MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - A new 'pollinator meadow' -- providing bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators a new home in Union County’s Watchung Reservation -- has been created when an open field was recently replanted with native wildflowers and transformed into a flourishing habitat.

The pollinator meadow is located along a paved access road that runs between the western corner of the Loop and the bottom of the parking lot at the Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside.

The rehabilitation of the meadow was undertaken as a Gold Award project by a local Girl Scout, who organized volunteers to reseed the ground and plant more than 450 milkweed starts. The project received a grant from Monsanto and a donation of $1,200 for new seeds from the non-profit Trailside Museum Association.

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The Union County Department of Parks and Recreation prepared the ground and the Mountainside Fire Department contributed personnel and equipment to provide water, helping to ensure a successful start for the new plantings.

The meadow now includes many varieties of native wildflowers including monarda or bee balm, spotted St. John’s wort, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, blue vervain, swamp and common milkweed, and butterfly weed. A green fringed orchid also made an appearance this year.

Native plants are crucial to the survival of spicebush and tiger swallowtail butterflies, monarch butterflies, hummingbird moths, skippers, silver spotted butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and many other pollinators as well as birds and bees.

Union County residents can help improve pollinator habitats in their own yards by planting hardy, low maintenance native plants.

Union County offers a free 'Plant This, Not That' guide, which provides simple suggestions for incorporating colorful native species that attract pollinators, while also cutting down on water bills and other yard care expenses. Recently revised and expanded, the guide is available for view or download at ucnj.org/parks-recreation.