Elm City residents learned how to identify maple, oak and ash trees at the Pond Lily Nature Preserve on Sunday morning.
The New Haven Land Trust hosted the event “Trees and Trails: A Tree Identification Workshop” to celebrate the opening of Willsher’s Walk, a new trail built in the preserve over the past summer. The Land Trust acquired the 14-acre preserve in 1996, though back then, the preserve still included a dam built on the West River back in 1794. The Land Trust and its partners removed the dam in 2014 to mitigate flooding hazards and allow fish to migrate and have since then readied the preserve for public recreation.
Nearly a dozen Yale affiliates and city residents braved the rain to attend the nature walk.
“It is wonderful to greet my new friends by name,” said Emma Spence ’18 of the plethora of trees discussed on the walk.
She explained she was familiar with plants native to the West Coast, but had not yet had the opportunity to fully engage in plant identification in New England. As a Yale Outdoors coordinator, Spence added that YO is trying to partner more with the Land Trust to bring Yalies to green spaces in the city. Though people often dismiss smaller green spaces, Spence said, they are vital to communities.
The walk was led by Marlyse Duguid FES ’10 GRD ’16, a research coordinator for the Yale School Forests who taught attendees how to use leaf shape and arrangement to tell plants apart. She shared a mnemonic — “Mad Horse” — to remember if leaves on a tree are arranged in an opposite or alternating pattern. For example, she said maples, ashes, dogwoods and horse chestnuts all have opposite leaf patterns.
Duguid instructed participants on how to distinguish sugar maples from red and Norway maples based on leaf shape and sap consistency, and how to tell various elm species apart based on the texture of their bark.
She also highlighted various ecological problems in the city, stating that despite Sunday’s rain, the area is currently in a severe drought. Duguid also discussed an invasive insect that affects ash trees around the country.
Max Farbman ’18, the outreach and education coordinator for the Land Trust, helped organize the event and said the opening of Willsher’s Walk makes Pond Lily the third of six preserves the Land Trust has stewardship over to have a hiking trail. The trail, he explained, was named for a man who passed away in 1995 after rescuing two children from Lily Pond.
“The area has changed a lot,” said New Haven resident Bill Batsford. “I am interested in what the land trust has done with it.”
Besides events like the tree identification walk, the Land Trust supports approximately 50 community gardens across New Haven and is involved in teaching environmental and outdoor education, Farbman said.
Over the summer, the Land Trust partnered with the Boys and Girls Club; Schooner, Inc.; and the Sound School — three different local organizations that work with children — to offer programming about coastline and animals to children in summer camps. The Land Trust hopes to expand this camp in the future, he said, adding that the Trust is currently working with four New Haven high school students to teach them to grow and sell vegetables in its Growing Entrepreneurs program.
Various Yale courses, including Mary Beth Decker’s “Coastal Environments in a Changing World,” utilize the Land Trust’s preserves as well, Farbman said.