The Westside Nature Preserve - Today!

    The purpose of this website is to illustrate what is on view at the WNP.  These graphics will download rapidly with a high-speed internet connection.  Please leave comments/suggestions at 203-837-8794.

    A list of plant species found on the Westside Nature Preserve, thanks to the members of the Torrey Botanical Society, may be found at the following link:

How to get here.  Take Exit 2 off of I-84 going east; turn left at the light at the end of the exit ramp and right at the next light, then drive about two miles along Mill Plain Road.  Across from the Stop and Shop on your right, make a left onto University Boulevard, then see below


Take Exit 4 off of I-84 going west; turn right at the light at the end of the exit ramp, and drive about one mile along Mill Plain Road. Across from the Stop and Shop on your left, make a right onto University Boulevard, then see below

Drive down University Boulevard, past the tennis courts on the right, as far as the maintenance building on the left. Park on either side of the road, uphill of the "No Parking" signs.  Walk down the road to the new section of University Boulevard and bear right.  Walk on the right side of the guard rail (i.e., off the road); go up the hill along the guard rail.  At the crest of the hill go downhill as you veer diagonally to your right and you will see a sign, kiosk, and brochure box at the entrance to the WNP and its two trails.  Enjoy your hike! After the hike check yourself for ticks!!

If you would like a self-guided tour of the Northern and Southern trails, which start at either of the two the kiosks, pick up a guide at the brochure box next to one of the two kiosks.

The map below is a map of the Northern Trail:



Westside Nature Preserve
Summer 2013

Welcome to the WNP. 

There is a great deal to see on the clear-cut. Particularly prominent are members of a large plant family, Asteraceae.  This family includes Daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and Fleabanes, and later in the summer and into the fall, at least half a dozen different species of Asters. Five different kinds of clovers (members of the family Fabaceae) are now in bloom, Red Clover, White Clover, Yellow Sweet Clover, White Sweet Clover, and Hop Clover. Three different kinds of plantains, Common Plantain, English Plantain (members of the Plantain Family), and Water Plantain (a member of the Water Plantain Family, found in standing water) are now quite evident. A plethora of kinds of grasses, Timothy, Red Top, Giant Reed, Deer-Tongue, Orchard, and Foxtail, to name but a few, are flowering about now.

A multitude of insect species, now quite active on the clear-cut, includes the modern pterodactyls, Dragonflies, including the Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Eastern Amberwing and Widow Skimmer, and Butterflies, including Great Spangled Fritillary, Eastern Yellow Swallowtails, and Eastern Black Swallowtails.

White-tail Deer fawns and Turkey chicks are abroad on the WNP- please give them a wide berth. 
Enjoy yourself and when you leave check for Deer Ticks. Visit us at:





Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly


Blue Flag Iris



The Biology Club on the Westside Nature Preserve (2012)

The Biology Club on the Westside Nature Preserve (2012)


BIO 311 - Developmental Biology - 2010





Bio. 103 - Field Trip - Summer 2007

Spring 2007

Partridgeberry in Flower - 10 June 2007

Morning Wildlife on the WNP - 10 June 2007

Euonymus Flowers - 18 May 2007

Golden Ragwort - 18 May 2007\

Jack-in-the-Pulpit - 18 May 2007

Black Walnut - 18 May 2007

Fall of 2006

Brook below the Middle Bridge

Brook above the Middle Bridge

Brook above the Middle Bridge

Monolayer of Witch Hazel Leaves

Brook below the Lower Bridge

Bio. 103 - Field Trip - Summer 2006

Bio. 103 - Field Trip - Spring 2006

Fall of 2005

Happy Halloween 2005

The Halloween Tree - 10/30/05


Autumn Bench - 10/30/05


The Autumn Forest Floor: A mushroom to the left, Spotted Wintergreen to the right, and a Tulip Tree seed in the center - 10/30/05


Nature Preserve Tour: Saturday, October 29,
11:00 am; meet at the softball field beyond the O'Neill Center.


