The purpose of this website is to illustrate what is on view at the WNP. These graphics will download rapidly with a high-speed internet connection. Please leave comments/suggestions at 203-837-8794.
A list of plant species found on the Westside Nature Preserve, thanks to the members of the Torrey Botanical Society, may be found at the following link:
How to get here. Take Exit 2 off of I-84 going east; turn left at the light at the end of the exit ramp and right at the next light, then drive about two miles along Mill Plain Road. Across from the Stop and Shop on your right, make a left onto University Boulevard, then see below
Take Exit 4 off of I-84 going west; turn right at the light at the end of the exit ramp, and drive about one mile along Mill Plain Road. Across from the Stop and Shop on your left, make a right onto University Boulevard, then see below
Drive down University Boulevard, past the tennis courts on the right, as far as the maintenance building on the left. Park on either side of the road, uphill of the "No Parking" signs. Walk down the road to the new section of University Boulevard and bear right. Walk on the right side of the guard rail (i.e., off the road); go up the hill along the guard rail. At the crest of the hill go downhill as you veer diagonally to your right and you will see a sign, kiosk, and brochure box at the entrance to the WNP and its two trails. Enjoy your hike! After the hike check yourself for ticks!!
If you would like a self-guided tour of the Northern and Southern trails, which start at either of the two the kiosks, pick up a guide at the brochure box next to one of the two kiosks.
The map below is a map of the Northern Trail:
Note Winged Euonymus (green sign); behind you, over the stone wall, is an extensive layer of this Asian plant. On the right side of the trail there are two kinds of ferns: Christmas Fern (dark green) and Marginal Wood Fern (fountain-shaped). Euonymus (winged burning bush) is an invasive plant.
Photo: Euonymus-red leaves-Fall
Note that the tree in front of you has grown around barbed-wire; this land was once part of a dairy farm. To your left is an ancient, majestic, Red Oak (brown sign); the large, straight, tree just beyond it is a Tulip Tree. The footpath behind you leads to a park bench and Station 3.
Photo: Red Oak-left of center-Summer
In front of you is a view of Central Valley. As you look out across the space, the trees with very straight trunks are Tulip Trees; most ferns in the foreground are Christmas Ferns. In early spring, native wildflowers, Bloodroot, Hepatica, Anemones and Trillium, are in bloom within a few feet of the park bench. Return to the trail at Station 2 and continue the tour.
Note the American Chestnut saplings (the leaves did not reappear in 2008) growing around the stump. To your left is a large Maple tree. Before the chestnut blight, the American Chestnut was a dominant tree of the Connecticut woods. The disease (caused by a fungus) began in New York City in 1904.
American Chestnut-large serrated leaves-Summer
Here in the Central Valley, low-growing Skunk Cabbage (a brown sign in the area) is in abundance. At eye-level, most of the small trees (bushes) are Spicebush (a brown sign in the area), the leaves of which are quite aromatic.
Behind you is Central Valley, above your head the small trees are Witch-hazel. A myth maintained that a forked branch of a European relative of this plant could be used to locate underground water.
Witch Hazel-monolayer of leaves-Summer
In front of you most of the ferns are New York Fern. On the ground is Partridgeberry, with double green leaves along the ground-hugging stem; Partridgeberry blooms, with double white trumpet-shaped flowers in June. In the fall, bright red berries will complement the dark green leaves. See photos of these flowers and berries at www.wcsu.edu/wnptoday.
Partridgeberry-fruit and leaves-Fall
To your left there is a small White Oak. Further to your left, on the adjacent clearcut, the Giant Reed, Phragmites (an invasive plant), is abundant; the large ferns are Cinnamon Ferns and the small ferns are Marsh Ferns. There are at least 13 different species of ferns on the Westside Nature Preserve.
The large tree in front of you is a Tulip Tree (brown sign); on the ground, Partridgeberry is quite abundant. Behind you, a shelf fungus is growing along the length of a dead log.
Photo: Tulip Tree-leaves-Fall
Relax at this park bench and listen to the babbling brook. In front of you, notice the difference in widths of the brook and its channel. Much of the hillside, across the brook and to the right, is covered by Euonymus, which has green leaves in early spring and pink leaves in the fall. To your right is a Shagbark Hickory (brown sign); beyond it is a Yellow Birch (brown sign).
View of WNP Brook-Fall
Westside Nature Preserve
Welcome to the WNP.
