• Kendall Hills in summer bloom by Jeffrey Gibson

    Cuyahoga Valley

    National Park Ohio

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  • Tuesday, June 10 - Volunteer Enrichment Series Location Change

    Tonight's Volunteer Enrichment Series will now be held at Happy Days Lodge, located at 500 West Streetsboro Road (SR 303), Peninsula 44264. Refreshments start at 6:30 p.m., presentation at 7 p.m. It was originally scheduled for Basket of Life Farm.

  • Brandywine Creek Foot Bridge Closed

    The footbridge that crosses over the Brandywine Creek on the Brandywine Gorge Trail is closed due to damage sustained during a recent storm. The trail remains open but there is no detour. Visitors will need to backtrack to get back to parking lot. More »

Grasslands

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Monarch butterfly with tag

©Jerry Jelinek

The grassy fields you see at Cuyahoga Valley National Park used to be forest. CVNP’s meadows were once farm fields, rock quarrying sites, or other land people cleared of trees. When the land was abandoned, switchgrass, bromegrass, timothy, and others grasses began to grow, creating meadow ecosystems. Once grassland plants take hold, the ecosystem’s food chain develops. Insects, voles, mice, and birds that feed on grasses, sedges, and flowering plants soon show up. Once there’s prey to eat, predators like hawks, owls, snakes, foxes, and coyotes quickly follow. The old field meadow ecosystems of CVNP are full of brightly colored life. Goldenrod, milkweed, and asters bloom with flowers visited by dozens of different butterflies. Grassland songbirds, including meadowlarks and savannah sparrow come to eat, breed, and nest.

 

Important Meadow “Weeds”

Two of the meadow ecosystem’s members have an especially close connection. Like many butterflies, black and orange adult monarchs drink the nectar of goldenrod and other wildflowers. CVNP is an important feeding and rest stop for monarchs migrating south to Mexico in early September. Summer breeding monarchs also take advantage of another of the park’s meadow plants—milkweed. Monarchs have a special relationship with milkweed. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed leaves. Without milkweed, monarch caterpillars can’t grow into butterflies. The secret is what’s in the milkweed. The plant has toxins that don’t hurt the monarchs, but builds up in the skin and makes them poisonous. When a bird eats a monarch, it has a minor heart attack and spits out its dangerous meal.

 
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Aerial view of Ritchfield Coliseum
                       

NPS COLLECTION

From Basketball to Bobolinks

One of CVNP’s largest grassland areas was once a basketball arena. When the old home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Richfield Coliseum, was torn down acres of asphalt parking lots were also removed. Now it’s a 327-acre restored grassland and wildflower meadow. The former Coliseum site is large enough to attract rare grassland birds, like Henslow’s sparrows. They come during the summer to breed and make their fragile nests down among the thick grasses. National Audubon has given the remarkable site Important Bird Area status.

 

One of the grassland birds you can see at the former Coliseum site is the bobolink. These birds winter in South America, where they are a dull yellow-brown color. In the spring, bobolinks fly to CVNP to breed and nest. The meadow ecosystem of the former Coliseum site has plenty of seeds and insects for bobolinks to eat, and the grasses they need to nest in. Before arriving in Ohio, a male bobolink molts into a new coat of glossy black and white feathers. This helps him to impress a mate. Once breeding season is over, he changes back to his dull coat.

 

If left alone, the meadow ecosystems of CVNP won’t stay grasslands for very long. Over time, bushes, thickets, and then trees will move in. This natural process, called succession, changes the landscape back to the forest it once was. It’s another example of the ever-changing ecosystems of the Cuyahoga Valley.


 
VIDEOICON


Kids Asked, We Answered!

Click the questions to play video of real kids getting answers from park experts.


What animals live in the meadow?

What flowers grow in the meadow?


Did You Know?

Drawing of a mule driver on the Ohio & Erie Canal.

A young James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States, worked briefly as a mule boy on the Ohio & Erie Canal, an important cultural resource within Cuyahoga Valley National Park.