Despite its narrow confines and modest length, Sligo Creek Park is home to a wide variety of habitats, each with its own qualities based on soil, sunlight, slope, aspect (direction it faces) and water. Different combinations of these qualities support different sets of plants and animals that are adapted to them.
In Sligo, most of the habitats are distinguished by water. In aquatic settings, the mix of plants and animals depends on whether water is moving or still, deep or shallow, perennial or seasonal. In terrestrial contexts, the flora and fauna are determined by whether the water seeps in gradually through deep soils on slopes, runs quickly off thin, sloping soils; saturates soils on flat surfaces, or emerges from underground seeps. In contrast, Sligo’s open areas are characterized less by the behavior of water than by an abundance of sunlight.
The Park’s aquatic habitats include streams and tributaries, where wading birds, raccoons, and water snakes hunt minnows and crayfish; artificial stormwater control ponds, where six species of frogs breed every spring; and a few ephemeral vernal pools, where wood frogs and spotted salamanders can reproduce in the absence of fish predators.
Sligo’s woodlands consist of dry woods on slopes with thin soils, where chestnut oaks tower above the spectacular blossoms of mountain laurel; moist woods with deep soils, where a host of delicate, spring wildflowers bloom; and flat floodplain woods, where giant sycamores loom and Sligo’s largest birds build their nests — herons, night-herons, wood ducks, red-shouldered hawks, and barred owls.
Perhaps little noticed, but particularly valuable, are Sligo’s wetlands, with their lush growth of skunk cabbage, in both low wetlands and upland seeps.
Scattered around the Park are tree-less, sunny open lands, comprised of edges and grasslands. The largest of these are at the Pepco powerline corridor, where one finds abundant grasses, summer wildflowers, and a host of butterflies and other pollinators.