There is a great deal to see on the clear-cut. Particularly prominent are members of a large plant family, Asteraceae. This family includes Daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and Fleabanes, and later in the summer and into the fall, at least half a dozen different species of Asters. Five different kinds of clovers (members of the family Fabaceae) are now in bloom, Red Clover, White Clover, Yellow Sweet Clover, White Sweet Clover, and Hop Clover. Three different kinds of plantains, Common Plantain, English Plantain (members of the Plantain Family), and Water Plantain (a member of the Water Plantain Family, found in standing water) are now quite evident. A plethora of kinds of grasses, Timothy, Red Top, Giant Reed, Deer-Tongue, Orchard, and Foxtail, to name but a few, are flowering about now.
A multitude of insect species, now quite active on the clear-cut, includes the modern pterodactyls, Dragonflies, including the Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Eastern Amberwing and Widow Skimmer, and Butterflies, including Great Spangled Fritillary, Eastern Yellow Swallowtails, and Eastern Black Swallowtails.
White-tail Deer fawns and Turkey chicks are abroad on the WNP- please give them a wide berth.
Enjoy yourself and when you leave check for Deer Ticks. Visit us at: www.wcsu.edu/wnp
Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly
Blue Flag Iris
The Biology Club on the Westside Nature Preserve (2012)
The Biology Club on the Westside Nature Preserve (2012)
BIO 311 - Developmental Biology - 2010
Bio. 103 - Field Trip - Summer 2007
Partridgeberry in Flower - 10 June 2007
Euonymus Flowers - 18 May 2007
Golden Ragwort - 18 May 2007\
Fall of 2006
Brook below the
Brook above the Middle Bridge
Brook below the Lower Bridge
Bio. 103 - Field
Trip - Spring 2006
Fall of 2005
Happy Halloween 2005
The Halloween Tree - 10/30/05
Autumn Bench - 10/30/05
The Autumn Forest Floor: A mushroom to the left, Spotted Wintergreen to the right, and a Tulip Tree seed in the center - 10/30/05
Nature Preserve Tour: Saturday, October 29,
11:00 am; meet at the softball field beyond the O'Neill Center.
The brook at the second bridge: 10/15/05
American Chestnut, growing out of an old stump. The WNP is joining the Virginia Tech University program to restore the American Chestnut to our forests (The Chestnut blight arrived at the Bronx Zoo in 1904- and you know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say). When the seeds (nuts) and seedlings arrive, from Virginia Tech, we will plant them on the WNP and keep our fingers crossed: 10/15/05
Summer of 2005:
General Biology I - WNP Field Trips - Week of September 5, 2005
The following 5 photos were taken 21 August 2005
Magnet School Construction:
University Boulevard Construction:
Water Holding Pond:
Out Flow Side:
Partridge Pea - Seen for the First Time:
Work on the extension of University Boulevard has begun;
(Road to the Westside Nature Preserve, 14 July 2005;
compare with 23 June 2005, below)
therefore, the approach to the Westside Nature Preserve has been moved. Go to the softball field parking lot and follow the signs into the woods.
At the entrance to the woods pick up a self-directed tour guide brochure (should be available by July 22).
Each of the following numbers
to a station at which there is a numbered post. Face the post
reading the station description. For the time being, take the trail
the softball field into the woods.
Eventually, you will
through a break in a stone wall;
immediately turn right. Soon, on your left you will see a sign, with number 14 and an arrow on it; turn left there into the woods.
The first signpost you come to will be #14- begin the self-guided tour there; the sequence will be 14, 13, 12, 11, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 (whenever you come to an intersection turn right). When you pass Station 15 you will be back near station 14, where you started
- just back track to the
field parking lot. This trail has the shape of a horseshoe around
the Central Valley (wetland). Enjoy!
General Biology I Field Trip:
29 June 2005
Road to the Westside Nature Preserve:
Spring of 2005:
The Westside Nature Preserve at dusk:
8 June 2005:
One consequence of construction of the magnet school will be the
of a water
catch basin on the northwest side of the WNP. The four photos below show the site for this
basin before and early into its construction.
8 June 2005:
29 May 2005:
The ground has been broken for the new magnet school, adjacent to
and the Westside Nature Preserve. By the end of June construction for the extension of
University Boulevard will be underway; with completion anticipated by the end of November
2005. Both of these projects will impact the WNP; however, I am working with our Planning
Office and with the engineer for both projects to minimize any adverse impacts. All parties
are working in good faith and we all anticipate a good outcome. I will endeavor to keep you
informed of our progress, beginning with the photos below.
