Crow’s Nest: Nature’s Landscape Architecture

May 1, 2020

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager.

There is a simple composition here that I don’t think anyone planted, it’s just an unused wet corner where the tractor path enters the farm fields from Piersol Road. The main plants you see are skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) with stems of hawthorn (Crataegus sp.) arching over them.

Last week (April 22) the sun reached right through to the skunk cabbage, and bare stems emphasized dramatic lines of the hawthorn thicket. I love skunk cabbage: the smell, the look—from late winter’s hooded flowers to spring’s lush foliage. And this thicket of hawthorn I’m finding more attractive every year; it’s been battling for light with Japanese honeysuckle, and (with a little help from me) maybe the balance is finally tipping in favor of the hawthorn, which does not persist in the forest understory but is an early successional species left alone by graziers. There are a great variety of hawthorn species that are similar so I didn’t attempt to narrow it down beyond genus.

This week the area looks different, with delicate hawthorn flowers hovering over the skunk cabbage. This area I’ve always considered more functional than beautiful—after all, it’s mainly an access point for the tractor—but I’m pleased that nature’s landscape design here is also so pleasing.