Wild Flowers from Four Continents

Many of the plants at Salter Grove are wildflowers from other continents! Here, however, they are usually considered weeds because they readily colonize waste areas and lawns. Rarely are they given a second look before they are pulled up or mown down. Some of these are quite interesting and have been showcased east of the parking lot.

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Potential Pre-Colonial Tree Relicts

Measuring potential champion black oak after some banter about where the tape should go 

We learned about Matthew “Twig” Largess and Nathan Cornell in the Warwick Beacon where they were featured as seekers of old-growth forests. The woodland at Salter Grove is relatively young, but there are some unexpectedly large trees in the park so we invited this arboreal dynamic duo to assess them on Saturday, March 27.

They were joined by FoSG coordinator Peter Becker and nature trail volunteers, Carolyn Hardie, Nick Pasterino, Billy McGovern, Nancy Sumrall, and Marina Wong. Twig and Nathan examined and measure the suspected old-growth trees and provided a great deal of information in two short hours. 

We may have a champion black oak north of the parking lot. Our visitors were quite impressed by the very large black gums surrounded by numerous smaller individuals along the pond trail. 

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Romancing the Stone

As a preliminary to a geology section in our developing online nature trail guide, Jonathan Alvarez, a geologist from EA Engineering in Warwick, kindly shared his knowledge of features found at Salter Grove.

It is truly a shame that so many of the exposed rocks have been defaced by juvenile graffiti that obscures a fascinating geological history. Even birds know better than to foul their own nest! Please help us to realize our park’s potential as an outdoor classroom by leaving no trace of your visits.

Jonathan explains how conglomerates, sometimes referred to as puddingstone, are metamorphosed sedimentary rocks. These are part of the Rhode Island Formation and are Pennsylvanian in age (298-323 million years old). These conglomerates formed in a turbulent environment similar to a river bottom where the rounded cobbles and sandy matrix eventually were compressed through burial. During the Pennsylvanian Period, Rocky Mountain-sized ranges occurred east and west of the present Narragansett Bay, and their erosion produced enormous quantities of sediment that filled the space between, including wide river basins similar to the San Joaquin or Sonoma Valleys.

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Wanted: Historic Photos of Salter Grove

Source: hippostcard.com. No copyright infringement intended. 

The above view of Rock Island from what is currently known as Audubon Hill shows an interesting slice of Salter Gove’s history from the turn of the previous century.

At least three houses, long since gone, are visible on the island. Riverside, in the background, is already quite developed.

The circled trees are probably individuals of tree-of-heaven, which was introduced from China to the United States in the late 1700s as an ornamental plant. At Salter Grove, scattered individuals can now be found at the edge of the woodland south of the parking lot.

We would like to illustrate more of such historical changes in the Guide to Salter Grove website being developed. If you have photographs that you are willing to share we’d like to hear from you.

Please send scanned copies of your photos with all available information (dates, locality in park etc.) to guru@saltergrove.org. We would also welcome personal accounts of activities and times spent at the park in years past to add to our understanding of the park’s evolution. 

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk with freshly-captured squirrel 

While working on the nature trails on Tuesday, November 17th, a hawk flew right toward us, struggling to keep hold of a squirrel in its talons. It graciously posed for some photos, and then flew to a limb tangle where it was better able to pin the squirrel down for a feast. It must have been very hungry because it even stripped the fur off the squirrel’s tail, presumably to access the tidbits there.

An hour later, a large raccoon was spotted sleeping 35 feet up on a black oak bough, not far from the hawk’s feeding perch.

Then an immature bald eagle soared by over South Cove.

Finally, the same hawk was seen close up, feeding on another bird, but unfortunately the camera battery had died.

Salter Grove—who needs a documentary when you can see it live? 

Tidy-Up Reveals New Treasures

FoSG blof post (8-9-20)On Saturday, August 20th, Matt Dickinson, Carolyn Hardie, Billy McGovern (pictured above), and Marina Wong weeded the ornamental beds around the playground. Many armfuls of vegetation consisting of American pokeweed, annual knawel, Chinese foxtail, common wormwood, crabgrass, dock-leaved smartweed, green carpetweed, lambsquarters, nut flatsedge, and Pennsylvania everlasting-cudweed were removed, among others. So even the weeds at Salter Grove are species rich!

Given its small size, Salter Grove continues to amaze. The mindful weeding even uncovered two new plant species for the park—rough buttonweed and slender cotton weed. The park flora now includes at least 225 plant species in 78 families. Matt and Carolyn also saw a wild turkey while weeding to bring the August observable bird species count to 58.