This old-field habitat was once a pasture; now it is full of sun-loving grasses, wildflowers and shrubs that feed and protect an array of wildlife. Spring brings golden ragwort (Senecio aureus), the white fringes of tall meadow rue (Thalictrum polygamum) and daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus). In the fall, plumes of goldenrod (Solidago species), bushy white asters (Aster pilosus/vimineus) and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carola) appear. Many old-field wildflowers produce seeds that feed songbirds in the winter.
If the shrubs and trees in the field are allowed to grow, they will shade out most of the grasses and wildflowers turning the old field into a young forest. Such gradual change in the plant community is called “succession”. In the past, wildfires and storms cleared fields of trees and shrubs, but today fires are suppressed, and old fields are turning into woodlands. An additional threat to old fields – and other habitats as well – is invasion by non-native plants. The worst invader here is multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), which spreads rapidly and competes with the native grasses and wildflowers for light, nutrients and water. Ladew’s old field is protected by periodically cutting back this woody invader.
View a map of the Nature Walk