maps Wildflowers of the Westborough Reservoir
What's New
Sandra Pond

In 1878 Westborough acquired a small pond and lands on Upton Road from Frank Sandra. The upper basin, originally a cranberry meadow, was dug out to create a shallow, spring-fed pond of 59 acres. To this day, the Reservoir--Sandra Pond--supplies the town with gravity-fed, fresh drinking water.

Between 1969 and 1971, the town acquired 144 additional acres of conservation land to protect the Reservoir's watershed after the construction of the Mass Pike in the late 1950s. The area along Bowman Street was replanted with over 1,000 pines, and nature trails were established to create a conservation area, which town residents still enjoy today. The Bowman Street Conservation Area is accessible from a parking lot on Bowman Street and from Minuteman Park, established along Upton Road in 1975.

The Westborough Reservoir and Bowman Street Conservation areas are laced with trails through varied terrain, which provides a range of growing environments for wildflowers. The plants range from commonplace to rare and protected. The 80 or so wildflowers shown here are presented roughly in the order in which they bloom, month by month, from March through October. Similarly, a separate article presents other local wildflowers found in and around Westborough.


More Photos Pussy Willow

Pussy Willow, Salicaceae family (Salicaceae)

Pussy willow (Salix discolor) is a clumped, shrubby plant that heralds the coming of spring with small, furry, gray catkins. It often starts to bloom in early March at the Reservoir, marking the beginning of wildflower season. The catkins are actually dense clusters of very simple flowers that lack petals.

Pussy willow bears male and female flowers on separate plants. After the furry catkins have been out for a while, male or female flower parts emerge from them. Insects carry the sticky yellow pollen from male flower to female flower as they forage.

Historically, the bark of most willows was used to relieve pain and lower fevers. Willow bark contains a substance that is chemically related to aspirin, which has since replaced it in modern medicine. Both the bark and the catkins of pussy willow were collected in the spring for use in medicines.


Skunk Cabbage, Arum family (Araceae), Native
Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus feotidus) is typically a very early spring blossom at the Reservoir. In wet places near streams, the fleshy, dark red hoods push up, barely noticeable among the dead leaves. The actual blossoms are sheltered inside.

Foul-smelling when stepped on or broken, skunk cabbage is pollinated by early bees and by flies. Recent research shows that parts of the plant generate heat as they come up, perhaps helping the plant to grow through snow or to attract its pollinators. A few weeks after the blossoms appear, the familiar green leaves unfurl and grow large.

Marsh Marigold, Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), Native
Marsh Marigolds

From time to time, marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) grows in a sunny spot along a stream bank at the Reservoir, or perhaps even right in the middle of the stream. Its vivid yellow blossoms appear before the leaves on the trees. Like many other members of the buttercup family, which grazing animals avoid, marsh marigold contains an acrid chemical that makes it unpalatable. Early New Englanders are said to have gotten around this problem by boiling the greens.

The flowers of marsh marigold look yellow to human eyes, but bees see them differently. They see ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths that we do not perceive. To bees, the marsh marigold flowers have a dark center, like a bull's-eye, that helps to guide them to nectar. The flowers absorb UV light especially strongly toward the center, so they look darker there to the bees.

Common Dandelion, Composite or Daisy family (Compositae), Alien

American Copper on Common Dandelion
American Copper on Common Dandelion
In fields and grassy areas at the Reservoir, as in local lawns, the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) pops up early in spring. Each of its low-lying, bright yellow flowerheads is actually a cluster or composite of a hundred or more separate small flowers. For this reason, the dandelion is a member of the Composite family, which is the largest and probably the most recent family of flowering plants. Dandelion flowerheads open in the morning and close in the evening or when it begins to rain.

Although a variety of insects visit the yellow flowers, looking for nectar early in the season, dandelion flowers produce seeds without being pollinated. These seeds are genetically the same as the parent plant. They appear in the familiar fuzzy ball-shaped head and blow away on the wind.

People have long used dandelions for food and medicine. The deep taproot, which helps the plant survive nature's droughts and homeowners' digging, has been an ingredient in medicines and salads. Young dandelion leaves have also gone into salads and been boiled as greens. The flowers and flower buds have been fried in batter. The flowers are also reputed to make a sweet wine.

Northern Downy Violet, Violet family (Violaceae), Native
Northern Downy Violet Late in April, the Northern Downy Violet (Viola fimbriatula) is usually the first spot of blue to appear in the woods. Its leaves are distinctive, hairy, and ovate-shaped when little and become more arrow-shaped as they grow.

Like many violets, this one has hairs on the side petals, forming a "beard." The beard gives insects something to hold onto while they poke their heads into center of the flower. It also helps to keep out rain and dew, so the flower's nectar doesn't get diluted.

  hide TOC    Next Page

A more printable copy may be found here.
Also visit our other photography pages at our main site.
Home  /  Contact
Copyright © Anne A. Reid 1999-2002
Photographs copyright © Garry K. Kessler 1999-2002

What's New