Notes on the flora of
by P. M. Eckel
Exploring for Nineteenth‑century Plants considered rare today in New York State, a field trip was conducted by the author on August 5, 2001, for two hours under a sunny, glaring sky, initiated on the southern extremity of the island where the lift bridge at the end of Ferry Street is located, and continued to the northern island tip and a small stone pier or mole extending downstream a short way parallel to the River. The observations of the floral character listed below form an composite by which floristic elements noted in Nineteenth Century archival manuscripts and herbarium specimens at the Clinton Herbarium (BUF) of the Buffalo Museum of Science may be compared.
The present day
overall aspect of
The south end of
south‑center of the island is the sewer works of the City of
North of the
mound on Squaw Island the island is bisected east‑west by the
International Railroad Bridge, built in 1873 by the then Grand Trunk Railway
and designed by E. P. Hannaford (Greenhill 1984). The railroad embankment was
covered with a lush weedy growth in 2001, with Thistle (Cirsium arvense
and C. vulgare) and Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa), on its south
side with Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare), Hungarian Bromegrass (Bromus
inermis), Staghorn Sumach and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), but by
early 2003, this growth had been completely cut over, as well as grown up
areas along the river bank adjacent to the railway. The presence of a Border
Patrol car parked beside the rail bed seems to indicate the vegetation was
removed as a result of heightened security to better detect illegal entry
Continuing north from the train bridge is an open area whose surface was completely bulldozed with not even grass present (in 2003 the area was improved with plantings of landscape evergreens, no doubt with the intent to provide asphalt surfaces, a lawnscape and picnic tables in the years to come).
The northern tip
island shore abuts the
Starting at the southern extremity of Squaw Island on the western shore, there is a bare wall against the river current from which fishing is enjoyed and large masses of water weeds, particularly Eel‑grass (Vallisneria americana) and Potamogeton spp. (P. pectinatus), were pulled up with fishing lines and heaped on the concrete. There is an asphalt biking lane parallel to the shore, on the eastern margin of which occurs a chain‑link fence delimiting the sewer plant and enclosing a mown lawn and numerous landscaped trees (Robinia pseudoacacia; Gleditsia triacanthos, Salix fragilis). A high diversity of weedy plants occurs along the fence: Cirsium sp., Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Bird's‑foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).
The ballasted area
has a sparser flora of similar species: Chicory (Cichorium intybus),
Quack‑grass (Agropyron repens), Great Burdock (Arctium lappa),
Hedge Bindweed (Convolvulus or Calystegia sepium), Field
Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), Bastard Toad‑flax (Linaria
vulgaris), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Curly Dock (Rumex
crispus), Lamb's Quarters (Chenopodium, cf. album or glaucum),
Catnip (Nepeta cataria), English plantain (Plantago lanceolata),
Plantain (Plantago major), Biennial Wormwood (Artemisia biennis), Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota),
Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis
or S. altissima), Day Lily (Hemerocallis probably the fulva
or the orange flowered species), Multi‑flowered Rose (Rosa
multiflora) by the fence. Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum japonicum) is
escaping here; scrambling over the ballast occur Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus
vitacea), Common Pepper‑grass (Lepidium virginicum), a
species of Dogbane (Apocynum sp.), Black Mustard (Brassica nigra)
occur. Sprouting trees include Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) and
White Ash (Fraxinus
On the stone ballast and gravelly path margins to the north where the breakwall ends occurs a somewhat different weedy flora, including many sprouts of Tree‑of‑Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), White Mulberry (Morus alba), young Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), Burdock (Arctium lappa), Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Cockle‑bur (Xanthium strumarium), Black Mustard, Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Horseweed (Conyza
canadensis), Catnip, Hungarian Brome‑grass (Bromus
inermis) and a species of Love grass (Eragrostis), a Brome‑grass
(Bromus cf. secalinus, with bent awns), Scentless Chamomile (Matricaria
maritima although this should be checked whether it is rather a species
of Anthemis (Corn Chamolile or Mayweed, A. arvensis or A.
cotula), Canada Blue‑grass (Poa compressa). Just at
Note that the rocks here appear to be sprayed with herbicide because much of the vegetation appears blackened. Note also here, as to fauna, was a dead Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis).
At the end of the sewer plant area and the settling ponds occurs the dumping mound supporting a hard, dry, gravelly soil which is covered with grass species with interspersed forbs. Species include: Red Top (Agrostis cf. gigantea), Quackgrass (Agropyron repens), Timothy (Phleum pratense), Hungarian Bromegrass (Bromus inermis), Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata), Lolium cf. perenne, English Plantain (Plantago lanceolata), Knapweed (Centaurea spp.), Chicory, Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense), Common Mugwort, Hairy Aster (Aster pilosus var. pilosus), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa), St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum, Millefoil (Achillea millefolium, White Sweet Clover (Melilotus alba),
ballasted shore meets the
Beyond the bridge with its great Salix cf. fragilis willow tree occur more weeds, denser but apparently not more diverse.
