As you approach the open, sunny Lily Pond, you may hear a variety of lively sounds, such as bees buzzing, frogs croaking, and bird wings fluttering. These are the sounds of a healthy, complex natural system dependent on water-loving plants. The diverse plants cycle nutrients in the soil and water, attract insects, and provide food and shelter for wildlife ranging from tadpoles to turtles to birds.
As you walk around the pond in a clockwise direction, you will notice many examples of water-loving plants, from the striking blue iris in May to the shiny red berries of the aptly named common winterberry. Look for common buttonbush, with its distinctive white pincushion flower head in summer that becomes a hard, reddish fruit head in fall, and persists through the winter.
Plants and their pollinators trade food, such as nectar or pollen, for reproductive strategies, such as the transfer of pollen between plants. Species native to a particular region evolved together and may have physical features that bind them to an exclusive relationship. Consider two different cardinal-flowers, both present on the entry bank of the Lily Pond in late summer. Blue lobelia, which bees pollinate, has short blooms and thick leaves that provide a landing pad. Although its red cousin has a color attractive to many insects, only hummingbirds and some long-tongued butterflies can navigate its tubular bloom to feed on nectar and pollinate the plant.
When you reach the far side of the Lily Pond, you will see a small bog with our pitcher plant collection. Pitcher plants’ carnivory supports them in their acidic, low-nitrogen peat bog habitats. Nectar around the lip of the tube-shaped leaves attracts insects. The wavy patterns on the leaf guide them into the trap and the liquid at the bottom, where they drown and get digested. Our pitcher plant collection includes the one species native to New England, the purple pitcher plant. Alongside the purple pitcher plant are several species and cultivars from the southern United States. Look closely to notice distinguishing characteristics and count how many different types of pitcher plants you see.