UNION COUNTY, NJ — Nearly 10 years ago, Union County workers and volunteers began planting native wildflowers around the lake at Warinanco Park in Roselle. Today, the lawn has become a colorful wildflower meadow and a thriving nature habitat that provides nectar, seeds and fruits that nourish birds, butterflies, moths, bees and other valuable pollinators. The meadow and nearby trees also provide nesting habitat and shelter for birds, along with cooling shade that helps to keep the lake healthy for fish.
The plantings are designed to transition through the growing season by color, from white daisies and golden yellow “sneezeweed” in the spring to orange butterfly weed, blue vervain, pink Joe-pye weed, purple New York ironweed, and pink and white rose mallow throughout the summer. The parade of colors continues in the fall, with pink asters.
On recent visits, butterflies spotted in the wildflower meadow included the Tiger Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail, Least Skipper, Pearl Crescent, Silver Spotted Skipper and Buckeye. Possible sightings of Comma and Skipper butterflies were also noted.
The wildflower meadow is part of a broader shoreline restoration project completed in 2006. The project, partly funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, was designed to prevent algae blooms and improve water quality in the lake.
Volunteer groups work regularly in the meadow to remove invasive plants such as mugwort, spotted knapweed and bindweed. Volunteers also repair and replace fencing, and remove litter and debris.
They have also planted thousands of trees, shrubs, and aquatic plants along the shoreline to control erosion and to help filter out pollutants such as goose and dog waste.
Among the many Adopt-a-Park groups working at Warinanco Park are the Green Team from Groundwork Elizabeth, the Haitian Flag Day Committee, Jersey Cares, and CIT. Morgan Stanley and Phillips 66 also provided funding for wildflower seeds and new fencing, in addition to organizing employee volunteers.
County work crews also mow the Warinanco wildflower meadow one to two times yearly. The carefully timed mowings are designed to reduce woody vegetation and discourage the spread of invasive species.
County residents and businesses are encouraged to introduce native species on their property, to help promote habitats for valuable pollinators while reducing or eliminating the cost of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Because native species are drought hardy, they also save money on water bills and lawn care.
In addition to supporting the improved habitat in Warinanco, the Freeholder Board has also worked to upgrade the park’s popular recreation facilities. Plans are also under way for an expanded new Warinanco Ice Skating Center in the park, making it available for different activities throughout the year.
For more information on planting native species, download the free Union County “Plant This, Not That!” guide from the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation, a Girl Scout Gold Award project of Union County resident Natalie Salinardo.
Union County residents can join Adopt-a-Park on an individual basis, or as part of a business, school or community group. For more information, visit Adopt-a-Park online at ucnj.org or call the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-789-3683.