The Amateur Botanist by Francis UnderwoodThe Amateur Botanist

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Rare and Unusual Plants

of City Park, Warwick, RI

Unless otherwise specified, all photos: © Francis R. Underwood 2010

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Warwick’s City Park which is located in the Buttonwoods section of Warwick contains unique natural habitats for several rare and unusual plants.  The sandy soil in the park supports a natural community of Pitch Pine and Scrub Oak which provides ideal habitat for several species of milkweeds, grasses and other rare native plants.

At least eight species of plants included on the RI Rare Plant List are found in the park. One species of grass is native to the prairies and, to my knowledge, has not been documented in the literature as occurring in New England

Preservation of the park’s fields and woods is necessary to maintain the habitat for these plants. Any bulldozing or other construction activities should take into account the presence of these rare plants It would be desirable for the staff as well as for the Warwick Conservation Committee to learn the locations of these sensitive areas. One population of a rare milkweed species was destroyed by bulldozing a few years ago.

Below is a list of the rare and unusual species which grow in the park.

 

   
 
 
Tall Wormwood
Artemisia campestris ssp. caudata
Tall Wormwood
 
This is a biennial which forms rosettes of basal leaves in the first year and blooms in the second year of growth when it forms a long panicle of inconspicuous flowers. This species is found near sandy beaches as it is in City Park This species can occasionally be found in sandy waste places.

Tall Wormwood is on the RI rare plant list.

   
 
Blunt-leaved or Sand Milkweed
Asclepias amplexicaulis
Blunt-leaved or Sand Milkweed
 
Leaves clasp the stem.. Often found in dry, sandy soil. Grows to three feet tall. It blooms in July and is a favorite nectar source for many species of butterflies including Edwards’ Hairstreak. There are very few plants of Blunt-leaved Milkweed in City Park.
 

Blunt-leaved Milkweed is rare in RI.

 
Blunt-leaved or Sand Milkweed
   
 
Poke Milkweed
Ascelpias exaltata
Poke Milkweed
  
It is often found in rich woods. It blooms in July with white flowers and stands two to four feet tall. There is one small population in the park.
 

Poke Milkweed is rare in RI.

Photo Credit: © 2003 Jeff Abbas
   
   
 
Butterfly Weed
Ascelpias tuberosa
Butterfly Weed
 
Butterfly Weed is different from other species of Milkweed in that it has alternate leaves, no milky latex and orange flowers. It grows two to three feet tall and starts blooming in July.
 

Butterfly Weed is rare in RI

   
 
Whorled Milkweed
Asclepias verticillata
Whorled Milkweed
 
This milkweed is found in sand plain communities such as City Park. William W. Bailey mentions this plant in his book “Among RI Wildflowers” as growing in Buttonwoods. It has linear leaves arranged in whorls around the stem and white flowers which bloom in late July and August. The only population in City Park was destroyed by bulldozing in 2007.
 

Whorled Milkweed is rare in RI.

   
 
Beach Heath
Hudsonia tomentosa
Beach Heath
 
This is a small shrubby plant which resembles heath. It blooms in June with showy yellow flowers. It is unusual to find this plant in this part of RI.. It is more commonly found on beaches in the southern part of the state. There are only a few plants in the park.
 

Beach Heath is not on the RI rare plant list.

 
 
Starry False Solomon’s Seal
Maianthemum stellatum
Starry False Solomon’s Seal
 
Starry False Solomon’s Seal is a small, single-stemmed, upright plant bearing a group of small white flowers at the end of the stem. The fruit is a green berry with purple stripes. The berry turns blue when ripe.
 

It is not on the RI rare plant list.

 

Starry False Solomon’s Seal fruit

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sickle-leaved Golden Aster
Pityopsis falcata
Sickle-leaved Golden Aster
 
This plant has a restricted range and occurs in only six states along the eastern seaboard of the United States. It begins blooming in July with golden-yellow flowers and continues throughout the summer. This is one of the showiest of the rare plants in City Park.
 

Sickle-leaved Golden Aster is on the RI rare plant list.

 

 
 
Dwarf Chestnut Oak
Quercus prinoides
Dwarf Chestnut Oak
 
This is a shrub growing about two to four feet tall. As with common White Oak, the leaves have rounded lobes without bristle tips. It is usually quite short , two to four feet, but may grow much taller.  It is usually found in sandy woods such as those at City Park.
 

It is on the RI Rare plant list

 

 
 
Indian Grass
Sorghastrum nutans
Indian Grass
 
This is a tall plant growing up to six feet or more. Its flowers turn a brilliant golden-brown color in the fall. There is only one small population in City Park which is west of the main road into the park and NW of the small parking area.
 

Indian Grass is on the RI rare plant list.

Photo Credit: Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Inc.
   
 
 
Prairie Sandreed
Calamovilfa longifolia
Prairie Sandreed
 
Native to the sandy soils and prairies of the Midwest, this grass somehow found its way to City Park where it grows alongside the Indian Grass.  According to USDA it has not been reported from any New England states.
 

I can’t find any record of its occurrence in New England.

 

   
 
 
 
 
 
Photo credits: Mike Haddock, www.kswildflower.org
 
 
Cuman or Western Ragweed
Ambrosia psilostachya
Cuman or Western Ragweed
 
The United States Department of Agriculture says this plant is native to all but seven states in the U.S. It is not native to Rhode Island. The Flora of North America says it hybridizes with Common Ragweed.
 

This is an unusual plant which has become naturalized in City Park.

   
 

 

Past Amateur Botanist Articles

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The pdf of the article is available on the articles's web page.

Finds of 2008RI Undiscovered PlantsRI Violets

RI Early Spring Wild FlowersFinds for the 2010 Season

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