A Walk through Borden’s Pond Conservation Area in Chatham
Please join me and Delia (our dog) for a botanically-themed loop through Borden’s Pond and let’s see what we can find together… And I apologize for sticking to common names for the plants, today. I am running out of time to add all the scientific names. But please don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions about the plants.
This was my favorite discovery of the day, and it wasn’t the first plant that drew my attention, but I put it out front to get you all excited and make you want to look through the post to find out who this is and where we found it…
Right in the parking lot, there are several Boxelder trees, male and female. Any guess which one is this?
In the old field by the parking area (which used to be a baseball diamond), stands a tree that is still almost bare. When you look close, you can see that it is starting to leaf out and that the flower buds are ready to burst open, as well. It is a Mulberry tree and I am looking forward to keep watching that one, because I actually have no idea how fully open Mulberry flowers look… — I do know that I love to eat the fruit!
Not many plants are in bloom in the old field, yet. From afar you see the yellow of Wintercress, which I didn’t get a good picture of. And when looking a little closer underfoot, you might discover the tiny Mouse-eared Chickweed with its delicate white flowers and its “furry” leaves.
Ground Ivy has been blooming for weeks now and is common out in the old fields, as well as sprinkled along the paths through the forest.
Around the Boxelder trees and also at the entry of the path into the forest, you might spot the tall pink flowers of Dame’s Rocket. It is one of several members of the mustard family (look for alternate leaves, basal leaf rosettes, and flowers with four petals!) you might encounter along the trails. Note: this is NOT Phlox, which looks very similar but flowers a little later, has five petals, and opposite leaves.
Soon after passing the pavilion, you will see a shrub on your right that is in full bloom. It is the non-native invasive Burning Bush. Note the curiously “winged” branches and the tiny four-parted flowers. However, because this is a woody plant and its leaves are opposite, this is not a member of the mustard family!
Just a little further up the trail, this time on the left side, you might notice another shrub in bloom. This is European Barberry, which had been introduced long before the Japanese Barberry and—at least in our region—does not seem to behave like an invasive. It is distinguished from its invasive sibling by its flowers that dangle in racemes (rather than axillary clusters of two or three flowers) and leaves that have serrated margins (rather than entire margins). Can you spot Japanese Barberry further along the trail? It is VERY common at Borden’s Pond!
Still along the green trail, I spotted this white Common Blue Violet. Once in a while, species that usually have blue or purple flowers, produce white flowers, instead.
This is a more typical Common Blue Violet seen later somewhere along the green trail.
In one wet spot along the green trail (near one of the little boardwalks), is a colony of Marsh Violet, which basically looks like Common Blue Violet with long flower stalks. It tends to grow in moist soil and sometimes even on little islands in streams.
Also along the green trail are several patches of Dog Violet. Note how this violet species—other than Common Blue and Marsh Violet–has branched flower stalks and leaves coming out of the same stalk that bears the flowers.
But, for now, we will leave the green trail and follow Delia up the hill along the red trail…
Pretty soon we come to a tree that has fallen across the trail. As we maneuver around it, we have an opportunity to see the branches of European Larch up close. Here you can see a cone from last year next to a new one that has started to develop this season.
Just past the tree fall, I spotted the Oriental Bittersweet vine growing around a small tree shown on the left of the image. I just recently noticed, that every single vine of this species that I have seen since I am paying attention to this, has been twining around its support in the same direction. From bottom left to top right. The other image is from a younger Oriental Bittersweet vine growing in the same direction around a tree next to the parking area. I’d be curious if anybody ever sees one of these vines going the other way around—if so, please send me a picture!
Where the trail levels out a little, one gets a great view of several grandfather Sugar Maples surrounded by young Sugar Maple trees in a park-like forest with a sedge lawn. The sedge is Pennsylvania Sedge or one of its close relatives.
At the next junction, we hang to the right and follow the red trail up a steep section.
