Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve is about 140 acres of forest and tidal marsh centered on Lake Ballard. There are miles of trails through several different habitats; a couple of blinds where close to 200 different bird species can be seen; there is a visitor center and a kayak dock. This is so much better than yet another vinyl-clad village.
Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud)
Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina Jessamine)
On they day we were there oaks unfolded for the season.
Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye)
The old Ballard mansion is no longer there, but many of the family's plants are still around, and while some have lived a life of good behavior, others have taken far to well to their Virginia home. Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinensis), Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), English ivy (Hedera helix) and Vinca minor are all doing their best to choke out Hoffler Creek's natives.
Hyacinthoides hispanica (Spanish Bluebells)
Lunaria annua (Money Plant) is listed as naturalized, or invasive depending on what you source you read.
Oxalis crassipes (Pink Wood Sorrel)
Even given its invasiveness and python-like grip, there is no denying wisteria's beauty.
When the Ballard family left Hoffler Creek, the marked graves of their ancestors were moved to a nearby church, but the unmarked graves of their slaves remain. The site of the old cemetery is covered in Vinca minor, a plant long associated with graveyards. Our tour leader said that vinca was thought to help keep the world of the living and the dead separate from each other.
I say this with no basis in fact, but I feel that Portsmouth probably has the area's most disconnected-from-nature population, particularly its children. So Hoffler Creek and its extensive education and outreach programs are an essential city service. Quite the bargain for a buck!
(You can see the complete set of my Hoffler Creek photos here.)