by Daniel Tjondro '20
Last week, I got the chance to visit the West Windsor Fields and see the beautiful wildflowers, a “hidden” secret of Princeton University. Started a few years ago, this project has involved beautifying the West Windsor Field perimeter with a variety of wildflowers. Varieties include black-eyed susans, purple coneflowers, bee balm and many more. There is a database that documents the 28 different flowers that are in the field.
Not only are these flowers appealing to the eye, they are also attractive from a sustainability point of view. Butterflies, such as the tiger swallowtail, and bees are attracted to the wildflowers’ abundant pollen. Standing tall among the colorful flowers are bluebird houses, which are situated atop thick pipes that prevents malicious predators from climbing up to the birds.
Interestingly enough, this naturally beautiful wildflower area does not require very much maintenance or any fertilization. There is a well that waters the club sport fields, and some of the spray reaches the wildflowers. But they rarely require irrigation and rely mostly on rainfall. To remove undesirable weeds from the wildflowers, invasive species are pulled, which is not very labor intensive. In fact, I’m told it’s a pleasure to work among the wildflowers. Each year, the well-established summer perennials return along with the annual wildflowers, which naturally reseed themselves.
Another interesting new feature that was planted in the West Windsor Fields this year are the Pawpaw, or Papaya, trees. Although they are currently barely over a foot in height, these deciduous trees can grow up to 35 feet. These trees are well-known for their fruits. Although I have not personally tried one, I’ve been told that the Pawpaw fruit tastes somewhat like a banana, mango and cantaloupe all mixed together!
The wildflowers of West Windsor Fields were inspired by Paul Haaga ‘70 and Stu Rickerson ’71 and planted with support of Mollie Marcoux ‘91, Director of Athletics, Devin Livi, Associate Director of Grounds and Landscaping and Anne St. Mauro, Assistant Vice President for Facilities, Design & Construction.