The brook at Middle River Road: 10/15/05


The brook at the second bridge: 10/15/05

American Chestnut, growing out of an old stump. The WNP is joining the Virginia Tech University program to restore the American Chestnut to our forests (The Chestnut blight arrived at the Bronx Zoo in 1904- and you know the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say). When the seeds (nuts) and seedlings arrive, from Virginia Tech, we will plant them on the WNP and keep our fingers crossed: 10/15/05


Winterberry: 10/15/05


Summer of 2005:

General Biology I - WNP Field Trips - Week of September 5, 2005

Section 01

Section 02

Section 03


The following 5 photos were taken 21 August 2005

Magnet School Construction:


University Boulevard Construction:

Water Holding Pond:

Intake Side:


Out Flow Side:


Partridge Pea - Seen for the First Time:


Work on the extension of University Boulevard has begun;

(Road to the Westside Nature Preserve, 14 July 2005;

compare with 23 June 2005, below)

therefore, the approach to the Westside Nature Preserve has been moved.  Go to the softball field parking lot and follow the signs into the woods.

At the entrance to the woods pick up a self-directed tour guide brochure (should be available by July 22).

Each of the following numbers refers to a station at which there is a numbered post.  Face the post when reading the station description. For the time being, take the trail beyond the softball field into the woods.


 Eventually, you will walk through a break in a stone wall;

immediately turn right.  Soon, on your left you will see a sign, with number 14 and an arrow on it; turn left there into the woods.

 The first signpost you come to will be #14- begin the self-guided tour there; the sequence will be 14, 13, 12, 11, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15 (whenever you come to an intersection turn right).  When you pass Station 15 you will be back near station 14, where you started

- just back track to the softball field parking lot.  This trail has the shape of a horseshoe around the Central Valley (wetland). Enjoy!

          General Biology I Field Trip:

29 June 2005


        Road to the Westside Nature Preserve:

23 June 2005:


Spring of 2005:

     The Westside Nature Preserve at dusk:

8 June 2005:

        One consequence of construction of the magnet school will be the construction of a water
        catch basin on the northwest side of the WNP.  The four photos below show the site for this
        basin before and early into its construction.

8 June 2005:



29 May 2005:


       The ground has been broken for the new magnet school, adjacent to Middle River Road
        and the Westside Nature Preserve.  By the end of June construction for the extension of
        University Boulevard will be underway; with completion anticipated by the end of November
        2005.  Both of these projects will impact the WNP; however, I am working with our Planning
        Office and with the engineer for both projects to minimize any adverse impacts.  All parties
        are working in good faith and we all anticipate a good outcome.  I will endeavor to keep you
        informed of our progress, beginning with the photos below.

        If you use the older trail be prepared for doubling back at some point, rather than looping
        around, at Middle River Road, onto the dirt road portion of the nature trail.  Please report any
        problems or concerns to me (no, I cannot stop either project):

        Frank J. Dye, Ph.D.
        Professor of Biology
        Director, Westside Nature Preserve (
        Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences
        Western Connecticut State University
        181 White Street
        Danbury, CT  06810
        203-837-8769 (fax)

14 April 2005: That piece of machinery is on the dirt road part of the original
nature trail.  To its left is the WNP; behind it is the magnet school site


14 April 2005: Between the stonewall in the foreground and the zigzag
boardwalk in the distance there were trees.  In this area, on the western
margin of the WNP, there will be a natural water treatment facility/educational
exhibit- they hand you lemons, make lemonade.


Signs of spring include melting snow, accumulation of water (a really good thing),
and Skunk Cabbage flowers.  These sping views of the Westside Nature Preserve
were taken this Easter weekend (3/26/05).

If the predictd rain happens tomorrow (3/28) and the predicted mild temperatures for
the middle of the week happen, by mid-week Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs
will serenade us.  They, and Spotted Salamanders, breed in the vernal pool seen





Winter of 2005:

26 February 2005:   Sunset on Winter

    By now almost everyone is ready for spring, yet winter
is also precious- and how do we know there is another
one in our future?  The following photos remind one of
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  Look for
evidence of the setting sun, presaging winter's end, in
each photo.









