Fresh Pond Almanac
August at the Meadow
At this time of the year, the reservation feels a bit quieter and more peaceful than the past two months. With the often sweltering heat, the park attracts fewer joggers and walkers. Yet, there is much to enjoy and many ecological activities to observe. The many different bee species of the meadow are still busy at work with pollination, squirrels and chipmunks are scurrying about, and dragonflies and damselflies are flying all around the reservation. For my first August visit, I was welcomed by a stunning katydid! I think it is a Scudder’s bush katydid (…)
“Now more than ever, with our planet facing issues such as biodiversity loss, I think it’s time to give back to nature and the ecosystems that exist within it. The first steps toward change are education and awareness-- knowing exactly what the problems are before you try to solve them.”
Lucy focused her EwA summer internship on local scale ecology, as well as participated in large-scale research and conversations about the environment. She worked on a site-specific ecological almanac (at the Fresh Pond Reservoir in Cambridge Massachusetts) documenting insects and plants throughout the season, as well as collaborated with citizen scientists in the field. Enjoy Lucy's summer Fresh Pond almanac!
EwA citizen scientists and interns survey the Lusitania meadow 📍 for arthropods every single week during the warm seasons. This gives us the opportunity to get to know the meadow intimately. Each week highlights different relationships between the plants and their ‘wild’ visitors as fascinating stories unfold. This almanac is a wonderful means to share what we observe and record at Lusitania with our communities.
📅 You can usually find us at the meadow weekly on Mondays (unless it rains). Check also our Eventbrite and join us in experiencing the magic of this wonderful meadow—an oasis in the middle of a very busy city.
August, often considered the final month of the summer season, is a moment of pause before the transition into autumn. People, young and old alike, try to take advantage of the waning days of summer, before a return to school, work, and other forms of normalcy in the fall. August in New England is hot, but usually slightly less so than some of the scorching days in July. During August, the average temperature level in Boston rests around 28°C (or 82°F). However, it can reach higher numbers, with the hottest day this past August reaching a high of about 34°C (or 93°F). Typically, August is one of the wetter months of the year in New England, with precipitation reaching higher levels than the previous summer months. However, after this July, it’s unclear that it will be the case this month: The National Weather Service announced a few days before the month-end, that the city of Boston is experiencing its second-wettest July on record.
One of the many plant species you can spot at the Lusitania meadow in August is the False Sunflower. False Sunflower, or Heliopsis helianthoides, is a flowering plant commonly found in New England. The flowers are a vibrant shade of yellow, with ray and disc florets that produce seeds. False Sunflower provides both nectar and pollen, which brings many visitors to the plant. Due to its popularity amongst pollinators and other various insects, the pollen source of the plant can be diminished on a daily basis. False Sunflower attracts several insects, such as syrphid flies and soldier beetles, that help control the number of aphids on the plant. The plant is able to grow in partial sunlight. At Fresh Pond, you can spot it growing in abundance along the path on the western side of the meadow 📍
False Sunflower Visitors
One group of insect species that are frequently observed at Fresh Pond and maintains a strong relationship with False Sunflower is bumblebees. Bumblebees both pollinate and feed on the nectar of this plant. Their primary role is the consumption of nectar, but some large bumblebee species, like the Common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) and Brown-belted bumblebee (Bombus griseocollis), gather pollen from the flowers. Small carpenter bees are also important members of the ecosystems at Fresh Pond. These bees pollinate the flowers of False Sunflower. Bees are not the only visitors of False Sunflower. Some butterfly species, including the Cabbage white (Pieris rapae), travel to the plant to feed on nectar.
Several visitors of the False Sunflower, including bumblebees, also frequent another plant of the meadow–Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). It is a wildflower and is known to many as wild balsam. The plant grows in moist areas with shade–often around shorelines. Jewelweed can be spotted near the shady main entrance of the meadow 📍. The plant has a semi-transparent and succulent stem, and the flowers are orange or yellow. Jewelweed is unique from most other wildflower species in the sense that the plant solely reproduces from seed in the springtime. Each flower produces nectar on a daily basis. The flowers are bisexual, but male flower parts grow and decline before female parts reach maturity– this timeline helps guarantee cross-pollination.
🌿 Jewelweed’s Healing Capabilities
One of the Jewelweed plant’s most unique qualities is its remedial abilities. For centuries, Native American communities have been aware of and utilized Jewelweed’s medicinal benefits. The stem and leaves of Jewelweed can help alleviate skin rashes or insect bites. This includes Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix), and nettle rashes! You can grind or pulverize the stem and foliage, and apply this to a rash, which will decrease inflammation and diminish pain and itching.
Many different insects, from all walks of life, visit Jewelweed plants for the purposes of pollination and feeding. Several types of bees make up the primary pollinators of Jewelweed, including bumblebees and honey bees, as well as the Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons), all of which can be spotted buzzing around Fresh Pond. In particular, you may spot a Common eastern bumblebee, or a Brown-belted bumblebee pollinating the abundant Jewelweed plants at the reservation. You are also likely to see Western honey bees (Apis mellifera). This is the only species of honey bees found in our area, and like all other honey bee species, is native to Eurasia. Bumblebees and honey bees make several uses of Jewelweed–beyond pollination, the plant serves as a food source. Bumblebees, honey bees, yellowjackets, as well as ants like the eastern Black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus), all visit the plant to feed on nectar.
🔎 Nature Quest » Ruby-throated hummingbird
Try to spot this species during your own Fresh Pond visit! [ 📸 EwA record from © Daniel Onea]
Jewelweed is a provider for all sorts of insect activity at Fresh Pond. However, insects are not the only creatures who benefit from the plant. The Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is a species native to the United States that both pollinates and feeds on the nectar of the Jewelweed plant.
If you are lucky, you may see a Ruby-throated hummingbird zipping around the Fresh Pond Reservation!
Nectar is not Jewelweed’s only source of sustenance for insects. Many different species feed on the vegetation, with grasshoppers, katydids, and soldier beetles eating the buds and flowers of the plant. At Fresh Pond, you may spot a Red-legged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) or meadow katydids engaging in such activity. Some insect species–like the caterpillars of the Virginia tiger moth (Spilosoma virginica)–also consume Jewelweed leaves. From a bug’s perspective, there is certainly a lot to enjoy from a Jewelweed!
There is plenty more to see at Fresh Pond during these final moments of summer. My observations during August expanded beyond the realm of plants and insects, marveling at birds such as the American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) and Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) flying about, and mammals like the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) as active as ever.
Visit Fresh Pond in August to see these wondrous sights for yourself, and stay tuned for our next monthly installment of the Fresh Pond Almanac. As usual, we will be on the lookout for arthropods, and especially pollinators—all busy preparing for wintering, or about to leave a new generation in the making before they themselves finish their cycle.
Enjoy your visit. 📅 Join our Plants and Wildlife Documentation Walks. Share your findings with us (you can comment below)!
EwA Useful Links
📖 The Book of Swamp & Bog: Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers of Eastern Freshwater Wetlands (1995) by John Eastman (Author), Amelia Hansen (Illustrator)
by Lucy Janovitz I Updated August 1st , 2021
First posted on August 4th, 2020. Editing & layout by Claire O’Neill. The photos in this article are visual records that the EwA team has collected at Fresh Pond. Click on the picture, and you’ll land on the record and its owner (records shown in this article are from Claire O’Neill and Daniel Onea). Photos are licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC). See EwA’s biodiversity occurrence records specific to this place in the EwA at Fresh Pond iNaturalist project.
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