When you walk through the upper level of High School Park, you can't help but notice the beautiful textures and colors of grasses and wildflowers that characterize this broad expanse. Meadows are ecosystems composed of perennial plants-grasses and wildflowers (sometimes referred to as forbs). Meadows occur where the soil is too wet, too poor, or too dry to sustain woody plants (trees and shrubs), or where there is some natural or manmade disturbance, which prevents natural succession from turning the meadow into a woodland. Disturbances that preserve a meadow might be fire, grazing animals, or mowing.
The upper level at High School Park is an ideal site for a meadow because the burned out structure of the old school was crushed into the foundation of the school, and a thin layer of soil and compost was laid over it. This marginal layer of soil can't support the growth of trees and shrubs, but it is ideally suited to grasses and wildflowers. Regular mowing helps keep any woody seedlings in check.
Most native meadows are dominated by warm season grasses such as big bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, little bluestem, broom-sedge, and purpletop. These grasses emerge later in the spring than European cool season grasses that are commonly used in lawns, and they set their seed late in the summer. The clump-forming, warm season native grasses provide cover for ground nesting birds. The turf-forming cool season grasses do not provide these birds with their necessary habitat.
Interspersed among the grasses are patches of native wildflowers, such as various species of milkweed, goldenrod, asters, and violets. These plants provide a gorgeous changing tapestry of colors through the seasons. They also create habitat for a great diversity of birds, insects, and animals, which are adapted to this particular ecosystem. You may see bluebirds and warblers in the meadow at High School Park. Milkweeds there provide food for both the adults and larvae of monarch butterflies, and violets are the host plants for fritillary butterflies. Other meadow insects include grasshoppers, dragonflies, and bees. Animals such as mice, rabbits, and voles also inhabit our meadow.
High School Park's meadow is threatened by such exotic invasive plants as Canada thistle, porcelain berry, and crown vetch. Because of the extent of the damage done by these plants, the Friends of High School Park will need to completely reestablish a new meadow, which will also be wider. Our restoration plan calls for dividing the meadow into two sections and phasing our restoration so that only one section is worked on at a time. This will give us manageable-sized areas to replant at one time, while preventing invasive plants from reentering the area. Once we completely restore both sections of the meadow, it will be mowed every spring and summer.