clump-forming grasses have left room for the roots of wildflowers to also grow.
Benefits of Meadows
Today, this natural community of complementary grasses and wildflowers demonstrate the multiple benefits of a meadow. These benefits include:
- purification: meadows help filter air and water pollutants
- soil stabilization: interlocking roots help stabilize soil and prevent erosion
- recharged ground water: meadows allow much more rainfall than turf lawns to soak into the ground water supplies
- low maintenance: tenacious and hardy, meadows do not require fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides
- habitat: meadows supply food, cover and nesting sites for insects, birds and small mammals
Adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions, the diversity of plant life found in meadow ecosystems is reflected in the diversity of animal life that the plants support. Visitors to the Preserve’s meadow are likely to see birds, such as bluebirds and swallows; insects, especially butterflies; and perhaps mammals, including mice, voles, rabbits, deer and woodchucks. The meadows also provide hunting grounds for welcome predators, including snakes, foxes, coyotes, hawks and owls—all of which help to maintain a balanced ecosystem by keeping the small mammal populations in check.
Finally, meadows like ours, which provide a succession of color, texture and form throughout the seasons, are quite beautiful too. Summer and fall are the meadow’s peak blooming periods. Spring bloomers include blue flag iris and spiderwort. Summer bloomers include hibiscus with its large showy flowers, butterfly weed, bergamot and mountain mint—all terrific pollinator plants. The fall is the season for asters and goldenrods, which provide color and pollinator food well into November.