Sunday, April 20, 2008

Shenk's Ferry Wildflower Preserve Field Trip

Certainly we went to Shenk's Ferry looking for Trilliums, and we found them, but there was so much more. This slope, like much of the steep terrain alongside the stream valley was enveloped in a haze of Virginia Bluebells. Other species bloomed in mass quantities; spectacular drifts of Phlox, Dicentra, Saxifraga, Trillium colorfully graced the slopes. We saw smaller populations of a number of exciting less commonly encountered plants including Walking fern, White Trout Lily, a senescing Puttyroot, and Showy Orchis (not yet flowering), among others. It was good to be there at the perfect time of year on a spectacular day.

Shenk's Ferry is a fascinating site. Apparently there is a core of Ordovician limestone with schist at either end. I'll look at the geology later and maybe revise this paragraph, but this is what I got from the local experts. Obviously there is a lot of seeping going on (even young limestone is porous and this limestone isn't young!) that provides enough moisture on those slopes to allow large populations of non-xeric wildflowers. There are a good number of limestone ferns on the fern list available at the head of the trail.

Pennsylvania Power and Light Company owns the land and allows visitation year round from 8:00 to sunset. There was a rumor at this field trip that they are going to turn iit over to a local Conservancy. That could only be a good thing as it will allow for more/any invasive control. There are some invasive issues, predictably worse at the periphery. Garlic mustard abounds; there are quantities of Japanese honeysuckle, Daylilies, Ornithogalum, a monstrously large Oriental bittersweet and more. Still it is a nice site inside and a little work would go a long way.

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