Landscape & Archaelogy

The Landscape

The landscape of Jemison Park is the result of millions of years of geological activity, but many of the landforms we see in and around the park are of relatively recent origin. About 260 million years ago, when the mountain-building forces that created the Appalachian Mountain range on the eastern side of North America began to subside, the land that is now Jefferson and Shelby Counties formed the southern part of that range. The Appalachians rose to about 5 miles above sea level, about the height of the present-day Himalayas, far higher than the eroded remnants we see today. Over time, erosion reduced these mountains to the landforms that comprise Alabama’s Valley and Ridge physiographic section. The primary agent of this erosion was water, principally in the form of rainfall. Rain continues its work today, and, although the pace is very slow, changes are visible and ongoing throughout Jemison Park.

pgintro-mapIn the park, Shades Creek meanders through Shades Valley, elevation about 600 feet above mean sea level (msl), which is bordered by Shades Mountain, 1,050 feet msl to the southeast, and Red Mountain, 900 feet msl to the northwest. These two mountains, as well as Oak Mountain and other nearby ridges, are remnants of the Appalachian Mountains, whose countless tons of eroded rock were washed downstream into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

IMG_9790 copy

The northwest face of Shades Mountain, a precipitous cliff in many places, reveals some of the history of the area. Like many mountains, Shades Mountain and Red Mountain were built by layer after layer of rock being laid down in seas, salt and fresh water, over many millions of years and later raised high above sea level by movements in the earth’s crust. Some of these layers are exposed in the cliff face of Shades Mountain at Jemison Park. On page 15 is a stratigraphic column showing the sequence of rock layers in Jemison Park and the surrounding area. This column was prepared for this booklet by the Geological Survey of Alabama, located in Tuscaloosa. The portion of the column between “Shades Mountain” and “Shades Creek” shows the layers that are visible in the northwest face of Shades Mountain. The column also shows the layers that make up Red Mountain. The level of the streambed of Shades Creek is also shown. The cross-section on page 14 shows the present configuration of these rock layers, which are tilted – or dip – toward the southeast. This illustration is based on a diagram prepared by Dr. Denny Bearce for a field trip through the Red Mountain cut and is reprinted with his permission.


Very generally, all of the layers that are exposed on the northwest face of Shades Mountain also rested in the same order upon the present southeastern slope of Red Mountain but were subsequently eroded away. Shades Creek was the primary agent of this erosion, along with the southwestern drainage between the ridges of Red Mountain and Shades Mountain. Shades Creek acted not only as an erosive agent, by removing the north face of Shades Mountain, but also as a builder of the flood plain by depositing some of the material upon which Jemison Park is located.

Today, Shades Creek at the Cahaba Road bridge drains 15.1 square miles of land surface. Because much of that surface is now paved, for example the Eastwood Mall area, rainfall flows quickly downhill as runoff. When the ground becomes saturated after heavy rains, additional rainfall can result in flooding, which we see from time to time along Mountain Brook Parkway.

The flood plain, best seen on the creek side of Mountain Brook  Parkway between Cahaba Road and Overbrook Road, began its most recent growth phase just a few thousand years ago when the last Ice Age ended and meltwater from the receding glaciers rushed seaward, reshaping the landscape. The power of the flooding can be imagined by looking at the rock outcroppings on the northwest side of the creek at the second bridge after Cahaba Road (the first bridge spans Watkins Brook). More dramatic still are the stone cliff faces bordering the upper reaches of Watkins Brook at Memory Lane where Santa Claus used to sit at Christmas. The white and gray rock exposed here is Hartselle Sandstone, a very hard rock consisting mostly of quartz that was deposited about 330 million years ago.

pg15-GeoCrossSectionSome of the rock layers in and around the park are more permeable than others, which means that rainwater seeping into the ground can flow through them more easily. When a fracture or human excavation breaks into these layers, springs may be created. One such spring, which flows during wet weather, can be seen on the east side of Watkins Brook about 100 yards upstream from Mountain Brook Parkway.

Today, the flood plain is still changing. The stream bed of Shades Creek is composed of a variety of materials including bedrock, loose cobbles and boulders, and sand and gravel. These materials are removed, transported, and deposited along the dynamic interface between rushing water and stream bed. Trees in the flood plain are sometimes uprooted by floodwaters, and when this happens near the creek the bank is torn apart there and the stream bed begins to widen.

The large sand and gravel bar downstream from the Beechwood Road bridge changes with each flood, generally growing from the Nature Trail side of the creek towards Woodhill Road. As the bar grows, the channel becomes narrower and forces the water to flow more swiftly, eroding the bank on the Woodhill side and eventually altering the flood plain and the path of the creek itself.

Another recent change in the flood plain is the island in Shades creek below the Old Mill just before the creek passes under the bridge. Older maps, as well as the recollections of some of the park’s patrons, including Bill McDonald, confirm that the island did not exist until 1989, when a new channel was formed closer to Mountain Brook Parkway than the main channel, creating the island.

