Written and Narrated by Ed Miller.
This location is home to a number of plants that are members of small families. In some cases they are the only member. They all share the love of sunshine and do not require wet ground. On the far end, we have created a miniature sand dune to make several Pine Bush species happy. Here you will find Pitch pine, New Jersey tea, Huckleberry, Bearberry, Deerberry and low Blueberry, butterfly weed and blue lupine.
Starting from the northwest end is a bush honeysuckle. It is a native with twin yellow flowers. The bush honeysuckle is not to be confused with the very invasive Asiatic honeysuckle with white or pink flowers that has come to dominate many of our natural areas. Along the native plant trail, we have beat back this invader to make room for native plants, but we have no illusions that we have “won the war”.
We have five species of shad growing in this sunny area. At one time nearly all shad were lumped under the scientific name of Amelanchier canadense. It is a difficult genus to identify, and hybrids add to the confusion. The identification of our plants is probably correct, but we need to see fruit and growth characteristics to be sure our suppliers have got it right.
Trending up the hill is a clump of fragrant sumac. Note its leaves that look like poison ivy. Since real poison ivy may find its way to this locality, I will not encourage novices to crush the leaves to partake of the fragrance. It has yellow flowers in the early spring to help you distinguish it from poison ivy. Shiny sumac plants are growing nearby; more are growing in the Sumac Family area at about 200 feet.
Sweet fern and Bayberry are close relatives, and until recently taxonomists had both in the same genus. Note their fragrant foliage. The Redbud may not be a native of New York, but it is so pretty and hardy that I’ll side with the botanists who call it native.
Along the top of our collection we have specimens of Mountain Ash. There are two species also planted in their family (Rose) group at about 1120 feet. On the east end, we have a cucumber magnolia. Two other magnolia species are native New Yorkers. One, Sweet Bay, grows along the spur trail in the wetland, the other, with a common name of Tulip Popular, grows with unrelated willow and poplar..
Persimmon is a rarity in New York. Our two plants, obtained from an out of state nursery where they are common, have survived a couple of winters and seem hardy. The nearby Sassafras is closely related to the Spicebush that grows in our wetland. In 2009 we planted a Paw-Paw. Another Paw-Paw has survived winters in the horticultural area.
I often see Pinxster growing along the shore of lakes when I am canoeing in the early summer. It is common along some rural roads; Route 2 at Petersburg pass comes to mind. There are two similar species, both called Pinxster or Pink Azalea. The more common species Rhododendren prinophyllum (R. roseum in Newcomb’s field guide) is more fragrant than R. periclymenoides.(R. nudiflorum). In our side by side collection, you will be able to note significant differences in their flowers and foliage.
Across the path is the Olive (Ash) family with three species of Ash. White is the most common species in our area. Green ash is being promoted as an urban tree as it tolerates poor drainage. Black ash grows slowly in swamps and wetlands.
Ed Miller, Curator, Native Plant Collection, Revised February 2013