17 September 2022
In Schenley and Frick Parks you can look straight through the forest if you duck your head below four feet high. In Schenley Park the ground is often bare and most plants in that four-foot zone are gone. But one flower, wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), is doing just fine in the city parks.
The absence of cover from the ground to 4 – 5 feet is called a browseline (below) and is evidence of an overpopulation of white-tailed deer.
According to this KDKA report, the deer population in Schenley Park is estimated at 80-150, which roughly equates to 100-200 deer per square mile. A healthy population in a balanced forest would be 20-30 deer per square mile, so any plant that survives in the Pittsburgh’s city parks is something that deer don’t eat.
So why don’t deer eat wingstem?
The leaves are bitter!
Find out more about wingstem at Illinois wildflowers.
(photos by Kate St. John)