Flood plain soil comes not only from the rock tumbling down Shades Mountain but also from rock derived from the southeastern slope of Red Mountain and from upstream to the stream’s source in Irondale. The dominant soil in the flood plain is called the Sullivan-State complex. This soil is very sandy and quite permeable and is best suited to water-tolerant flora. The soil along the Nature Trail above the flood plain is called the Leesburg-Rock Outcrop complex and is host to a wide variety of plants. The richness and diversity of life is evident throughout the park as the creek meanders along the flood plain, subtly reshaping the land by its passage, helping one seed, hindering another root.

We are deeply indebted to the Geological Survey of Alabama for its help in the preparation of this booklet.

– Thomas N. Carruthers

Archaeology of Jemison Park

 The little streams that feed Shades Creek and the creek itself, like all waters, attracted Indians.
Jemison Park had its share of Indians. Over forty sites of Indian activity have been found and recorded along Shades Creek and its small tributaries.

Most of the sites are what is known as Woodland, embracing the time period from about 5000 years ago to the time of Christ. The artifacts are easily identifiable for this was the beginning of pottery production and, alas, the time when arrow and spear points took a cruder form than in the earlier Paleo and Archaic cultural periods which began here in Alabama over 10,000 years ago.

One of the most interesting recent finds in the vicinity of Jemison Park was made when bulldozers were clearing land for Samford University. It was near the Parkway that a Folsom point was discovered, a point that is dated at 10,000 years.

Although floods and vegetation have covered the Indian remains, all who walk through the natural loveliness of Jemison Park might enjoy remembrances of those who have passed this way long before.

– Brittain Thompson, 1978

Flora & Fauna


Birds of Jemison Park

The following birds may be seen or heard in the park. For seasonal abundance, see the 2001 “Bird List of Jemison Park” published by the Friends. For more about birds in this area, see Alabama Birds by Thomas A. Imhof.

Wading Birds
Great Blue Heron
Green Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Canada Goose
Wood Duck

Turkey Vulture
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Quail and Allies
Spotted Sandpiper
American Woodcock

Rock Dove
Mourning Dove

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Screech Owl
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl

Common Nighthawk

Swifts and Hummingbirds
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Blue-throated Hummingbird

Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Yellow-shafted Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker

Eastern Wood Pewee
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher

Jays and Crows
Blue Jay
Common Crow

Purple Martin
Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Chickadees and Titmice
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Carolina Wren
House Wren
Winter Wren

Gnatcatchers and Kinglets
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Gray Catbird
Common Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher

Cedar Waxwing

Common Starling

Eastern Bluebird
Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson’s, or Olive-backed Thrush
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin

White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Wood Warblers
Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Parula Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Myrtle Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-White Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Swainson’s Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Canada Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat

Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager

New World Finches
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Slate-colored Junco
Oregon Junco

Old World Finches
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Evening Grosbeak

Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole

Weaver Finches
House Sparrow


Three species of owls have been seen or heard regularly along the creek, the most noticeable being the large, brown-eyed Barred Owl. Their distinctive eight-note call is generally rendered in our area as, “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you’alllll,” the extended ending dropping in pitch and tempo. Other guttural and expressive vocal efforts as these owls communicate over the valley can be heard throughout the night and are spectacular. Barred Owls have long life spans and have been known to nest in the same area for over thirty years. Among the major reasons to leave dead trees standing in the park, even as cut-off stubs 20-30 feet tall, is that they become feeding habitat for woodpeckers and other insect-eaters and nesting habitat for cavity dwellers, such as Barred Owls. Who will furnish their next tree?

Mammals of Jemison Park

Due to their generally secretive nature and often nocturnal habits, more mammals are found in Jemison Park than you might suspect. For more information on the mammals found in and near Jemison Park or  elsewhere in Alabama, good references are A Field Guide to the Mammals
by W. Burt and R. Grossenherden; A Field Guide to Animal Tracks by O. Murie; Mammal Tracks and Signs by M. Elbroch.
Virginia Opossum

Weasels and Allies
Long-tailed Weasel
River Otterpg20-opossum

Eastern Mole
Striped Skunk
Southeastern Shrew
Short-tailed Shrew

Bears and Raccoons
Big Brown Bat
Little Brown Bat
Eastern Pipistrel
Evening Bat
Red Bat

Red Fox
Gray Fox

Squirrels and Relatives
Eastern Gray Squirrel
Southern Flying Squirrel
Eastern Chipmunk

Nine-banded Armadillo

Mice, Rats and other Rodents
Eastern Harvest Mouse
White-footed Wood Mouse
Pine Vole
Norway Rat

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Songs of the Night
If your ears are tuned for small sounds, you might notice at nightfall the small, high-pitched squeak of a flying squirrel amid the large trees in the park forest. The Southern Flying Squirrel is 5 l/2 to 6 inches in body length with a 3 1/2 to 4 1/2-inch tail, thus much smaller than the common gray squirrel. A loose fold of skin attached to the foreleg and hind leg on each side allows it to glide from tree to tree when the legs are extended. The nocturnal flying squirrel is not often seen but can occasionally be heard in the darkness of the night. Listen carefully for a very high-pitched “tseet” given at intervals of 3-5 seconds, sometimes continuing for several  minutes.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Jemison Park

