You will also see several species of grass, and patches of tiny bayberry shrubs (Morella pensylvanica) that have been repeatedly cut back by mowing.
Sun loving plants thrive in meadows, which are great habitats to spot butterflies like the Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos). If mowing were to cease, vines, shrubs and trees such those as you see behind you would, in time, dominate.
Plant communities such as this one were more common on Nantucket in the past, when burning by Native Americans and European settlers, and intensive grazing, especially by sheep, both prevented encroachment by taller, woody plants.
Clearing the land for farming reached its peak in Massachusetts in the 1830's, when open fields dominated approximately three-quarters of the Commonwealth's landscape, including most of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. Westward migration and the Industrial Revolution led to widespread abandonment of farms and fields, which reverted to forests through the process of succession. As succession advances, woody shrubs and vines overtake meadow flowers and grasses, and saplings of fast-growing evergreens encroach from the edges of the field. Conditions begin to favor colonization by conifers and, eventually, deciduous tree species. Over time, what was once a field can become a forest. Today, forests cover most of the formerly open farmland, and wild meadows and grasslands have become scarce habitats.
The Field Station managers maintain its fields by mowing on a regular basis. If mowing was to cease, the vines, shrubs and trees that surround the meadow would, in time, dominate it as well. Close observation reveals that even the mowed area has been extensively colonized by woody species.