White Wood Aster, which will flower in late summer, seems to be the most common understory plant on this dryish hillside which has some beautiful oak trees.
At the next junction, we turn left to continue on the red trail. Soon, we cross a little clearing where a gap in the canopy allows lots of light to reach the ground and Oriental Bittersweet is dominating the scene.
Back under the canopy, we see several sedges and grasses in bloom along the trail, but not much in terms of showy flowers. We pass the outlook where in leaf off season and on clear days one can see the Catskills.
At the next junction, we turn left onto the green trail, again, and descend back down the slope.
We pass a nice patch of Rue Anemone in full bloom.
And some low shrubs of Maple-leaved Viburnum, their flowers still hidden in the buds. Note how—in contrast to any true maple species in our region–the maple-like leaves of this shrub are very velvety to the touch.
At the bottom of the hill, we briefly turn right to get out onto the town road and have a peek at the creek. There are a number of members of the mustard family flowering along it. The insert shows Pennsylvania Bittercress. But in the vicinity, we also spotted Cuckoo Flower (we’ll have a closer look at that a little later in this walk), Wintercress, Garlic Mustard, and Dame’s Rocket.
At the entrance back onto the green trail that leads us in the valley back to the parking lot, we found this native geranium species, Herb Robert. It has smaller and lighter pink flowers than our other native geranium, Wild Geranium.
In comparison, this is the sturdier Wild Geranium, whose flowers are usually a bit darker in hue than this picture shows. Look for it as you follow the green trail.
This is one of five buttercup species we saw in bloom at Borden’s Pond today. It is the native Kidney-leaved or Small-flowered Buttercup. Note the tiny petals!
Also a native species is the Hooked Buttercup, which grows in several places along the green trail…
… just like Early Wood Buttercup, which has the more familiar big yellow buttercup flowers and very hairy leaves. Out in the old field by the parking area, you can also see the non-native Common Buttercup and Bulbous Buttercup in bloom.
These unique leaves with their dark mark are a native species of smartweed, called Jumpseed.
Several native bedstraw species also grow along this trail. The one that has a very sticky (like velcro) stalk, a spreading growth form, and narrow leaves (eight to each whorl) is Cleavers. Note its tiny four-parted white flowers. Bedstraws are placed in the same botanical family as coffee…
Sweet-scented Bedstraw has six leaves per whorl and grows more upright.
Wild Licorice has four pubescent leaves per whorl.
We found a single Golden Ragwort plant in bloom at the base of a tree right next to the trail. This is one of the few early-flowering members of the aster family.
Common Cinquefoil has a yellow flower, similar to buttercups and palmate leaves, which are sometimes confused with those of strawberries. Note that Cinquefoil has five leaflets per leaf.
While the Wild Strawberry further along the trail has only three leaflets per leaf.
Some of our spring ephemerals are starting to go to seed. This is the fruiting capsule of Trout Lily.
The leaves of non-flowering plants of Trout Lily are wilting now. Note the white worm-like rhizomes that sometimes emerge above ground and indicate the location of a colony of Trout Lily, even when the leaves have vanished for the season.
This post would not be complete without acknowledging the abundant Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants growing all along the green trail.
Who is also common along this trail is Poison Ivy. And it has already passed its red young leaf phase and starts blending in with the rest of the greenery.
This is the spot where I found my favorite flowers of the day: Gaywings!
After that, we entered a part of the forest that was a conifer plantation and is totally overrun with Garlic Mustard.
Finally, we reached the overlook over Borden’s “Pond”.
After the dam breached a few years ago, the former pond is now a wet meadow, composed of Sensitive Fern, sedges, grasses, and wildflowers. Can you guess who the whitish/light pink flowers are?
They belong to one of the members of the mustard family seen earlier along the stream: Cuckoo Flower.
Right next to the bench of the overlook is another nice patch of Rue Anemone (not pictured!) and we also saw our first Canada Mayflower of the season in bloom (pictured).