Alabama has more than 135 species of amphibians and reptiles. For more information on the amphibians and reptiles found in Jemison Park or elsewhere in Alabama, two excellent references are The Reptiles and Amphibians of Alabama by R. Mount; Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America by R. Conant and J. Collins.
Common Water Snake
Queen Snake
Brown (Dekay’s) Snake
Red-bellied Snake
Garter Snake
Ribbon Snake
Earth Snake
Ringneck Snake
Worm Snake
Black Racer
Green Snake
Corn Snake
Gray Rat Snake
Black Kingsnake

Snapping Turtle
Mud Turtle
Box Turtle
Yellow-bellied Turtle
Softshell Turtle
Geeks, Croaks, and Gunks
Frogs primarily call when breeding conditions become right, and that time varies with the species. Beginning in late winter and early spring, the high-pitched “peep” of the spring peeper can be heard. At this time or slightly later, the “rink, rink” of the mountain chorus frog and the guttural croaks and clucks of the leopard frog can also be heard. The latter sound is often described as if one were rubbing your hand over a balloon. As spring gets into full swing, several other frogs voice their calls. The green or bronze frog emits a “gunk-gunk” from the stream’s edge, and the Fowler’s toad gives a plaintive “waaaaah.” During the late spring and summer, several other species begin calling. The low-pitched bird-like trills of the gray treefrog can be heard from the trees. Along the creek’s edge can sometimes be heard the “click-click” or “geek-geek” of the cricket frog and the deep “jugo-rum” of the bullfrog. Finally, during the middle of summer, the narrow-mouthed toad’s nasal, sheep-like bleat can sometimes be heard after heavy rains.
Green Anole
Fence Lizard
Ground Skink
Five-lined Skink
Broad-headed Skink
Marbled Salamander
Spotted Salamander
Dusky Salamander
Slimy Salamander
Zigzag Salamander
Red Salamander
Two-lined Salamander
Three-lined Salamander
Toads and Frogs
Fowler’s Toad
Cricket Frog
Spring Peeper
Gray Treefrog
Chorus Frog
Narrow-mouthed Toad
Leopard Frog
Green or Bronze Frog

What Are Those Globs of Jelly in that Pool of Water?
In late winter or early spring, you may have noticed some round,   oftballsized globs of jelly in a temporary pool or small pond in the woods, often close to the creek. If you look closely, there are a number of small black objects embedded in the “jelly.” These are likely the egg masses of the spotted salamander. This 5-6″ black salamander with yellow spots spends nearly all of its life burrowing in the leaf litter and rich soil of wooded areas. However, spotted salamanders migrate to temporary pools or forest ponds at night during warm late winter-early spring rains to mate and lay their eggs. The egg mass is a gelatinous ball housing 40-100 individual little eggs. These develop over the next few weeks and hatch as gilled tadpole-like creatures. Over the late spring and early summer, they grow, develop legs and eventually leave the pond as little salamanders to join others in the leaf litter and subterranean areas of the forest floor.


Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of Jemison Park

Following is a list by family of the native deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, and vines that create the inviting canopy of the park. For more about trees and shrubs in the area, see Trees and Shrubs in the Heart of Dixie by Blanche E. Dean.
Pine family, Pinaceae
Loblolly Pine, Pinus taeda
Shortleaf Pine, P. echinata
Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum

Lily family, Liliaceae
Catbriar, Smilax rotundifolia

Willow family, Salicaceae
Black Willow, Salix nigra

Bayberry Family, Myricaceae
Northern Wax Myrtle, Myrica pensylvanica

Walnut family, Junglandaceae
Bitternut Hickory, Carya cordiformis
Southern Shagbark Hickory, C. ovata
Mockernut Hickory, C. tomentosa
Black Walnut, Juglans nigra

Songs of Summer
While many people are aware that birds, mammals, and even frogs can be identified and enjoyed by song and call as well as by sight, few realize that the same is true of insects. Yet insects are a prominent aspect of  summertime life in the park. Dog day cicadas, which emerge annually, are active during the dog days of summer, July and August. They are large insects, usually 1-2 inches in length, primarily blackish but often with green markings. While sometimes found attached to a tree trunk in some stage of molting, they are more often heard than seen. Calls of the buzz saw cicada, Tibicen lyricen and the big cicada, Tibicen auletes, both long extended buzzes, ring out in the morning and into the heat of a hot summer day.  Later in the afternoon, around 5:00, the scissor grinders, Tibicen pruinosa, tune up with their interrupted buzzing call of “zaaaaazur/zaaaaazur/zaaaaazur/zaaaaaz” etc., the “zur” sound dropping in pitch. Katydids, Pterophylla camellifolia begin their songs after dark, one at a time at first but soon in great chorus from high in the deciduous
trees. Because they inhabit the heights, these large bright green members of the grasshopper family are rarely seen, but their well known song of
“katy-did, katy-didn’t,” sung in unison, produces the pulsing background for the moonlight and magnolias of a Southern night.

