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Freshwater Pond

Freshwater Pond

Compiled from Audubon signs along the trail:

The Audubon Fairchild Wildflower Garden contains a vast array of natural landscapes, from mature Oak-Beech-Maple forest and deep rocky ravines to open meadows, ponds and streams. Each site supports a unique association of plant and animal life which is adapted to take advantage of the habitat's resources in order to survive.

Benjamin T. Fairchild developed the Wildflower Garden on abandoned farmland he purchased in 1890, dedicating himself to creating a natural sanctuary containing the wildflowers, trees, ferns and other plants native to Connecticut. Mr. Fairchild labored for over forty years to collect and maintain plants which his neighbors considered common weeds. After his death, Mrs. Elon Huntington Hooker raised funds to purchase the sanctuary, and donated it to Audubon in 1945.

The Wildflower Garden is home to 7 different types of naturally occuring wetlands:

Freshwater Pond
Red Maple Swamp
Hillside Wetland
Wetland Meadow
Wetland Shrub Thicket
Emergent Freshwater Marsh
Surface Stream

Wetlands are land areas which recurrently have water covering the soil surface or within the root zone for at least part of the growing season. 43% of our country's endangered species and plants depend on wetlands (species adapted to aquatic environments cannot simply move to drier ground). Wetlands control erosion and flooding, remove pollutants from water, and recharge the groundwater reservoirs that we all rely on for our water supply. Our nation continues to lose an additional 100,000 acres of wetlands to development and agricultural conversion each year.

As glaciers receded from the region 10,000 years ago, large blocks of ice sometimes broke off and were practically buried in sediment. As the ice melted, a pond formed in its place. Ponds rarely reach a depth of more than a few feet. In some ponds, the water level disappears just below the surface of the soil during parts of the summer. During the growing season, ponds teem with life forms adapted to take advantage of the watery habitat.

Plants needs to take in gases from the atmosphere and nutrients from the soil. Life under water can make both of these activities difficult, but many aquatic plants have developed strategies to overcome the obstacles. Water lilies and duckweeds are two species with leaves that float on the pond's surface, maintaining exposure with the air above. Pickerelweed grows in shallow areas with long stiff stalks that hold its leaves and purple flowers up above the water. Plants such as hortwort and water milfoil grow completely submerged; their thin leaves are sensitive enough to draw gases and nutrients dissolved in the water.

There's literally no space in a pond which is not somebody's home. Many pond inhabitants are small or even microscopic, but a close look will reward the curious with a fascinating world of bustling activity. Residents of the open water include fish, turtles, and many insects with evocative names such as the diving beetle, water boatman, or backswimmer. Tiny crustaceans and protozoans live among the algae that crowds the water and makes the pond appear green. The bottom layer of a pond consists of fine, soft sediments which build up over time in the still water. This zone hosts tiny aquatic worms and is a good place for snapping turtles to hide while hunting for their next meal. Green frogs and water snakes may also be lurking just below the surface, exposing only their eyes. The pond attracts many mammals and birds which appreciate it as a place to get a drink of water or a good meal. These larger animals are easily scared away, but if you approach quietly you may be fortunate enough to view a muskrat using its long thing tail to swim, a river otter at play or a beautiful wood duck dabbling in the shallow water.