With a mission to engage visitors, inspire action and change social behaviour, the staff members of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve (BHWP) adroitly steward 100-plus acres of rich forest and diverse meadows in the heart of historic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Near to the site of General George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, the preserve houses over 800 species of wildflowers and other plants, creating healthy, abundant habitat for a plethora of bird and invertebrate species. BHWP is also home to over 80 rare and endangered plant species making it an area of conservation concern for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
We were treated to gorgeous weather during our visit to Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. In a casual stroll of the gardens and meadow we encountered at least 50 plant species, many in bloom, with 8 different species of moths, butterflies and skippers. Particularly noteworthy were the swallowtails feeding on the nectar of Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot or lavender bee balm)
Other Lepidoptera species observed included: sleeping orange, cloudless sulphur, red-banded hairstreak, juniper hairstreak and snowberry clear-winged moths.
In the morning we met with Miles Arnott, Director of the BHWP Association, whose organization administers programs targeting school groups and teachers, landscape professionals, homeowners, and members of the general public. Under Miles’s guidance, BHWPA has more than doubled its membership to 1,800 by focusing on educating people both “inside the fence and outside the fence.” This fence is actually a massive deer exclosure which encompasses nearly the entirety of the property, preventing plants from overgrazing by overly abundant ungulates. By excluding deer, the plants are able to grow and reproduce freely, resulting in a healthy multi-storied vegetation layer which approximates a balanced Eastern U.S. forest with large and small trees, shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. This vertical stratification in turn supports quality habitat for many bird species, including harder-to-spot avians like the Louisiana water thrush, rose-breasted grosbeak and scarlet tanagers.
Miles also described the work that BHWPA is doing on developing its fee-for-service Plant Stewardship Index (PSI). The PSI is a metric which gives a conservation score of 0-10 based on habitat suitability in a given landscape. The PSI factors among other things: presence of rare species, hard to propagate species and specialist species requiring particular conditions for growth and reproduction to determine a score value for justifying protecting lands. Based on these criteria, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve is clearly worthy of continued preservation and support to encourage others to experience the beauty and serenity of this magical place, a touchstone of Pennsylvania’s natural heritage.
For more information visit: www.bhwp.org