Birch family, Betulaceae
Eastern Hophornbeam, Ostrya virginiana
Ironwood, Carpinus caroliniana
River Birch, Betula nigra
Tag Alder, Alnus serrulata

Beech family, Fagaceae
American Beech, Fagus grandifolia
White Oak, Quercus alba
Southern Red Oak, Q. falcata
Northern Red Oak, Q. rubra
Blackjack Oak, Q. marilandica
Water Oak, Q. nigra
Overcup Oak, Q. lyrata
Post Oak, Q. stellata
Scarlet Oak, Q. coccinea
Shumard’s Oak, Q. shumardii
Pagoda Oak, Q. pagoda
Chestnut Oak, Q. prinus

Mulberry family, Moraceae
Red Mulberry, Morus rubra

Mistletoe family, Loranthaceae
Mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum

Elm family, Ulmaceae
American Elm, Ulmus americana
Winged Elm, U. alata
Hackberry, Celtis laevigata

Crowfoot family, Ranunculaceae
Yellow-root, Xanthorhiza simplicissima

Anise family, Illiciaceae
Florida Anise, Illicium floridanum
Anise, I. parviflorum

Magnolia family, Magnoliaceae
Yellow Poplar or Tulip Tree,
Liriodendron tulipifera
Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora
Umbrella Magnolia, M. tripetala
Sweet Bay, M. virginiana

Custard-apple family, Annonaceae
Dwarf Pawpaw, Asimina parviflora
Pawpaw, A. triloba

Strawberry-shrub family, Calycanthaceae
Sweet-shrub, Calycanthus floridus

Saxifrage family, Saxifragaceae
Virginia Willow, Itea virginica
Climbing Hydrangea, Decumaria barbara
Nine-bark Hydrangea, Hydrangea arborescens
Oakleaf Hydrangea, H. quercifolia

Witch-hazel family, Hamamelidaceae
Sweet Gum, Liquidambar styraciflua
Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana

Laurel family, Lauraceae
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum
Spice Bush, Lindera benzoin

Plane-tree family, Platanaceae
Sycamore, Platanus occidentalis

Rose family, Rosaceae
Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii
Washington Thorn, C. phaenopyrum
Little-hip Thorn, C. spathulata
Downy Shadbush or Serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea
Common Choke-cherry, Prunus virginiana
Wild Black Cherry, P. serotina
Red Chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia

Bean family, Fabaceae
Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
Black Locust, Robinia pseudo-acacia

Rue family, Rutaceae
Wafer Ash, Ptelea trifoliata

Cashew family, Anacardiaceae
Poison Ivy, Toxicodendron radicans
Smooth Sumac, Rhus glabra

Holly family, Aquifoliaceae
Deciduous Holly, Ilex longipes
American Holly, I. opaca
Possumhaw, I. decidua

Staff-tree family, Celastraceae
Strawberry Bush, Euonymus americanus

Bladdernut family, Staphyleaceae
American Bladdernut, Staphylea trifolia

Maple family, Aceraceae
Box Elder, Acer negundo
Red Maple, A. rubrum
Florida Maple, A. floridanum
Chalk Maple, A. leucoderme

Buckeye family, Hippocastanaceae
Red Buckeye, Aesculus pavia
White Buckeye, A. parviflora

Buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae
Carolina Buckthorn, Rhamnus caroliniana
Rattan Vine, Berchemia scandens

Vine family, Vitaceae
Muscadine, Vitis rotundifolia

Linden family, Tiliaceae
Basswood, Tilia alabamensis

Sour Gum family, Nyssaceae
Black Gum, Nyssa sylvatica

Dogwood family, Cornaceae
Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida
Swamp Dogwood, C. amomum

In addition to the native plants in the park (those considered to have been growing in North America before European settlement), a number of  trees, shrubs, vines, and herbs from other areas of the world can be found. These are noted as Exotics, some of which have adapted so well that they are classified as Invasives (noted in the following list by (I)) and should eventually be removed if possible.

Shrubs and Vines
Common Privet, Ligustrum vulgare (I)
Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica (I)
Elaeagnus, Elaeagnus pungens
Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica
Mahonia, Mahonia bealii
Chinese Holly, Ilex cornuta
Winter Creeper, Euonymus fortunei
Althaea, Hibiscus syriacus
Nandina, Nandina domestica
Aucuba, Aucuba japonica
Deutzia, Deutzia scabra
Tea Plant, Camellia sinensis
Chinese Wisteria, Wisteria sinensis (I)
Sweet Autumn Clematis, Clematis paniculata
Kudzu, Pueraria lobata (I)
English Ivy, Hedera helix (I)

Chinese Parasol Tree, Firmiana simplex (I)
Mimosa, Albizia julibrissin (I)
Yoshino Cherry, Prunus yedoensis
Princess Tree, Paulownia tomentosa
Cherry Laurel, Prunus laurocerasus

Hosta, Hosta caerulea
Monkey Grass, Liriope muscari (I)
Strawberry Begonia, Saxifraga sarmentosa
Vinca or Periwinkle or Myrtle, Vinca minor

Various Grasses


Heath family, Ericaceae

Wild Honeysuckle or Wild Azalea,
Rhododendron canescens
Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia
Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum
Huckleberry, Vaccinium elliottii
Sparkleberry, V. arboreum
Dwarf Huckleberry, V. vacillans

Ebony family, Ebenaceae
Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana

Sweetleaf family, Symplocaceae
Horse Sugar, Symplocos tinctoria

Storax family, Styracaceae
Silverbell, Halesia carolina
Storax, Styrax grandifolia

Olive family, Oleaceae
Green Ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Swamp Privet, Forestiera ligustrina
Fringe-tree, Chionanthus virginicus

Logania family, Loganiaceae
Yellow Jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens

Milkweed family, Asclepiadaceae
Matelea, Matelea carolinensis

Bignonia family, Bignoniaceae
Cross-vine, Bignonia capreolata

Madder Family, Rubiaceae
Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis

Elder-Honeysuckle Family, Caprifoliaceae
American Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis
Southern Black Haw, Viburnum rufidulum

Butterflies of Jemison Park

Suggested field guides are Butterflies through Binoculars: The East  by Jeffrey Glassberg; Butterflies of North America  by Jim P. Brock and Kenn Kaufman; A Golden Guide: Butterflies and Moths  by Robert Mitchell, et al.

