In Chatham, MA, Sylvan Gardens needed a botanical inventory. The Society's conservation staff met the challenge.
by John Burns
Usually the Conservation Department is called upon to do what we do best; identify native plants and in nice weather. Last December, the Constaff received a contract of a different sort. The Town of Chatham, Massachusetts wanted a botanical inventory and the mapping of natural communities for a nine acre parcel slated to become a town park, and they wanted product by December 12. Ted Elliman and John Burns were up for the challenge, but also negotiated to have the deadline be later in the 2011 field season, for better results and a better experience. The Department is working as a subcontractor with Michael Talbot and Associates of Mashpee to develop a management plan for this unique Cape Cod property.
The property turned out to be quite interesting, though quite foreign to our knowledge base. The property was an estate of a fellow who collected unusual specimens of plants. Umbrella pines, cedar of Lebanon, and all sorts of interesting Rhododendrons and Viburna were just some of the surprising and interesting finds on the property. Cultivars of dogwood, Andromeda, various yews and holly added to the challenge. Unfortunately, the English ivy also had a good foothold in the wonderful network of trails through this veritable arboretum. Whole trunks of trees and large patches of the ground were covered in ivy, making it difficult to even see the enormous Wysteria which was strangling a lone saucer Magnolia in the midst of the woods.
Mr. Sylvan was also a breeder of daffodils. Throughout the property, little patches of unusual varieties of daffodils highlight the trails’ edges. They come in all sizes and colored centers. Occasional snow drops and even Cyclamen will catch you by surprise as you go to sit on the bench overlooking White Pond.
The final product to the town will include a list of suggestions and priorities for taming this fascinating park so the public can come and appreciate the interesting specimens Sylvan Gardens has to offer. If you are ever in the Chatham and have an hour to explore, stop by the town offices and ask where Sylvan Gardens is. You won’t be disappointed.