Vernal Pools Are Here!

“What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs, if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty.”  – Henry David Thoreau

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My husband took this photo of me examining a vernal pool.

What’s a vernal pool? A vernal pool is typically a dip in the wooded landscape that fills with water in the spring, and generally dries out by summer. We’ve discovered that our property is host to two vernal pools. I LOVE vernal pools, and let me show you a picture of why.

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Image credit: Gunthercx on Wikimedia Commons

The yellow spotted salamander is the largest salamander in Connecticut, and is my favorite of the salamanders. These cuties can grow to a length of 9 inches from tailtip to nosetip. When you look at them face on, their mouths look like they form a state of eternal smiling.

Yellow spotted salamanders depend on vernal pools for breeding. And they aren’t the only ones: wood frogs, spring peepers, gray tree frogs, eastern spadefoot, American toads, and Fowler’s toads also make use of the vernal pool. They come together, raise great cacophonies of frog and toad song, and mate within the pools. By the end of April, you can usually find many great masses and strings of jelly-feeling amphibian eggs. Tadpoles hatch from these eggs, and begin growing – and they have to do this quickly! The worst thing that can happen is for the vernal pool to dry out while the tadpole is still becoming an adult.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of these on your property, protect it! Try not to stomp around within the pool edges (keep to steady stones and logs), keep dogs on leash, and teach kids about the value of these special places. If you’d like to add a riparian buffer, pick native plants that don’t mind a period of saturation in the soil. Think swamp azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), swamp rose (Rosa palustris), or tussock sedge (Carex stricta). All of these plants can be found at New England Wetland Plants.

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