The following is a list of “true butterflies” and host plants. It does not include skippers.

Butterfly Species, Host Plant
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Papilio glaucus
Tulip Poplar, Black Cherrypg30 butterfly1.jpg

Zebra Swallowtail, Eurytides marcellus

Pipevine Swallowtail, Battus philinor
Virginia Snakeroot

Spicebush Swallowtail, Papilio troilus

Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes
Queen Ann’s Lace, Dill, Parsley, Fennel

Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes
Rue, Wafer Ashpg29-TigerSwallowtail

Cabbage White, Pieris rapae
Cabbage, Nasturtiums

Falcate Orangetip*, Anthocharis midea
Toothwort, Bittercress

Orange Sulphur, Colias euthythema

Sleepy Orange, Eurema nicippe
Partridge Pea and other Cassias

Little Yellow, Eurema lisa
Partridge Pea and other Cassias

Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae
Partridge Pea and other Cassias

Harvester, Feniseca tarquinius
Wooly Aphids (carnivorous)

Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus
Many Legumes

White M Hairstreak, Parrhasius m-album

Banded Hairstreak+, Satyrium calanus
Oaks and Hickories

Striped Hairstreak+, Satyrium liparops

Southern Hairstreak+, Fixenia favonius

Coral Hairstreak+, Satyrium titus
Wild Cherry

Red-banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops
Rotting leaves, often Sumac

Henry’s Elfin*, Callophrys henrici

Eastern Pine Elfin*, Callophrys niphon

Great Purple Hairstreak, Atlides halesus

Juniper Hairstreak, Callophrys gryneus
Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern Tailed Blue, Everes comyntas
Many small Legumes

Spring Azure*, Celastrina ladon
Flowering Dogwood

Summer Azure, Celastrina ladon neglecta
Swamp Dogwood, Wingstem

Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae

Variegated Fritillary, Euptoieta claudia
Maypop and Violets

Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele

Pearl Crescent, Phycoides tharos

Question Mark, Polygonia interrogationis
Nettles and Hackberry

Eastern Comma, Polygonia comma
Nettles and Elms

Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa
Willows and Hackberry

Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta

American Lady, Vanessa virginiensis
Pussytoes and other Pearly Everlastings

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui

Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia
Plantains, Gerardia

Red Spotted Purple, Limenitis
arthemis astyanax

Willows and Black Cherry

Viceroy, Limenitis archippus Willows

Goatweed Leafwing, Anaea andria
Goatweed and other Crotons

Hackberry Emperor, Asterocampa celtis

Tawny Emperor, Asterocampa clyton

American Snout, Libytheana carinenta

Monarch, Danaus plexippus

Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela

Carolina Satyr, Hermeuptychia sosybius

Gemmed Satyr, Cyllopsis gemma

Common Wood Nymph, Cercyonis pegala

*Only flies in the spring
+Only flies in early summer

Many butterfly species fly in the park, attracted here because of the rich diversity of nectar sources and caterpillar host plants. Skippers are intermediate between “true butterflies” and moths. There are around three times as many skippers as true butterflies that inhabit North America, with over 30 species in the Southeast. They are small to medium size and all are brown, with some having white or yellow dots or dashes on the wings. Their host plants include grasses, mallows, clover and other legumes.


Wildflowers of Jemison Park

Native wildflowers brighten the park from earliest spring until late in autumn. The Nature Trail along Overbrook Road is especially rich in species. For more about our wildflowers, see Blanche E. Dean, Amy Mason, and Joab L. Thomas, Wildflowers of Alabama and Adjoining States.

Arum family, Araceae
Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

Spiderwort family, Commelinaceae
Dayflower, Commelina erecta
Virginia Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana

Lily family, Liliaceae
Fairy Wand, Chamaelirium luteum
Fly-Poison, Amianthium muscaetoxicum
Whippoorwill Flower or Toad Trillium, Trillium cuneatum
Decumbent Trillium, T. decumbens
Solomon’s Seal, Polygonatum biflorum
False Solomon’s Seal, Smilacina racemosa
Trout Lily, Erythronium rostratum
Perfoliate Bellwort, Uvularia perfoliata
False Garlic, Allium bivalve

Dioscoreaceae family, Dioscoreaceae
Wild Yam, Dioscorea glauca

Amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae
Star Grass, Hypoxis hirsute

Iris family, Iridaceae
Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium
Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris cristata
Dwarf Iris, I. verna

Dutchman’s-Pipe family, Aristolochiaceae
Heartleaf, Wild Ginger, Hexastylis arifolia

