Lathrop’s Wet Meadows

Lathrop’s Wet Meadows: A Unique Treasure

For Lamp Post, July 31, 2014

by Barbara Walvoord

Our consultant Laurie Sanders, who walked our land in early July, raved about our “wet meadows” as treasures increasingly rare in the Northampton area and nationwide.

Lathrop’s east campus has three: one behind Cranberry/Spiceberry/Teaberry houses (those folks get to look out on this gem every day), one at the end of the wide wood mowed path (you can walk to it easily), and one to the south behind the Mulberry houses.

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Wet meadow behind Mulberry Lane houses. Photo by Barbara Walvoord, 7/14/14.

So with new appreciation, last week I walked through our wet meadow just behind the houses on Cranberry/Spiceberry/Teaberry. Yep, it’s a meadow–lots of grasses, flowers, and few or no shrubs. Yep, it’s wet–the ground squishes underfoot, and some spots have standing water. One of a wet meadow’s jobs is to catch water and
prevent flooding. Another is to filter nutrients out of the water, so wet meadows typically have rich soils, while adjacent streams and ponds are protected from having too many nutrients in their water. (http://water.epa.gov/type/wetlands/wmeadows.cfm.)

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Butterfly on wild flowers at Lathrop east campus wet meadow, July 14, 2014. Photo by Barbara Walvoord

On that sunny day, our wet meadow literally sang and throbbed. Birds flew past and sang from the adjacent hedgerows. Butterflies flittered just ahead of my camera. A bright red dragonfly surveyed the land from the top of a seed pod. Bees buzzed the Black-eyed Susans, and myriads of other little jumpers and hoppers leapt out of my way as I waded through. Another of a wet meadow’s jobs is to support an abundance of life.

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Purple loosestrife in Lathrop wet meadow 7/24/14. Photo by Barbara Walvoord.

But Purple loosestrife is also coming in strongly. It is an alien invasive. It came here from Europe and Asia, leaving behind the insects and competing plants that keep it under control in its homeland. The Minnesota DNR explains, “The plant can form dense, impenetrable stands which are unsuitable as cover, food, or nesting sites for a wide range of native wetland animals including ducks, geese, rails, bitterns, muskrats, frogs, toads, and turtles. Many rare and endangered wetland plants and animals are also at risk.” http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/aquaticplants/purpleloosestrife/index.html

The Land Conservation Subcommittee is working on a plan for Lathrop’s wet meadows, as well as our other natural treasures. Watch for more. See a really neat wet meadow project in Ann Arbor at http://www.wetmeadow.org.

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