The Salamander Trail
Welcome to the Trail
The Salamander Trail explores two of the varied habitats on Oceanside Meadows Preserve: the Wildflower Meadow and the Red Spruce Forest. It is named for the Spotted Salamander which lives burrowed under leaves on the damp forest floor. Salamanders are declining in number worldwide due to habitat destruction and pesticide levels. By preserving this area of woodland, we hope to provide a suitable habitat for Salamanders. The trail is less than one mile long and will take about 20 minutes to walk. Sturdy shoes are recommended.
Things to See:
Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
The Spotted Salamander is a rather large salamander common to Eastern North America. Adults can grow to seven inches in length, with a black body and a row of irregular, large yellow spots.
Gray Partridge (Perdix Perdix)
Originally introduced from Europe, the Gray Partridge has become prolific across North America and is now a popular game bird. A mother patridge will feign a broken wing to distract would-be predators from her young.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
The pioneers made ink and dyes from the bark of the now-often ornamental Red Maple. Watch the forest glow with brilliant red, orange, and yellow hues in autumn. In winter, White-tailed deer browse on the woody vegetation.
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)Plant Life
The green fronds above are actually sterile; in early spring, the fertile cinammon brown stalks grow. These fertile fronds, or fiddleheads, may be harvested, boiled, then eaten.
Goldenrods (Solidago spp)Goldenrods
This autumn-blooming plant abounds in many types of terrain, including meadows, forest, and rocky ground. The nectar is a source of food for Monarch butterflies. Some species of the plant are used to make herbal tea.
Blackberry (Rubus fruticosa)Plant Life
Though its looks might deceive you, the blackberry is actually a member of the rose family. This delicious berry is used in jams, pies, candles, ice cream, and many other recipes.
Start at the entrance to the trail beside the car park behind the Sea Captain’s House. Walk down through the tunnel formed by Speckled Alder bushes, Meadowsweet and showy Beach Roses. Look for bright yellow hairy caterpillars tucked in the folds of the alder leaves. Pause as you come out into the open meadow to feel the heat of the sun reflected up from the ground. Smell the fragrant grasses and wildflowers, watch for fluttering butterflies, and listen to the background chirps of crickets and the melodies of songbirds.
The Meadow is an important habitat for wildflowers and grasses, providing cover and food for a rich variety of butterflies and birds. The area is actively managed by mowing every two years to maintain its unique grassland flora and to help preserve this type of open meadow, which is often lost through development or forest re-growth.
As you walk along the trail towards the Salt marsh, notice the tall spikes of Goldenrod, the purple and white Asters, the velvety-brown centers of Blackeyed Susan and the arching thickets of Blackberries. Watch for the flash of yellow-bordered wing as a Carolina locust starts from under your feet. If you stand awhile you may see a vibrant orange Monarch butterfly glide past, or, if you look even harder, you may spot the small dusty brown wings of the Wood Nymph hesitating over a leaf.
The Red Spruce Forest:
Continue along the trail until it forks and take the trail to the left into the Red Spruce Forest. Walk down to the bottom of the dip and look to your left and right. You are standing on the sunken remains of the Old Dyke Marsh Road, used until early this century by carts carrying salt hay for mulch from the Salt Marsh further to the north. The avenue of trees and spiraled remains of cedar fencing that bordered the road is still visible in places.
The Red Spruce Forest is relatively young; this area was last felled 75 years ago, earlier settlers having cleared the virgin forest for pasture in previous centuries. The trees you see around you have naturally regenerated from seeds in the soil and those brought in by wind and birds.
Pause and feel the different atmosphere. The forest is much darker, cooler, damper and subdued. The riot of colors in the meadow has been replaced by the subtle variations in green of the evergreen and broadleaf trees, set off by touches of white flowers or red berries near the forest floor.
As you walk further into the wood, feel the springiness of the turf and smell the spicy fragrance of Balsam Fir needles. Look up periodically to the trees above your head. The canopy is a mixture of Red Maple leaves, which allow dappled light to reach the forest floor, and the denser impenetrable evergreen foliage of Red Spruce, Arbor Vitae and Eastern Hemlock. Clumps of luscious Cinnamon Ferns grow where the sun filters down, intermixed with the delicate whorled leaves of Bunchberry or the fleshy Bluebead Lily.
Cross the bridges over the two seasonal brooks that rush with water in spring, and even during warmer weather have lush growths of Sphagnum and Pincushion mosses. At the edge of the wood look out into the warm Blueberry Heath, and notice the expanses of the creeping Wintergreen or upright shrubby Bayberry. Breathe in their warm fragrant aroma as a remembrance of the Salamander Trail.