Season's Greetings from the Westside Nature Preserve

Shelf Fungus (12/26/04):

Sphagnum Moss (12/26/04):

Partridgeberries among the Moss (12/26/04):


Fall of 2004:

The Eve of November (10/31/04):

The following four photos were taken on Halloween Day (10/31/04)
and demonstrate that November is neither somber nor colorless:

    Witch-Hazel Flowers


    Euonymus Leaves


    Shelf Fungus


Indian Pipes


The October Tour (10/9/04):

A pleasant autumn day (temperatures in the 70s); the hike on the nature trail was a combination
aggressive plant, aromatic, berry, vine tour, among other things- a small, albeit energetic, curious


Figure 1. The canopy of this spring pulpit has been folded back so you may
observe "Jack" in his pulpit; the two flanking leaves (each with three leaflets)
designate this as a female plant.

Figure 2. It is fall, and this female plant has lost its pulpit; only the
base of "Jack" remains and parts of the female flowers have developed
into berries- they are pretty, but do NOT eat them.


    Summer of 2004:

September Morning (9/12/04):

        Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) a parasitic plant (epi, "upon"
and fagus, the "beech"); found under beech trees, where it grows upon
and receives nourishment from the roots. 9/12/04:



     Indian Pipe (Monotropa hypopitys) does not carry on photosynthesis but
obtains its nourishment from fungi associated with roots, often those of oaks or


late summer (9/12/04):

The Mushrooms of August (8/15/04):

  These first 3 are the same as the first 2 mushrooms of  8/10/04, below:










The Mushrooms of August (8/10/04):




Daisies are now (June/July 2004) in full bloom on the Westside Nature Preserve

Oxeye Daisy*
Chrysanthemum leucanthemum*
Sunflower or Daisy Family (Asteraceae or Compositae)

*The "day's eye"; gold-flower/white-flower.
There were no daisies in America when the Puritans unpacked in Massachusetts. Germanic tribes believed it had powers against thunderstorms. The history of the development of the chrysanthemum from a mere daisy is lost in the shadows of long ago.**

Flowering: June-August

Source: Native to China; Europe to North America

**Haughton, C. S. Green Immigrants: The Plants That Transformed America. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY (1978)

Daisies - June/July 2004:



Black-eyed Susans - June/July 2004:



Home-School Tour of the Enchanted Forest (16 June 2004):

The following two photos show the WNP trail, near the Middle River Road end (1 June 2004):

Looking south: Black Walnut tree and Dame's Rockets (see below):


Looking north: Black Walnut tree grove and Dame's Rockets, right, Multiflora Rose, left (see below):


Dame's Rocket- not a native plant, a garden escapee:

Multiflora Rose- another escapee:




Jack-in-the-Pulpit (closer view of the above):


Nature Trail hike - 24 April 2004 - In celebration of Earth Day - at 10:00 am, far end of University Blvd.  No rain date.



Spotted Salamander- near the center of the image- note the excellent protective coloration:


Spotted Salamander spermatophores- for example there are 3 in a row near the top of the image;
these are sperm packets on top of gelatinous pedestals:


Spotted Salamander spermatophore- teased apart and viewed with a microscope; each tiny thin "hair"
is a spermatozoon:


Spotted Salamander adults:



Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica):

                                     Male:                                                                    Female:

                    Male and Female in Amplexus*:                                    Eggs:


* Amplexus is not intercourse; Wood Frog fertilization is external; the word means "embrace"

Toads in Amplexus:


Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum): unhatched embryo; note gills above and balancer below.


Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum): hatched tadpole; note gills above and 2 balancers below.


Monday, 4/5/04- Happily, for the past week nocturnal visits have revealed 7-8 adult Spotted Salamanders, as well as numerous spermatophores, at each of the two vernal pools observed- this is comforting (see March 20th, below).  However, since these observations have been made, no egg masses have been found- this may be a cause for concern.  For pictures of Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders, as well as egg masses, go to and scroll down to Vertebrate Animals.

