What's New

Press Releases

Becoming Involved




Trail Interpretation

Habitats in Railway Cut Sections

Click on titles to view map of section described in text.

Pine Hill Drive to Marlborough Woods Bridge

Looking now at the vegetation types along the track their origin becomesclear. The section to the Marlborough Woods Bridge was cut throughwoodland. This is especially the case on the higher north side where thereis a currently dense growth of oak and red maple coppice. This side wasbrush cut about four years ago and the stumps have sent up very vigoroussprouts which now makes the area (1981) almost impenetrable. It seems mostsensible to assume that at the time the railway was put through, this areawas woodland with its herb flora intact. The old stump sprout clustersattest to coppicing at intervals to prevent the growth of tall trees. Thereare, however, mature oaks on the property behind which is calledappropriately enough, 'The Oaks' and was the former Stanfield property.These and other oaks in the region are relics of the original MarlboroughWoods and were obviously thought worth preserving when the other trees werecut down.

On the south side there is a greater proportion of indian pear and redmaple in the coppice and this side was presumably reduced to base rock bythe process of cutting the railway, and the trees represent seedingestablishment since.

Along this section may be found some of the slow-growing and woodlanddependent herbs which are unable to colonise fields., These are mayflower(Epigaea repens), moccasin-flower (Cypripedium acaule) spotted coral-root(Corallorhiza maculata) and indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora). These are therare plants of the railway and readers should make a point of not diggingany of them up or even picking a single flower. It is a pleasure to findsuch things within the boundaries of a modern city and they should be leftalone and admired in situ. Some of these are abundant elsewhere in theProvince where there is no harm in picking a few, but right here in theCity they are rare and should be left strictly alone. Also among the bushesis the grass Oryzopsis asperifolia , another relic of open woodland.

Also in this section is a narrow strip of woodland which is publicproperty and gives access to the Northwest Arm. The City maintains the areaand has followed a practice of keeping down the bushes, especiallyconiferous ones.

Marlborough Woods Bridge to South Street

This section was presumably a series of fields and gardens at the timethe railway was put through. It consists of grassy and rocky areas beingprogressively invaded by early succession bushes and trees. At irregularintervals scrub is cut down, as it is all along the railway. Thus the areais maintained in the early stages of plant succession which has the effectof encouraging, among others, the growth of blackberries and raspberry andmake this strip on of the prime berry-picking places in the city. Theblackberries appear to be a complex mixture of the native species with thetwo extreme sizes - the robust, upright Rubus allegheniensis with itslarge, excellent fruit and the tiny, creeping Rubus hispidus with itsshiny, evergreen leaves - easily recognised, but including also several ofthe intermediate arching forms which we have lumped under the convenientbut possibly incorrect title of 'Rubus canadensis'. The raspberries appearto be garden remains of the European raspberry.

Al1 along this and the other segments is a fringe of garden plantsresulting from the piles of rubbish thrown out from the gardens of adjacenthouses. Some are recent but many have spread and have obviously been aroundmany, many years.

Already noted is the old hop vine by the substation mixing with virginiacreeper. By Inglis Street is musk mallow and halfway between Oakland andSouth is an old specimen of the Manitoba maple or box elder which differsfrom most, maples in having divided leaves looking for all the like an ash.The Japanese weed has a certain magnificence with its thick shoots andwhite flowers and as already mentioned dates from the time when gardenswere larger and people needed some giant herbs to fill in the odd corner.

In addition to the abundant wild rose are rare plants of the Europeandog rose and the Japanese multi-flora rose, both of which probablyoriginated as rootstock of imported garden roses. In addition, just off therailway property at the Marlborough Woods bridge were the sweet briar and asingle tall-growing, old garden rose, possibly the damask. These may havebeen eliminated by the recent spate of housebuilding in the area.

Lovers' Walk (South to Coburg)

The path is along the southern edge of the railway and is notable forthe number of escaped garden plants growing alongside it. Lily-of-the-valley, periwinkle and ground ivy have crept through the hedges of gardensas they have elsewhere but sweet cicely, with its highly divided leavessmelling of aniseed, is found only along this section. Sweet cicely is anancient pot-herb brought over from Europe along with other umbellifers suchas caraway, goutweed and carrot.

The Horsefield (Conrose Park)

The railway itself is fenced off but the footpath continues on the northside of the Coburg Road bridge across a grassy area which varies from roughuncut land with a few trees to a large central mown field. The flora islargely composed of European pasture grasses and herbs. The reason for thepreponderance of non-native species is because they evolved to withstandtrampling and cutting, in contrast to the native herbs which inhabitwoodlands or cliffs but are eliminated by heavy human use of an area.Plants which can withstand damage are called ruderals , those whichwithstand harsh conditions but not physical damage are called stresstolerators.

This is a recent ecological classfication of plants by Grime; his thirdcategory is that of competitors which includes plants which maximise leafarea and the amount of carbon fixed by photosynthesis.

Herbs on the Horsefield include the common grasses : bent, kentuckybluegrass, annual bluegrass, red fescue, timothy, cocksfoot, couch andothers including the native poverty grass and ticklegrass. In addition areclovers, fa11 and spring dandelions, mouse-ear hawkweed, knapweed, mi1foil,creeping buttercup, stitchwort, mouse-ear chickweed, knotgrass and greaterplantains, the list is not exhaustive.

Quinpool to Chebucto

The section from Jubilee to Quinpool is inaccessible hence our lastsection includes the two park areas of Flinn Park on the north and theQuinpool Road park on the south.

Copyright © 2011, Halifax Urban Greenway Association