Botanical Notes on the South Grand Island Bridge Area,

 Erie County, New York
P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
October 8, 2003


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Botanical Notes on the South Grand Island Bridge Area, Erie County, New York
(a photo essay)



The South Grand Island Bridge looking upstream from a patch of natural shoreline on the mainland.




The peculiar distribution of herbaceous species can be seen here on the mainland with swathes of urticaceous plants and other plants of wet ground interrupted by patches of soil completely without vegetation. This seems to be due to water standing long enough in the spring to drown germinating seeds or other propagating structures. Boles of the Green Ash trees are very young. Note the absence of shrubs here due to shade. The close canopy prevents the rapid development of alien weed populations.




Although this essay deals primarily with the plants that comprise this mainland shoreline habitat, there is a wealth of other organisms that make this their home, as this tiny snail.




Fallen logs host the fungi populations that feed on them. The logs in this woods are relatively fresh with their bark still adherent.




Where the canopy permits, lush stands of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica) develop. Both are typical of understory development in wet Red Maple - Green Ash swamp forests, probably the original forest type here in the wetter shores along the Niagara River. Note the near absence of sedge, rush and grass elements typical of spring-wet, autumn-dry forests dominated by Oaks and Hickories.




Monkey-flower (Mimulus ringens) has leaves like other swamp herbs, but its large, and distinctive blue-purple flower sets it apart from species whose flowers are inconspicuous.




This linear patch of black, reduced soil is marked by its ephemeral use by a vehicle, creating the pattern of two ruts in the wet trough. This trough divides the False Nettle patch.




The dry stalks of Garlic Mustard indicate we are approaching the berm area.  Fallen logs and dense shade may be seen in the background.




The berm looking northward with its green surface composed of the moss Fissidens taxifolius typical of shaded moist forest soil, growing where nothing else will grow, as in the dense shade under Hawthorn copses. The dry stalks are of Garlic Mustard.




The downstream, northern edge of the shoreline parcel looking eastward at industrial conditions that surround this wood, miraculously intact in many essential characters.




An unusual appearance, an unarmed beach with rounded pebbles on the foreshore giving way to finer material further up the beach out of quiet waves.






Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) is an important component of native shoreline thickets, together with its sister, the Panicled Dogwood (Cornus racemosa).




The thick, tough stems horizontal trunks of Crack Willow (Salix fragilis) stabilize the shoreline, creating a buffer against turbulent water several yards out from the beach, together with Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), the erect trunk in the picture. Both are in the Willow family and are shade intolerant. The exotic Purple, or Basket Willow also occurs on this shore.




Willows, Dogwoods, and Cottonwoods create the habitat for this living community. Some of the most striking and beautiful herbaceous species accompany them in the understory on the beach.




Looking like a Bugleweed (Lycopus), this mint (Mentha arvensis) is the main contributor to the intense fragrance of spearmint when bruised by the hike along the shoreline.




The exotic Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), whose epithet indicates its early use as a remedy for venereal disease, is one of the more striking shoreline flowers, especially when growing together with the native, yellow-flowered Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). These two plants also grow together on the beach at the base of Devil's Hole State Park, downstream in the lower, gorge portion of the Niagara River.




Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale).




This deer footprint on the beach shows the presence of deer throughout the industrial and railroad complexes in the north Buffalo, southern Tonawanda areas near the South Grand Island Bridge of Interstate 190.




A rather unique view of the ancestral shoreline of the City of Buffalo and the Tonawandas and the pattern of its associated plant community. This area is a model for restoration of many shoreline sections of the Niagara River above the cataracts at Niagara Falls.