Purslane family, Portulacaceae
Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Pink family, Caryophyllaceae
Giant Chickweed, Stellaria pubera

Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae
Buttercup, Ranunculus hispidus
Yellowroot, Xanthorhiza simplicissima
Rue Anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides
Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia
Sharp-lobed Hepatica or Liverleaf, Hepatica acutiloba

Barberry family, Berberidaceae
May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

Poppy family, Papaveraceae
Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis

Mustard family, Brassicaceae
Two-leaved Toothwort, Cardamine diphylla

Saxifrage family, Saxifragaceae
Early Saxifrage, Saxifraga virginiensis
Foamflower, Tiarella wherryi
Alumroot, Heuchera americana

Rose family, Rosaceae
Cinquefoil, Potentilla canadensis
Bowman’s-Root, Gillenia trifoliata

Bean family, Fabaceae
Butterfly Pea, Clitoria mariana

Wood Sorrel family, Oxalidaceae
Wood Sorrel, Oxalis or Sour-Grass, Oxalis violacea
Large Yellow Wood Sorrel, O. grandis

Geranium family, Geraniaceae
Wild Geranium, Geranium maculatum

Spurge family, Euphorbiaceae
Flowering Spurge, Euphorbia corollata

Touch-Me-Not family, Balsaminaceae
Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis

St. John’s-Wort family, Hypericaceae
St. Peter’s-Wort, Hypericum stans

Violet family, Violaceae
Common Blue Violet, Viola sororia
Downy Yellow Violet, V. pubescens

Parsley family, Apiaceae
Golden Alexander, Zizia aurea
Water Hemlock, Cicuta maculata

Heath family, Ericaceae
Pipsissewa, Chimaphila maculata

Logania family, Loganiaceae
Indian Pink, Spigelia, Spigelia marilandica

Phlox family, Polemoniaceae
Wild Sweet William, Phlox divaricata

Borage family, Boraginaceae
Wild Comfrey or False Forget-Me-Not, Cynoglossum virginianum

Mint family, Lamiaceae
Skullcap, Scutellaria integrifolia
Lyre-leaved Sage, Salvia lyrata

Snapdragon family, Scrophylariaceae
Smooth Foxglove, Aureolaria laevigata

Broom-Rape family, Orobanchaceae
Beechdrops, Epifagus virginiana

Madder family, Rubiaceae
Partridge-Berry, Mitchella repens
Small Bluets, Houstonia pusilla
Purple Bluets, H. purpurea

Bluebell family, Campanulaceae
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Great Blue Lobelia, L. siphilitica

Sunflower or Composite family, Asteraceae
Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus
Common Goldenrod, Solidago altissima
Green Coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata
Eared Coreopsis, Coreopsis auriculata
Golden Ragwort, Senecio aureus
Hawkweed, Hieracium species

Ferns of Jemison Park

A number of native ferns can be found in the moist and shady recesses of the park. For more about our ferns, see Ferns of Alabama and Fern Allies by Blanche E. Dean.

Rattlesnake Fern, Botrychium virginianum
Common Grapefern, B. dissectum

Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum

Lady Fern, Athyrium asplenioides
Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides
Beech Fern, Thelypteris hexagonoptera
New York Fern, T. noveboracensis
Sensitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis

Ebony Spleenwort, Asplenium platyneuron

Resurrection Fern, Polypodium polypodioides

Fishes of Jemison Park

Many sensitive species are becoming more difficult to find due to the shrinking range of healthy habitat. Alabama has an incredible variety of freshwater fish species. For more information on the fishes found in Shades Creek or elsewhere in Alabama, two excellent references are Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin by M. Mettee, P. O’Neil and M. Pierson;  Fishes of Alabama by H. Boschung, Jr. and R. Mayden.

Scale Stoneroller, Campostoma oligolepis
Blacktail Shiner, Cyprinella venusta
Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio
Striped Shiner, Luxilus chrysocephalus
Pretty Shiner, Lythrurus bellus
Golden Shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas
Silverstripe Shiner, Notropis stilbius
Fathead Minnow, Pimephales promelas
Bullhead Minnow, P. vigilax
Creek Chub, Semotilus atromaculatus
Alabama Hog Sucker, Hypentelium etowanum
Black Redhorse, Moxostoma duquesnei
Spotted Sucker, Minytrema melanops
Black-tailed Redhorse, Moxostoma poecilurum
Black Bullhead, Tetalunus melas
Brown Bullhead, T. nebulosus
Yellow Bullhead, T. natalis
Blackspotted Topminnow, Fundulus olivaceus
Mosquitofish, Gabusia complex
Green Sunfish, Lepomis cyanellus
Bluegill, L. macrochirus
Longear Sunfish, Lepomis megalotis
Redear Sunfish, L. microlophis
Redeye Bass, Micropterus coosae
Largemouth Bass, M. salmoides
Spotted Bass, M. punctulatus
Blackbanded Darter, Percina nigrofasciata

What Are Those Saucer-Shaped Depressions in the Creek?
During the spring and summer, you may have noticed some saucer-shaped depressions on the bottom of the creek. These are the nests of members of the sunfish family. In Shades Creek, these depressions are usually made by males of the longear sunfish. Using his tail, the brightly colored male fans out the depression in a gravel or sand area. He then awaits the arrival of a female. Following laying and fertilization of the eggs, the male chases her away and proceeds to defiantly guard the nest and eggs from hungry fellow fish for several days. He even defends the nest and young for a while after they hatch. If you look closely at one of these depressions on the bottom of the creek, you may well see the male longear sunfish dutifully guarding his nest.