North of the bridge occurs a very large, open area whose surface is completely stripped with isolated mature trees of Crack Willow (Salix fragilis), Weeping Willow (S. babylonica) and Trembling Aspen (Populus tremuloides). Subsequently (in early 2003) evergreens had been planted. There was no asphalted surface.
Along the western
shore of the island on the Niagara river, there is a more developed forest
above the riprap with more mature trees and shrubs of Staghorn Sumach,
Cottonwood, White Ash, Crack Willow, much Box Elder (Acer negundo),
some Catalpa (Catalpa cf. speciosa). Shrubby thickets were composed
of Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) and some River Grape (Vitis riparia).
Summer‑cypress (Kochia scoparia), a foreign weed spreading
throughout the streets of
At the narrowed northern tip of the island occurred a sterile lagoon on the west side and a channel on the eastern. Extensive Trees‑of‑Heaven grew around the lagoon with Canada Thistle and Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officinalis).
The northern end
here supported a mix of native and introduced species: some Narrow‑leaved
Cattail (Typha angustifolia), Scentless Chamomile (Matricaria
maritima, but see note above), Clovers (Trifolium pratense, T.
hybridum, T. repens), probably from lawn seed, Bird's‑foot
Trefoil, a field of White Sweet Clover, a tiny plant of what appeared to be a
Lobelia, Polygonum cf. persicaria, Chenopodium
album/glaucum, the native marsh Bluejoint Grass (Calamagrostis
canadensis) grew with alien Lolium grass and Timothy, Black
Mustard, Biennial Wormwood, Lettuce (Lactuca cf. serriola),
Canada and Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare), abundant Goldenrod (Solidago
cf. gigantea‑canadensis), Purple Loosestrife, Peppermint (Mentha
piperita), Evening‑primrose (Oenothera cf. biennis),
Curly Dock, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), New England Aster (Aster
novae‑angliae), possibly Hairy Hedge‑nettle (Stachys
hispida), Jewelweed (Impatiens cf. capensis), Pensylvania
Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum), a large‑flowered Willow‑herb
(Epilobium cf. angustifolium), Joe Pye‑weed (Eupatorium
maculatum), Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens); Comfrey (Symphytum
officinale). An interesting grass Poa nemoralis, occurring
throughout the shaded
On flat concrete
surface of the stone pier occurred dense carpets of Mossy Stonecrop (Sedum
acre), which was also present, although not as extensive, on the mole
extending southward of the southern tip of
Amid the Sedum
grew more Bouncing Bet. Along the pier and lagoon areas occurred a
The east side of Squaw Island is armed with walls on the north, and from the International Bridge south there was, but since removed, a dense weed forest on the embankment of Cottonwood, Crackwillow, Staghorn Sumach, fields of Mugword, Japanese Knotweed, Purple Loosestrife, Black Mustard, River Grape. There is here a little muddy beach more or less exposed at times of low water.
No access is
available to the shoreline from the entrance to the
Two moist areas
of native regenerating habitat were indicated and with some well‑informed
weeding, could conceivably develop into a community of native taxa typical of
the present shoreline
Maintenance and other disturbance regimes, the planting of inappropriate and invasive species of trees (Robinia forms cloned colonies difficult to subsequently eradicate; Gleditsia escapes), mowing, lawn implementation, use of herbicides on ballast promotes a deteriorated landscape at odds with a naturally regenerating riparian shoreline community.
southern pier or mole was not examined on this day, a brief field trip for
photographic purposes was made later on March 29, 2003. The author took a
walk down this stone pier between the ice‑dotted Niagara River on the
It should be
noted that the vegetation favored the
No rare species were observed, although Iris virginica var. shrevei needs looking for earlier in the year. A record for Cirsium altissimum was misidentified in the collections as BUF. No Equisetum species were noted anywhere on the island. A possible rare species of Oenothera noted from the late 1800's should also be looked for.
French, J. H. 1860. Historical and Statistical Gazetteer of
Greenhill, Ralph. 1984. Spanning
Introductory map: U.S.G.S. Buffalo NW Quadrangle, New York-Ontario, 7.5 minute series (topographic), 1965.
(If you have a modem connection, the pictures will take a while to download.)
Looking north (downstream in the Niagara River) from the north end of the Bird Island Pier at the southern end of Squaw Island. In view is the parking lot, park area and the east-west International Railroad Bridge in the background. Bridge in the foreground is the Ferry Street (lift) Bridge over the Black Rock canal. The Niagara River is on the left (west).
Looking north on the Bird Island Pier toward the southern end of Squaw Island showing established vegetation that tends to favor the Black Rock channel side of the pier (winter view). Plants include Evening Primrose, Purple Loosestrife, Mugwort (see text).
Another winter view from the Bird Island Pier looking toward the southern end of Squaw Island, the Niagara River on the left (west), the Black Rock canal on the right (east). The bridge is the Ferry Street (lift) Bridge.