Saturday, 3/20/04- First day of spring; tonight (about 8 pm), about 35 oF and drizzling, at the Westside Campus vernal pool one could hear frog (one Wood Frog, Ranasylvatica, was observed) and Spring Peeper vocalizations.  Although looked for, neither adult Spotted Salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, nor spermatophores were found)

    Winter of 2004: The January 4th nature hike had a good turnout and, apparently, a good time was had by all:


            Proposed "Water Treatment" Plants - WNP - 1/22/04

Alnus rugosa                                    Speckled Alder
Amelianchier canadensis                   Shadblow Serviceberry
Carya ovata                                    Shagbark Hickory
Cornus sericea                                 Red Osier Dogwood
Cephalanthus occidentis                    Buttonbush
Fraxinus pennsylvania                       Green Ash
Ilex verticillata                                  Winterberry
Larix laricina                                    Larch
Quercus bicolor                                Swamp White Oak
Quercus palustris                              Pin Oak
Salix discolor                                    Pussy Willow
Viburnum lentago                             Nannyberry
Viburnum tribolum                           American Cranberrybush


Skunk Cabbage: View of the yellow/maroon spathe which covers the spadix, which in turn
carries the flowers.  February


Skunk Cabbage: Three spathes are visible; the thinner, elongated structure- 2nd from the left- is the
foliage (leaves) beginning to unfold.  March


Skunk Cabbage: View of flowers on the spadix (covered by the maroon spathe).  March


Skunk Cabbage: View of flowers on the spadix (as seen with a microscope); the barely visible
yellow particles are pollen.  March


Skunk Cabbage: Two spathes are visible at the center- it is obvious that Skunk Cabbage likes wet feet.


Skunk Cabbage: By the end of April, Skunk Cabbage foliage paints
the floor of the WNP Central Valley green.  April


Coltsfoot and Horsetail: These two plants are quite different, even though they both put up their
reproductive structures at the same time in early spring.  The yellow flower (a reproductive structure
that gives rise to seeds) belongs to a wildflower called Coltsfoot, which may be seen now (April) on
the Westside Campus.  The spike structure, atop a stalk and to the right of the flower, is a strobilus
(cone), the reproductive structure of the Horsetail which gives rise to spores.


Coltsfoot and Horsetail: About a month later (May) the reproductive structures of both of these plants
are no longer visible and have been replaced by their leaves.  The broad coltsfoot-shaped leaves (use your
imagination) are those of Coltsfoot, while the needle-like leaves are those of the Horsetail.


Trail: A view of the nature trail on the WNP.  May





Bull Thistle with two Black Swallowtails:


Hapatica Leaves:


Beginning of the First Trail (8/4/02):


Up the first slope (8/4/02):


Down the long slope, into the Central Valley (8/4/02):


WNP Trail - Down to and across the Central Valley (7/31/02):


Sepentine trail beyond the Central Valley (8/4/02):


Dodder- a beautiful parasite (8/4/02):



August Morning (8/7/02):


Blue Vervain (8/7/02):


Queen Annes-lace and Chicory (8/7/02):


Monarch Butterfly on Phragmites Leaves (8/7/02):


Butterflyweed and friends (8/3/02):


Fleabane (8/3/02):


Joe-pye-weed (8/3/02):


Purple Loosestrife (8/3/02):


Western's Brook (8/3/02):


Yarrow (8/3/02):


Note Park Bench (8/3/02):


Note numbered guidepost, plant sign, steps and handrail (8/3/02):


    The WNP Brook arises on the Westside Campus from a number of springs.  The quality of its water is quite good; in fact this water has been taken into the laboratory, filtered, and used to make cell culture medium.  This medium, in turn, has been used to support the growth of mouse cells and fish cells- and at levels equal to that obtained when using commercially available medium.

WNP Brook (8/11/02):


American Chestnut Leaves (8/11/02):


    Maple-leaf Viburnum is an attractive plant anytime of the year.  The August photo below shows the attractive leaves of the plant at this time of the year.  The flanking (above and below) photos show the flowers and green leaves of late spring and the dark fruits and colored leaves of the fall.

Maple-leaf Viburnum (6/6/99):


Maple-leaf Viburnum (8/11/02):


Maple-leaf Viburnum (10/7/90):


September Afternoon (9/22/02):


September Asters (9/22/02):


September Asters (9/22/02):


September Goldenrod (9/22/02):


The floor of the WNP