Meander through our meadow and enter a world of discovery. A meadow brings to mind a wide range of images; from an open expanse brimming with bright colors and winged activity in summer sunshine to seed heads sparkling and frozen on a late winter afternoon. The change of seasons brings a dynamic meadow from height of productivity to rest and recovery in just a few months’ time. Whatever the season, each exploration is full of rewards.
Click here to check out a video about our meadow created by Katie King, 2012 Summer Intern.
A meadow is, quite simply, a community of grasses and wildflowers. Their complementary living situation is visible above the soil as the taller grasses lend support to the wildflowers. Native, clump-forming grasses leave room for wildflowers and their roots; whereas non-native turf grasses form dense, matted roots that crowd them out.
Meadows are, by their very nature, short-lived. A natural order of progression is for early ‘pioneer’ plants to colonize barren ground and then gradually yield to shrubs and young trees. In the eastern United States, unless ‘maintained’ by naturally occurring fire or intentional mowing, a meadow eventually will be replaced by a forest.
Habitat: Meadows provide much-needed habitat for wildlife – supplying food, cover, and nesting sites for insects, birds and small mammals.
Purification: Help filter pollutants out of the air and water.
Soil stabilization: Interlocking roots help stabilize soil/prevent erosion.
Ground water: Ground water supplies are recharged because meadows allow much of the rainfall to soak in. (A typical lawn allows 80% of the rainfall to run off.)
Low maintenance: Tenacious and hardy, meadows require mowing just once a year to deter the growth of woody plants. Meadows do not require fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.
Beautiful: Meadows are beautiful: they provide a succession of color, texture and form throughout the seasons.
The plants and animals in a meadow ecosystem are interconnected and interdependent. Adapted to a wide range of climatic conditions, the diversity of plant life is reflected in the diversity of animal life. You’re likely to see birds (such as bluebirds and swallows), insects (especially butterflies), and perhaps some mammals (from mice and voles to rabbits, woodchucks and deer).
Meadows also provide hunting grounds for welcome predators including snakes, foxes, coyotes, hawks, and owls that help to maintain a balanced ecosystem by keeping the small mammal populations in check.
Our meadow is located on a sloping hillside at the entrance of the Preserve. The trees in the meadow, red cedar, river birch, tulip tree, black walnut and sycamore, are native to Pennsylvania.
The lowest end of the meadow remains rather moist and so supports those grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs that don’t mind or, in fact, require ‘wet feet.’ Late in the summer season, some of these plants will reach impressive heights of six to eight feet or more. The upper portion of the meadow tends to be drier and the variety of plants growing there is well adapted to this condition.
For decades, the current four-acre meadow was maintained as mown lawn. Early in the spring of 1998, we began the development of the meadow by limiting the mowing to just once each year to deter the growth of woody plants.
During the next year, seedlings of native grasses, sedges, rushes and wildflowers were planted among the non-native turf grasses. Native grasses, such as switchgrass, indian grass and bluestem form the foundation of the meadow.
Grasses, sedges and rushes weave their shades of green, blue, red and gold and varied textures into the tapestry of the meadow. In their own seasons, vivid wildflowers accent the landscape with a spectrum of colors.
As you follow the edge of the meadow along the roadside and the meandering path within the meadow, your careful observations will be rewarded with small delights at close range and broad, sweeping vistas that invite further investigation.
Adapted from Preserve meadow brochure, created by Tina L. Hay, 2001 Summer Intern