Vernal pools

Miniature wetlands are important for amphibians

The picture on the left was taken in the pool under the Belmont Avenue Bridge on April 11 2024. If you look closely, you can see that this female toad is laying eggs--they look like a string of white beads handing down from near her back foot. The eggs will need to be fertilized by a male toad; there were two nearby in this tiny pool. Toads and frogs really depend on these little pools during the spring season when they lay eggs and the young develop. That's because these temporary pools don't have fish, which can eat the eggs and tadpoles. 

In early spring you may hear the choruses of frogs and toads coming out along the trail; follow this link to hear what American toads sound like. 

Adult toads, frogs and turtles eat lots of different things, including insects and other invertebrates.  Even mosquitoes have a role to play--mosquito larvae in these pools are an important food source for many other animals. They are part of the balanced ecosystem we try to promote along the trail. You can look in the pools for eggs and tadpoles, but please leave them alone so we can continue to hear the lovely sound and enjoy the other benefits of frogs and toads in our neighborhood. 

Thanks to David Galinsky for this photograph of a green frog.

Special plants of vernal pools

Can you see what looks like a tiny pine tree sticking out of the water? This is a plant called horsetails, or sometimes scouring rush. Plants like this were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth; you can read more about it on other parts of this website. 

Some of the pools have plants like cattails, which are also wetland specialists. 

Want to learn more?

The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program has lots of information about vernal pools in the state, and even maintains a registry of important pools; follow the link to read all about it.  There are good photos and descriptions of frogs and toads that live in and around the pools.