A volunteer project identifies hundreds of different species demonstrating the flora of the region is more diverse than one might expect.
by James Ellis
“Hardly too much attention can be bestowed on flowers,” said the early naturalist Henry David Thoreau. The Barnstable Land Trust agrees. The nonprofit has started inventorying all of the wildflowers on land under its protection. Initiated late in 2019, the effort undertaken by volunteers focused initially on three parcels: Bell Farm in Cotuit, Fuller Farm in Marstons Mills, and the fields of Proctor’s Crossing in West Barnstable. “The inventory is helpful to our land trust in many ways,” says Janet Milkman, executive director of the Barnstable Land Trust. “The knowledge of which plants are on our properties helps us refine our land management practices for habitat protection. It’s also great for educating visitors and even for grant applications.” By the end of 2020, the volunteers had identified hundreds of different species from pink lady’s slippers to prairie ironweed.
While the project may have been easy to do on beautiful summer days, there was a more significant purpose that kept the volunteers scanning the local landscape even when the weather turned: to help study wildflowers’ critical and colorful link in the ecosystem chain. Everything in our local environment is connected, and as a result, when one link is out of sync, it has a ripple effect. Native wildflowers feed and shelter birds, insects, and pollinators, and some species are in decline. Taking inventory of the local landscape can be useful in land management, educational programs, and financial aid efforts.