If you use the older trail be prepared for doubling back at some point,
rather than looping
around, at Middle River Road, onto the dirt road portion of the nature trail. Please report any
problems or concerns to me (no, I cannot stop either project):
Frank J. Dye, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
Director, Westside Nature Preserve (www.wcsu.edu/wnp)
Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences
Western Connecticut State University
181 White Street
Danbury, CT 06810
That piece of machinery is on the dirt road part of the original
nature trail. To its left is the WNP; behind it is the magnet school site
Between the stonewall in the foreground and the zigzag
boardwalk in the distance there were trees. In this area, on the western
margin of the WNP, there will be a natural water treatment facility/educational
exhibit- they hand you lemons, make lemonade.
Signs of spring include melting snow, accumulation of water (a really good thing),
and Skunk Cabbage flowers. These sping views of the Westside Nature Preserve
were taken this Easter weekend (3/26/05).
If the predictd rain happens tomorrow (3/28) and the predicted mild temperatures for
the middle of the week happen, by mid-week Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs
will serenade us. They, and Spotted Salamanders, breed in the vernal pool seen
Winter of 2005:
26 February 2005: Sunset on Winter
By now almost everyone is ready for spring,
is also precious- and how do we know there is another
one in our future? The following photos remind one of
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. Look for
evidence of the setting sun, presaging winter's end, in
from the Westside Nature Preserve
Sphagnum Moss (12/26/04):
among the Moss (12/26/04):
Fall of 2004:
The Eve of November (10/31/04):
four photos were taken on Halloween Day (10/31/04)
and demonstrate that November is neither somber nor colorless:
The October Tour (10/9/04):
day (temperatures in the 70s); the hike on the nature trail was a
aggressive plant, aromatic, berry, vine tour, among other things- a small, albeit energetic, curious
canopy of this spring pulpit has been folded back so you may
observe "Jack" in his pulpit; the two flanking leaves (each with three leaflets)
designate this as a female plant.
is fall, and this female plant has lost its pulpit; only the
base of "Jack" remains and parts of the female flowers have developed
into berries- they are pretty, but do NOT eat them.
Summer of 2004:
September Morning (9/12/04):
Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) a parasitic plant
and fagus, the "beech"); found under beech trees, where it grows upon
and receives nourishment from the roots. 9/12/04:
Pipe (Monotropa hypopitys) does not carry on photosynthesis but
obtains its nourishment from fungi associated with roots, often those of oaks or
late summer (9/12/04):
The Mushrooms of August (8/15/04):
These first 3 are the same as the first 2 mushrooms of 8/10/04, below:
of August (8/10/04):
Daisies are now (June/July 2004) in full bloom on the Westside Nature Preserve
Sunflower or Daisy Family (Asteraceae or Compositae)
There were no daisies in America when the Puritans unpacked in Massachusetts. Germanic tribes believed it had powers against thunderstorms. The history of the development of the chrysanthemum from a mere daisy is lost in the shadows of long ago.**
Source: Native to China; Europe to North America
S. Green Immigrants: The Plants That Transformed America. Harcourt
Jovanovich, NY (1978)
- June/July 2004:
Black-eyed Susans - June/July 2004:
Home-School Tour of the Enchanted Forest (16 June 2004):
The following two photos show the WNP trail, near the Middle River Road end (1 June 2004):
Looking south: Black Walnut tree and Dame's Rockets (see below):
Looking north: Black Walnut tree grove and Dame's Rockets, right, Multiflora Rose, left (see below):
Dame's Rocket- not a native plant, a garden escapee:
Multiflora Rose- another escapee:
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (closer view of the above):
hike - 24 April 2004 - In celebration of Earth Day - at 10:00
far end of University Blvd. No rain date.
Spotted Salamander- near the
of the image- note the excellent protective coloration:
for example there are 3 in a row near the top of the image;
these are sperm packets on top of gelatinous pedestals:
Spotted Salamander spermatophore-
apart and viewed with a microscope; each tiny thin "hair"
is a spermatozoon:
Spotted Salamander adults:
Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica):
Male and Female in Amplexus*: Eggs:
* Amplexus is not intercourse; Wood Frog
is external; the word means "embrace"
Toads in Amplexus:
Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum): unhatched embryo; note gills above and balancer below.
Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma
hatched tadpole; note gills above and 2 balancers below.
Monday, 4/5/04- Happily, for the past week nocturnal visits have revealed 7-8 adult Spotted Salamanders, as well as numerous spermatophores, at each of the two vernal pools observed- this is comforting (see March 20th, below). However, since these observations have been made, no egg masses have been found- this may be a cause for concern. For pictures of Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders, as well as egg masses, go to www.wcsu.edu/wnp and scroll down to Vertebrate Animals.
First day of spring; tonight (about 8 pm), about 35 oF and
at the Westside Campus vernal pool one could hear frog (one Wood Frog,
was observed) and Spring Peeper vocalizations. Although looked
neither adult Spotted Salamanders,
Ambystoma maculatum, nor spermatophores
Winter of 2004: The January 4th nature hike had a good turnout and, apparently, a good time was had by all:
Proposed "Water Treatment" Plants - WNP - 1/22/04
Amelianchier canadensis Shadblow Serviceberry
Carya ovata Shagbark Hickory
Cornus sericea Red Osier Dogwood
Cephalanthus occidentis Buttonbush
Fraxinus pennsylvania Green Ash
Ilex verticillata Winterberry
Larix laricina Larch
Quercus bicolor Swamp White Oak
Quercus palustris Pin Oak
Salix discolor Pussy Willow
Viburnum lentago Nannyberry
Viburnum tribolum American Cranberrybush
Skunk Cabbage: View of the
spathe which covers the spadix, which in turn
carries the flowers. February
Skunk Cabbage: Three spathes are visible; the
elongated structure- 2nd from the left- is the
foliage (leaves) beginning to unfold. March
Skunk Cabbage: View of
on the spadix (covered by the maroon spathe). March
Skunk Cabbage: View of
on the spadix (as seen with a microscope); the barely visible
yellow particles are pollen. March
Skunk Cabbage: Two spathes are visible at the
it is obvious that Skunk Cabbage likes wet feet.
Skunk Cabbage: By the end of April, Skunk
the floor of the WNP Central Valley green. April
Coltsfoot and Horsetail: These two plants are
different, even though they both put up their
reproductive structures at the same time in early spring. The yellow flower (a reproductive structure
that gives rise to seeds) belongs to a wildflower called Coltsfoot, which may be seen now (April) on
the Westside Campus. The spike structure, atop a stalk and to the right of the flower, is a strobilus
(cone), the reproductive structure of the Horsetail which gives rise to spores.
Coltsfoot and Horsetail: About a month later
the reproductive structures of both of these plants
are no longer visible and have been replaced by their leaves. The broad coltsfoot-shaped leaves (use your
imagination) are those of Coltsfoot, while the needle-like leaves are those of the Horsetail.
Trail: A view of the nature trail on the
Bull Thistle with two Black Swallowtails:
Beginning of the First Trail (8/4/02):
Up the first slope (8/4/02):
Down the long slope, into the Central Valley
WNP Trail - Down to and across the Central Valley
Sepentine trail beyond the Central Valley
Dodder- a beautiful parasite (8/4/02):
August Morning (8/7/02):
Blue Vervain (8/7/02):
Queen Annes-lace and Chicory (8/7/02):
Monarch Butterfly on Phragmites Leaves (8/7/02):
Butterflyweed and friends (8/3/02):
Purple Loosestrife (8/3/02):
Western's Brook (8/3/02):
Note Park Bench (8/3/02):
Note numbered guidepost, plant sign, steps and
arises on the Westside Campus from a number of springs. The
of its water is quite good; in fact this water has been taken into the
laboratory, filtered, and used to make cell culture medium. This
medium, in turn, has been used to support the growth of mouse cells and
fish cells- and at levels equal to that obtained when using
WNP Brook (8/11/02):
American Chestnut Leaves (8/11/02):
is an attractive plant anytime of the year. The August photo
shows the attractive leaves of the plant at this time of the
The flanking (above and below) photos show the flowers and green leaves
of late spring and the dark fruits and colored leaves of the fall.
Maple-leaf Viburnum (6/6/99):
Maple-leaf Viburnum (8/11/02):
Maple-leaf Viburnum (10/7/90):
September Afternoon (9/22/02):
September Asters (9/22/02):
September Asters (9/22/02):
September Goldenrod (9/22/02):
The floor of the WNP