At the southeastern end of The Green, this small undulating site overlooking Casco Bay was once part of the firing range mounds for Fort Williams. It now hosts a large variety of early successional plants, including sweet fern, common juniper, northern bayberry, various brambles, Eastern red cedar, staghorn sumac, and cherry and birch trees.
Making inroads into the site are poison ivy and several invasive exotic plants, including climbing nightshade, Asiatic bittersweet and Asiatic honeysuckle. Lessons learned at the Cliff Walk sites will inform the approach to suppressing these plants while providing informal access into the site and nurturing the native plant community that is so valuable to wildlife.
Featured Problematic Plant: climbing nightshade (Solanum dulcamara)
Native to moist thickets in Eurasia, climbing nightshade is a vine-like shrub that takes root as it creeps along the ground until reaching a fence or other plant, which it then climbs for support to reach more light. Although it can grow 6 to 10 feet tall (or higher) each year, all above-ground parts die back to the woody base each fall, from where it reemerges the following spring (much like swallow-wort). Its green, spade-shaped leaves turn eggplant-purple in autumn, and have an unpleasant odor when crushed. Attractive violet and yellow flowers bloom from late spring to early autumn, and mature into bright-red, fleshy berries that are consumed by many mammals and birds.
Nightshade can pull down smaller native vegetation. Seedlings are shade-tolerant, which enables the plant to invade areas from woodland edges and pose a threat to native understory plants. All parts of the plant are toxic, making it a threat to people and some animals.
Featured Beneficial Plant: common or pasture juniper (Juniperus communis)
Typically growing on dry, rocky, and open hillsides, roadsides, and old fields, and along the edge of woodlands, common juniper is usually a low, spreading evergreen shrub with short, aromatic, needle-like leaves. It provides good protection and nesting cover for many birds and small mammals, and female plants produce waxy-blue, berry-like seed cones that are consumed by several bird and animal species. These “juniper berries” are sold dried and used to flavor meats, sauces, stuffings, and gin.
Common juniper can be valuable for rehabilitating disturbed sites. There are numerous garden-worthy cultivars; among the best are Berkshire, Blueberry Delight, Green Carpet, Nova Scotia and Repanda.