Hidden in full view in the middle of Princeton Township is Pettoranello Gardens, where there's a pond, walking trails and a stage for summer concerts.
Last week, Robert Olszewski, youth director for nearby Westerly Road Church, brought his summer camp kids over for a little introduction to the park and its resident plants and animals. I served as tour guide.
We started with sassafras, a fragrant native tree once used to make root beer. They then got an introduction to jewelweed, with its spring-loaded seed hurling mechanism and the metallic sheen its leaves acquire when put underwater. Though there was a very enthusiastic, cacophonous response to my offer of ten dollars to anyone who could spell "Pettoranello", the greatest attention was paid to twenty turtles clustered on what looked like a hay bale on the far side of the pond (photo).
Before they headed back, I left them with a "don't forget to smell the spicebush" moment. Hopefully, the kids will serve as tour guides to their parents, and a few more families will get acquainted with this pretty spot in the middle of town.
Photos by Henry Loevner, Princeton University PEI summer intern for the Friends of Princeton Open Space