Dragonflies and Damselflies of Jemison Park

Order Odonata
Although Alabama has fewer than 200 species in order Odonata, this is probably the highest number of any state in the east other than Florida.
The order is unique among insects in having four equal-length “cellophane” wings and quite small antennae in the adults. It is divided
into two suborders: Anisoptera (dragonflies), which hold their wings
outspread, and Zygoptera (damselflies), which usually fold their wings over the back when not in flight. Compiling a list of Odonata species
that occur in Jemison Park is a work not yet accomplished, but there are
family distinctions which are easily observed by the uninitiated, and
watching them in action is something to be enjoyed by all.


Probably the most conspicuous are the ones that make up the dragonfly
family of Skimmers (Libellulidae). They are common, colorful – often with a wing pattern – and aggressive. Fortytwo species of skimmers are known to occur in Alabama. The Green Clearwing is often seen, the male turning blue as it matures. Darners (Aeshnidae) are usually large, with eyes touching dorsally, and almost always perch vertically. Eleven species occur in Alabama. Other families found in our state include 1 species of Petaltails (Petaluridae); 39 species of Clubtails (Gomphidae); 4 species of Spiketails (Cordulegastridae); 5 species of Cruisers (Macromiidae) and 18 species of Emeralds (Corduliidae).


Broad-winged Damsels (Calopterygidae) are large, often brilliant metallic green, many with black in the wing or, in the case of females, a white spot. The five Alabama species breed only in flowing water and fly with a skipping flight. Pond Damsels (Coenagrionidae) are smaller, shorter legged, and often more brightly colored, the males often blue, yellow, or orange and black. They perch horizontally and are found in both still and moving water. There are 38 species in Alabama.

Spreadwings (Lestidae) are large, of dark coloration, and may be seen
perched obliquely, with wings half spread, around still water. Alabama has
8 species.

List of dragonflies and damselflies known or expected to occur in Jefferson County.


Shadow Darner, Aeshna umbrosa
Common Green Darner, Anax junius
Fawn Darner, Boyeria vinosa
Swamp Darner, Epiaeschna heros
Black-shouldered Spinyleg, Dromogomphus spinosus
Blackwater Clubtail, Gomphus dilatatus
Splendid Clubtail, G. lineatifrons
Cobra Clubtail, G. vastus
Lancet Clubtail, G. exilis
Ashy Clubtail, G. lividus
Dragonhunter, Hagenius brevistylus
Common Sanddragon, Progomphus obscurus
Stream Cruiser, Didymops transversa
Illinois River Cruiser, Macromia illinoiensis
Common Baskettail, Epitheca cynosura
Mocha Emerald, Somatochlora linearis
Calico Pennant, Celithemis elisa
Banded Pennant, C. fasciata
Swift Setwing, Dythemis velox
Eastern Pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis
Blue Corporal, Ladona deplanata
Spangled Skimmer, Libellula cyanea
Twelve-spot Skimmer, L. pulchella
Slaty Skimmer, L. incesta
Widow Skimmer, L. luctuosa
Great Blue Skimmer, L. vibrans
Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis
Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens
Spot-winged Glider, P. hymenaea
Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera
Common Whitetail, Plathemis lydia
Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, Sympetrum vicinum


Ebony Jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata
American Rubyspot, Hetaerina americana
Southern Spreadwing, Lestes australis
Slender Spreadwing, L. rectangularis
Blue-fronted Dancer, Argia apicalis
Violet Tail, A. violacea
Variable Dancer, A. fumipennis
Powdered Dancer, A. moesta
Blue-ringed Dancer, A. sedula
Blue-tipped Dancer, A. tibialis
Dusky Dancer, A. translata
Double-striped Bluet, Enallagma basidens
Familiar Bluet, E. civile
Stream Bluet, E. exsulans
Orange Bluet, E. signatum
Citrine Forktail, Ischnura hastate
Fragile Forktail, I. posita
Rambur’s Forktail, I. ramburii


pg6-RobertJemisonRobert Jemison, Jr. Jemison Park consists of lands along Watkins Brook and along Shades Creek extending two miles from Cahaba Road to Beechwood Road. When Mountain Brook was subdivided, the developers reserved these lands from adjacent estates to be preserved in their natural state as a park of plants such as William Bartram found in the southeast on the eve of the Revolution. Mountain Brook is beautiful because nature made it that way and its developer, Robert Jemison, Jr., planned to preserve the original contours of the land and its native growing things. One of his early announcements stated: “The beauty of Mountain Brook is not a thing of a few years’ development, it has been there for centuries. The builders of Mountain Brook as an ideal residential district merely took fullest advantage of the natural beauty already existing.”

Such beautiful terrain, so close to a major city, afforded an unusual opportunity for a developer of imagination, energy, and a love of the native environment. Bulldozers were not used on residential lots in Mountain Brook until after World War II. Fortunately many lots had already been built upon by that time.

