Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Surprises Along the Boardwalk

When the township, with the help of a grant from the J. Seward Johnson, Sr. Charitable Trust and considerable initiative by the Friends of Princeton Open Space, built the long boardwalk below Coventry Farm, it provided a convenient link from the Great Road and Farmview Fields Park over to Mountain Lakes Preserve. From a botanist's point of view, it seemed moreover a great place to show off native wetland plants. The boardwalk extends three feet high over a corridor typically kept wet by seepage from Coventry Farm. Unfortunately, early planting efforts fell victim to the smothering growth of an invasive plant called reed canary grass, here seen growing over the edges of the boardwalk like a green wave.

On a recent visit, however, a few self-planted native wildflowers were found holding there own in spaces left open by the reed canary grass. Here's some arrow-leaved tearthumb, so called because its stem is raspy if you run your fingers down it.

Moths grazed on a goldenrod.
Virginia creeper imitated topiary on a fencepost.
An elderberry bush showed promise of providing edible berries in years to come.
Clumps of ironweed were about to add purple blooms to the picturesque view.
A prairie grass called purple top gave the meadow a colorful sheen at the Great Road end of the boardwalk.
Most intriguing was a clump of boneset. Type "boneset" into the search window at the upper left of this webpage and you'll find many posts documenting the seemingly endless variety of insects and spiders that take up residence for the month of August in its miniature metropolis of white flowers.
This particular boneset did not disappoint. A close look at the center of this photo holds a surprise--for people as well as a hapless wasp that had been feeding on the nectar.
Waiting just under the flowers was a praying mantis, which had grabbed the wasp and was now enjoying its lunch. The accumulation of wasp legs on the leaf below suggests the praying mantis is particular about which pieces of the anatomy it consumes.
Heading back towards Mountain Lakes, the seeds of green bulrush,
and the prospect of a fine picnic for humans in a week or two.

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