My naturalist training group went to the Houston Meadow (also called Cathedral Meadow). The meadow is near Houston Playground between Cathedral Road and Bell’s Mill Road in the Andorra section of the city.
The land in this section of the city is upland forest and riverine forest with natural patches of meadows where trees fall and open the forest canopy.
The land that Philadelphia is in, is a patchwork of forests, meadows and wetlands. And more survives then most people think and less than what would be ideal.
To find this natural meadow in the city of Philadelphia was a shock and a joy. We spotted a rare beetle, the Indigo Dogbane Beetle on Dogbane. The beetle is rare because the Dogbane plant is rare. And the beetle feeds on no other plant.
A nesting Box for an American Kestrel was placed in the meadow. This raptor needs open areas such as meadows to hunt in. I suspect if a Kestrel is nesting there that the meadow provides plenty of small mammals and insects to feed its young. If we had seen a Kestrel it would have been the perfect way to cap off the visit.
The meadow had many native grasses, flowers, native fruits and nuts. And Butterflies and Moths. Including Eastern Tent Caterpillar in the nearby forest, Silver Spotted Skipper, Cabbage White and Eastern Swallowtails in the Meadow. The butterflies certainly need the Meadow to survive and reproduce.
Houston Meadow has been a natural meadow for several hundred years. The Fairmount Park Commission removed many invasive and alien tree, shrub and plant species when it cleared and renovated the meadow this past spring. The meadow was expanded from about 15 acres to 47 acres. Good move. The species that require sunlight and open areas would not be able to survive in a shaded forest. This means no American Kestrels nesting in the city and less butterflies.
Visiting Houston Meadow is a great nature-centered “Thing to do in Philadelphia”.
I really look forward to leading groups and showing residents and visitors the natural wonders that lie within the city limits. I look forward to the day Philadelphia is visited not just for the historic human-centered places, but also for the fascinating natural places.
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