Other pronouncements by Mr. Jemison demonstrated his vision and determination: “Before a single stone was turned in Mountain Brook, every estate in this thousand-acre development was plotted. Roads and streets were planned for greatest convenience, privacy and beauty…. No commercial structures will ever go up overnight to destroy the value of your property…. The unspoiled beauty of Mountain Brook lends itself naturally to graciously living…. The unusual contour and heavy natural growth in this area has been developed on every estate.”

With these conceptions, aspirations, and aims, Mr. Jemison conferred with developers of highly regarded residential sections in other cities. He employed a landscape architect, W. H. Kessler, one of the leading landscape architects of the South; an engineer, J. H. Glander, a prominent Birmingham engineer; and retained Warren H. Manning of Boston, Massachusetts, a distinguished landscape architect, as consultant.

After several years in acquiring the land and planning its development, Mr. Jemison declared in 1927: “Mountain Brook will be much more than a beautiful subdivision. Mountain Brook is one of the most distinctive beautiful places in America, an interesting garden spot.”

Among associates of Mr. Jemison in the development were: L. C. Morton, Erskine Ramsay, Victor H. Hanson, George Gordon Crawford,  Temple W. Tutwiler, and H. G. Seibels. Jemison Park consists of the lands and its native growth reserved from subdivision and sale as parts of adjacent residential estates, by the developer and landscape architects and engineers working under his direction.

In various publications Mr. Jemison told of his conceptions and ambitions. In Mountain Brook, he said, he sought “… to preserve native woodlands, with high hills and rounded knolls, deep bluffs, clear springs and sparkling streams, endless vistas, with appeal to every instinct for the beautiful in nature… the varied character of Mountain Brook’s topography, precipitous bluffs, gently sloping meadow-land, level areas with beautiful trees, brooks and streams.”

He said that “… landscape work has received long and careful study. Intent upon preserving the alluring native beauty of this woodland scene, landscape architects and engineers have adroitly blended the convenience of city life into this picturesque  evironment without disturbing nature’s craftsmanship. Always the aim has been to reveal the original  beauties of the region in unexpected spots. Not a tree has been disturbed nor a branch cut without  forethought for the finished picture.”

Further descriptions of his vision of this unusual development were: “The quaint grottoes, overgrown with drooping ferns, the quiet pools, the gurgling water falls, like miniature cataracts that whisper their way across the shale; the rustic stone bridges that carry the winding highways over the creek and back again, like aisles through the forest cathedral… see nature in different modes, wooded hills, cross lonely country roads… skirt the banks of rippling streams.”

Land companies headed by Mr. Bob, as he was affectionately known to his many admirers, conveyed these reserved lands to the City of Mountain Brook without cost to the city, but with the understanding that they would be preserved as a nature park. In landscaping the reserved lands along the creek, the old mill was built as a focal point of attraction. In October 1942 Mr. Jemison said that the mill was “a replica of Perryman’s Mill which occupied the same site more than sixty years ago.” Unfortunately, in liquidating obligations of the land company that held title, creditors required sale of the mill property, although it brought only a few thousand dollars. Fortunately, however, the mill pond and curving flow of the creek could not be moved, and the old mill with its water wheel remained as a charming feature of the scene.

Roadways had been paved by the developers along the length of the reserved park lands for over two miles, from Mountain Brook Village southward down Watkins Branch to Shades Creek, thence eastward along the creek via the Parkway into Overbrook Road and on to Beechwood Road. Winding along and across the creek, these roadways crossed five bridges of native stone.

Colorful flora originally adorned the park in abundance, including Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron clinging to rocky crevices along the creek and up the face of Shades Mountain, varied colored Azalea and Oak Leaf Hydrangea preferring ravines and drains, Dogwood and fragrant Sweet Shrub scattered throughout the woodland. There were enormous ferns along the creek banks and a great variety of small wildflowers.

Much of this native growth was destroyed by fire. After the roadways were paved and opened, but before the area was well built up, there were frequent wood fires of leaves in dry winter seasons. Excavations for construction of the county sewer throughout the length of the park were even more destructive of root structures, a number of which did not survive.

On October 6, 1952 at a regular meeting of the Mountain Brook City Council, Hill Ferguson, Charles B. Webb, and W. H. Kessler suggested that the park be named Robert Jemison, Jr. Park. Upon motion of Charles Gamble, seconded by William Hood, and unanimously adopted, it was so ordered and a highway marker was erected on the Parkway at Cahaba Road.

In order to preserve all parklands for use and enjoyment of the people, it was made the law in Alabama some years ago that properties dedicated for park purposes may not be sold by the municipal governing authority except upon authorization by a vote of the people.

In 1973 citizens, intent on preserving the park as Mr. Bob visualized it, organized themselves as Friends of Jemison Park, a non-profit corporation aspiring to help preserve this native garden spot as a lasting monument to Robert Jemison, Jr.

-Rucker Agee, 1978

For a fascinating, more detailed account of the philosophy and accomplishments of Robert Jemison, Jr., see Robert Jemison, Jr.: A Man with a Vision, by Elbert S. Jemison, Jr., and Wendell O. Givens.