By Linda Rohleder, Trail Conference Director of Land Stewardship and Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management Coordinator
It may be fall, but the grounds at the Trail Conference’s new headquarters are looking a lot greener. Landscaping appropriate to the riparian flood plain location of the Darlington Schoolhouse is helping to restore a native plant habitat, which will provide food and shelter for other native species.
The first step in installing this native plant habitat took place in May, when volunteers helped plant carefully selected trees such as swamp white oak, which supports a large number of animal species. Phase two took place on August 29, when 49 incoming freshman from Ramapo College of New Jersey helped plant almost 400 small shrubs such as silky dogwood, which produces flowers in the spring for us to enjoy, and fruit attractive to birds in summer. A future phase of the landscaping will introduce an herbaceous layer to the grounds, which will include many wildflowers, grasses, and ferns. Native wildflowers such as swamp milkweed, which serves as a host plant to the dwindling population of monarch butterflies, will further enhance the habitat.
In addition to establishing appropriate vegetation, this habitat along the Ramapo River adjacent to Darlington Schoolhouse is being augmented to establish breeding areas for the native wood turtle. This includes the introduction of sand beds for egg laying.
Not only will the property provide habitat to serve our native fauna, it will also serve as a teaching and learning site. With a large variety of the native plants found in our area collected together in one place, students, hikers, and members of the general public can come to the Trail Conference to study and learn about these native species firsthand. When the habitat is fully established, the public will be invited to participate in seasonal programs to identify the various species as they leaf out, flower, fruit, and change color.
The native landscape is being designed by Richard Pillar, a New Jersey Licensed Landscape Architect and former owner of Wild Earth Native Plant Nursery.
If you’d like to volunteer to help with the native plant landscape, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.