What Makes Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve Unique?
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is the only accredited botanical museum in the country dedicated to native plants. That’s just one of the many assets that make the Preserve such a special place:
Documented, living native plant collection
The 134-acre Preserve hosts a documented living native plant collection that features over 700 of Pennsylvania’s 2,000 native plant species growing in situ (“in place”) within a matrix of sustainable, recognized plant communities. Unlike the many fine arboretums in our region that feature plants from around the world, the Preserve nurtures only plants native to our region. Accessioned species—plants that have been added to the Preserve over the course of many years—are inventoried, catalogued, tracked and interpreted for the visiting public. Among the Preserve’s plants are approximately 60 species that are classified as either rare, threatened or endangered, and are held by the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve Association in the public trust.
Unique, special geology
So many native plants are able to grow in their natural habitats in such a relatively compact area thanks to a unique and special geology that has shaped the land, determined the soil types, and defined a number of special microhabitats on the property. Examples include: the north-facing diabase ridge of Bowman’s Hill; a swale laid over top of hornfels rock (shale baked and transformed by volcanic magma) featuring a vale of wildflowers traversed by our Parry Trail and a vernal stream and pool along the Marshmarigold trail; and the Pidcock Creek riparian corridor which winds through the Preserve.
More than 80 years of active management
For more than 80 years the Preserve’s landscape has been actively managed to promote native plant diversity. To support meadow species and to keep the meadow from reverting back to forest over time, each year we mow in late winter. We also work hard to remove invasive species in order to minimize competition with our native plants. In addition, we actively manage our new pond to promote plant diversity and maximize educational opportunities.
For more than 25 years, we have also excluded deer from most of the Preserve, except for our meadow. Over the course of time, minimizing the impact of browsing deer has led to a healthy and diverse understory that includes wildflowers, herbs, shrubs, understory trees and juvenile canopy trees. Migrating and nesting birds depend on this species-rich, intact forest ecosystem—particularly the insects it provides—for food and to raise their young.
Native Plant Nursery
In addition to safeguarding our living collection of native plants, our mission includes fostering the spread of native plants throughout our region. Critical to that mission is our Native Plant Nursery, which—in offering scores of plants found throughout the preserve—enables visitors to acquire plants that will enhance their own natural landscapes.
Education and discovery
We inspire lifelong learning and stewardship of native plants and the environment, not just at the Preserve itself, but in backyards and other sites such as school properties throughout the region. Our strong educational programs creatively interpret our living native plant collection in an engaging and meaningful way for everyone from preschoolers to professionals.
A strong community dedicated to native plants
The Preserve is blessed with:
- A dedicated knowledgeable staff committed to the long-term sustainability of the Preserve and its mission
- A friendly, educated and enthusiastic corps of volunteers who are eager to share the Preserve with the visiting public, and
- A caring group of members and donors who generously support conservation and stewardship.