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McLaughlin Pollinator Meadows

Current conditions-   the Playground has some of the highest elevations in the city, these meadows are on the second and lowest tier of the park but  are still very steep slopes not used by park visitors (one exception is sledding  or snowboarding activity ). The lower slope faces southeast towards the ball field used by Mission Hill Little League and receives full sun. The upper meadow above the softball field  also has full sun and a long run of stairs splits the slope in half .

Why pollinator meadows?  There has been a precipitous decline in the insect population worldwide.

Pollinators play an essential role in maintaining healthy and thriving ecosystems. “ Over 45% of agricultural commodities in Massachusetts rely on pollinator species for crop pollination and food production.”

(DCR’s Growing Wild for Pollinators June 2 press release)


Insects are the chief source of food for birds.  Enhancing the existing bird habitat in the park is very important.  A pollinator meadow is a resource for insects, butterflies and bees, and is a crucial link in the ecological cycle. McLaughlin Woods is in the Suffolk County hot spots for bird watchers (

In the past decade bird watchers have discovered the 11-acre Playground as an urban oasis for migratory species and also those overwintering. 

Project Goal:

Preserve, protect and enhance the existing meadows.  Last year an agreement with Boston Parks Dept established the meadows as an allowed use. Their crews will now mow just the agreed-on perimeters.

 Mowing  the meadows only in early spring allows taller wild plants to flourish like milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, tansy, asters etc.

Overwintering insects and birds need the seeds  so mowing in the fall is not recommended by the Audubon Society

Some plant identification (a work in progress with hopes of updating along with seasons )

Lower meadow at little league field

Birds nest found in tall grass found in May 2023

Introducing goldenrod to the meadow in May 2023


By the end of September 2023 our goldenrod bloomed

And attracted visitors !

Elderberry (Sambucus negra) June 2023

Ripe elderberry in mid August 2023

The birds got most of the berries but they can be harvested and processed into a healthy syrup that will boost your immune system in winter.

Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca L. )

Milkweed (Asclepias Syriaca L. ) Detail

Developing seed pods of milkweed plants can be seen on almost all the tiers

Milkweed in foreground near softball field. 8/2023

Late September the pods are beginning to split open

Stellar media or starwort


Upper meadow at softball field 

Fleabane in June 2023

Nightshade (Solanaceae) this plant is toxic to humans produce berries that support birds in winter

The berries of the nightshade plant are toxic to humans but a benefit to birds in winter

Curly dock (rumex crispus) with soapwort flowers

Close up of Curly dock seeds in June 2023 a benefit to many birds and can be processed into a non gluten flour.

By mid August the dock seeds are ready to harvest and made into a gluten free flour.

The birds will feast on these

A close look at the seeds of the curly dock.

Close up of the soapwort flowers in June 2023

Creeping cinquefoil




BURDOCK- the inspiration for Velcro is abundant.

Bees love burdock

We have a small grove of smooth sumac (rhus glabra) near the basketball courts.

It flowers in the springtime and produces tiny berries in August that can be ground into a spice or made into a sun tea The flavor is tangy like lemons and it's loaded with

vitamin C and antioxidants!

American burnweed (Erechtites hieraciifolus)

You will see a lot of this flowering and going to seed in August

I've heard it's edible (the young leaves can be used as a spice)

The flowers of American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana)

Soon the berries will ripen to a deep dark purple and while they are toxic to humans they are a natural wildlife feeder, beneficial to everyone from Robins to squirrels, opossums to raccoons. They're also an important plant for migratory birds along our eastern corridor.

Mature American pokeweed

(Phytolacca americana)

Late August 2023

Persicaria maculosa is an annual plant in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae. Common names include lady's thumb, spotted lady's thumb, Jesusplant, and redshank.

Notice how the leaves have what could be thought of as a “thumbprint” -This is a key identifying characteristic of lady’s thumb

There is a similar plant called smartweed that lacks this trait.

Tiny beady flowers.

For more curious information:

Ragweed season is here the following photos are from September 7, 2023

Some interesting facts about ragweed.

A wide array of insects eat the leaves. Gamebirds like turkey and mourning doves and songbirds like goldfinch and sparrows eat the seeds. This plant is tall and tough enough for its seed heads to protrude above the snow and so is an important survival food in the depths of winter.

Taken from this article:

Behind the softball field

Ambrosia psilostachya Or common ragweed- a native wildflower that provides late season pollen for insects.

Leaf structure of Ambrosia psilostachya Or common Ragweed

The little spikes of flowers. Ambrosia psilostachya Or common Ragweed

Up close image of the flowers that will soon release pollen and trigger many allergic reactions.

A visitor praying mantis!

I recognize this as a variety of witch hazel

Late September and the pin oaks (Quercus palustris) are begging to drop acorns

Pin oak acorns They'll turn brown and the tree will release them

On many sections of the green space in autumn you'll find wild asters.

There are a lot of species of this flower and Mission Hill has a few varieties (One day I hope to be able to identify them but for now I only can recognize that they are a rule of New England aster.

Tiny aster clusters.

Fourth tier

Saint John’s wort along wall

St. John's wort

Bird foot trefoil

I found it on July 25, growing 3rd terrace on the hill not far from the lookout post and not far from the apple orchard.

Looks a bit like a bird's foot

Easy to miss right under your feet 😃


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