El Paso Wildflower Preserve now open

Mayor Scott McBrayer during the El Paso ribbon cutting. Photos courtesy of Dr. William Howell.

By CRAIG KLEIMEYER

A new wildflower garden in Forest Brook subdivision is attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

“I’ve seen several species of butterflies already,” biologist and retired Samford University Professor Dr. William Howell said. “It’s working.”

The preserve, located along Shades Creek, features several species of wildflowers as well as mature oak and pine trees.

“It’s a cool get-away place right in the middle of Homewood,” Land Steward Rebekah Pine Parker said. “It’s not too far away, but you can see a great little ecosystem.”

The preserve is open for appointments only right now, but visitors can reserve a time with Freshwater Land Trust and get a key to the preserve and a map. Pine said that the preserve is a great place to take school groups, business groups and scouts.

The El Paso Corporation gave $35,000 to the Freshwater Land Trust to transform the land into a preserve, which is where it got its name. They purchased the 51-acre property in 2001, and Father Nature Landscapes designed and built the preserve’s trail, kiosk and bridges.

Howell lives a block away from the entrance and appreciates the preserve for its beauty.

You can find Daisy Fleabane at the wildflower preserve.

“It’s pretty vital to me being a biologist and a naturalist,” he said. “I like to look in nature at what’s changing in the seasons as they come and go. It’s a biologically unique place for this area of Birmingham.”

Howell, who serves on the board for the Freshwater Land Trust, said the preserve has a lot of plant species that he has never seen in the springtime.

“It’s got a lot of unique plants you don’t find normally,” he said. “There’s trout lily, all kinds of ‘shrooms and fungi, and a lot more.”

Howell led a guided wildflower hike on opening day with 15 to 20 others.  The trail is over a mile long and made up of crushed red rock.

“There are wide, gravel paths running through the area and two bridges across the two creeks for hikers,” he said. “You don’t have to be afraid of snakes or anything. You can see them.”

Howell said the preserve is a great place for a time of self-reflection and for a chance to be with nature and creation.

Senecio are among flowers in bloom at the new preserve.

“After you get down in the preserve and move over the hill, the noise begins to subside and you can hear the birds chirping and sounds of the woods,” he said. “It’s a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life.”

In the future, the Freshwater Land Trust plans to connect the property to extend along the chief Shades Creek Greenway. They also plan to finish setting up the outdoor classroom for groups and classes to visit.

For more information and to schedule a visit to the preserve, call the Freshwater Land Trust office at 417-2777 or visit www.freshwaterlandtrust.org.

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