Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blackwell Foothpath through Bussey Brook Meadow, a 1996-addition to the Arnold Arboretum

Blackwell footpath trailheadThe Blackwell Footpath connects the South Street Gate in Boston's Arnold Arboretum with the Washington Street Gate southwest of the Forest Hills MBTA Station. Within minutes, you can be in an urban ecosystem and protected landscape, while leaving the train station. After passing the Blackwell Footpath rock, shown above, the trail descends into Bussey Brook Meadow. A Welcome panel describes the meadow path as follows:

As you walk the Blackwell Footpath notice this urban wild is different from the rest of the Arnold Arboretum landscape. The Arboretum is managed through a unique public-private partnership between the City of Boston and Harvard University. Bussey Brook Meadow was added to the Arboretum in 1996 through the generosity and dedication of the Arboretum Park Conservancy.

Blackwell Footpath
The Arnold Arboretum is an urban park dedicated to nature studying. Alongside the Blackwell Footpath you will find a few display panels featuring birds of Bussey Brook Meadow, vines and plants gone to seed in the meadow, including Queen Anne's lace, milkweed, tansy, bittersweet, hickory, porcelain berry, crabapple, virginia creeper and staghorn sumac (also written stag-horn sumac or stag's horn sumach). The latter, Rhus typhina, is a flowering plant of southeastern Canada, the northeastern United States and the Appalachian Mountains. Small trees grow next to the footpath. The picture below shows a plants with its alternate, pinnately compound leaves, hairy stems and velvet twigs, and a cone-shaped cluster of fuzzy, red berries.

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) next to Blackwell Footpath

What is now the Arboretum landscape were farms and orchards in the past. Then and now, the north-facing slope of Peters Hill features fruit trees. The Welcome panel says:

In the past this land was farmed , then  abandoned, then used as a dump. Plants here are historically native to this area, many are invasive, and some are exotics that have self-seeded from across the street. Many birds and animals inhabit this place as well.

The urban wild continues east of Bussey Brook Meadow as a patchwork of forest-like tree stands with cultivated areas including special gardens and plant collections. Farther northwest you'll find another beautiful path, the Linden Path, cultivated areas such as the Leventritt Garden and the Hunnewell Building housing the Arboretum's visitor center.

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