Thanks for letting fields go to seed

Michael Dyer/Courtesy photo/Milkweed grows in Magnolia Woods in Gloucester.

To the editor,

It was a banner summer for the denizens of Magnolia Woods Recreation Area thanks to Mark Cole and the Gloucester Department of Public Works' decision to let the pathways and borders of the athletic fields grow wild this summer, instead of mowing the drainage ditches and borders mid-summer, as they have in past years.

The pathways are a veritable garden of delight for the many species that depend on meadowlands for nourishment and cover. Hundreds of milkweed plants flowered and helped complete the life cycle of monarch butterflies that will return from Mexico or Florida in four generations. Milkweed is the only plant on which monarchs lay their eggs, and the source of food for monarch caterpillars.

The variety of flora in the park is amazing, from foxtail grasses to beach plums, asters, primrose, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, daisies, and all the other weeds and flowers one can find in a New England meadow. Some are planted, some invasive, some rare, but together they support beetles, mice, turtles, snakes, foxes, coyotes, bees, butterflies, moths, and dragonflies — all patrolled by swoops of swallows and kettles of hawks. With overdevelopment and reforestation, this kind of landscape is getting hard to find.

A recent study found that the Earth is losing 2.5% of its total insect biomass every year. That would mean 25% fewer insects in just 10 years. Pesticides, herbicides, habitat disruption, climate change, and other factors are leading us to what Rachel Carson dubbed the “silent spring."

I’m happy to say that the Gloucester DPW is doing its part to protect the sounds of spring in Magnolia Woods.

Pete Willwerth


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