Marsh marigold

Shirley Heinze Snapshot 2: The Great Marsh, May 7, 2023

By Dale K. Nichols (Board Member)

Dear friends of Shirley Heinze Land Trust:  This is the second in a series of “snapshots” featuring our Beverly

Shores/Great Marsh preserve.

Skunk cabbage
skunk cabbage

How quickly things change!  What just a few short weeks ago was a barren brown landscape has now morphed into a mottled sea of expanding greenness.  Skunk cabbage plants (Symplocarpus foetidus) were the earliest to sprout.

Over the past month what began as small verdant dots have grown into expansive areas of leafy foliage.  Various varieties of spring grasses and sedges are starting to show themselves as well.  And on the National Park side of the Great Marsh, beautiful yellow-blossomed marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) can now be seen in large numbers.

marsh marigold


I understand these plants had long ago disappeared from much of the property acquired by Shirley Heinze, but Stewardship Ecologist Doug Botka recently told me he discovered five this season, for the first time in his memory, in the blocks east and west of Wells.




golden ragwort

Beautiful stands of golden ragwort (Senecio aureus) dot the Beverly Drive roadside, interspersed with sporadic patches of invasive garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolate) that seem to defy all efforts at eradication and are already starting to go to seed. The first of the spring butterflies have emerged:  a few Cabbage Whites and Red Admirals can be seen here and there, along with an occasional bee.  We’ll have to wait a while longer for the rest of the insect population to follow.

At this point I would like to give a shoutout to the marvelous SHLT stewardship staff, led by Stewardship Director Eric Bird.  Their ongoing efforts, which to date have concentrated on the land trust’s Great Marsh holdings between Broadway and Merrivale, are starting to have a tremendous impact on the land’s ecological health.  Doug Botka (mentioned earlier) and the team, including Stewardship Assistants Allison Visnyak, Jennifer Pullen, and Cody Banks, have worked tirelessly for several years now to eradicate invasive species from about half of that area.  Where uncontrolled stands of cattails, phragmites and reed canary grass once prohibited their growth, native grasses, reeds, sedges, rushes, and forbs are making a remarkable comeback.  Longtime human residents of the area are noticing the difference.  And so are the many species of insects, birds and mammals benefiting from the improved diversity of their ecosystem, upon which they are reliant for their habitat and food source.  The next time you see stewardship staff out in the marsh, please stop and thank them for their efforts!

Eric, Jennifer, Doug, Cody, Allison