Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 21

As we approach the end of May, the spring wildflowers are slowly giving way to the green of summer. Some of the azaleas are still in good blooming condition, but the Pink Lady's Slippers and Showy Orchis are fading fast. The late show of spring flowers includes Wild Columbine ( Aquilegia canadensis) seen below. Aquilegia is from Latin and refers to the petals that resemble an eagle might have to quint to see it!

At the other end of the color spectrum is Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). The genus name of this plant honors J. Tradescant, who was Charles I's gardener.

As the spring flowers fade we turn our attention to the ferns. Below is Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea). Osmunda was a Celtic deity. The species name refers to the color of the fertile frond, which is cinnamon colored. Too bad it does not smell or taste like the spice. We have three upcoming Fern Walks, so check the program section of the blog for dates and time.

One of the more unusual wildflowers is Squawroot (Conopholis americana). Because Squawroot lacks chlorophyll, it must "borrow" food energy from a host plant - making it a parasitic plant.
 In this case the host is oak trees, particularly those in the red oak group.

One flower that is proliferating now is Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). Dame's Rocket is kin to Garlic Mustard and both are considered invasive species that were introduce to North America. Both produce large numbers of tiny seeds in slender pods. Look along the roadside fences to see this flower everywhere. It is often confused for Garden Phlox which has five petals and blooms later. Dames Rocket has four petals.

In animal news, the third pair of Canada Geese hatched only one gosling. A female Wood Duck was seen Friday leading her brood across the driveway from the open pond to more secluded environs up stream in the area near the boardwalk. The Bull frogs are cranking up and their "jug-o-rum" call can be heard from all corners of Lake Odonata. We have been catching lots of tiny crayfish with our school groups. And the damselflies and dragonflies are now filling the air and feasting on all the other insects.

I'll leave you with the best quote of the week by Laurelville Elementary 4th grader Hayden. Hayden was enjoying all that Wahkeena has to offer when all of a sudden he announces- "I want to be a naturist or whatever it is that you are!"  

Hope springs!

Posted by Tom

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 20

It's azalea time once more at Wahkeena. The terrace behind the nature center is bursting with pinks and white and orange that are typical of mid May.

Above is the orange Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum) which is native to the local Sugar Grove region and is a state-endangered species here in Ohio.

The cultivated pink rhododendron planted by the Carmen Warner many years ago still blooms at the edge of the lawn near the nature center.

Back in the woods, the canopy is quickly closing but our brightest red woodland wildflower is in bloom. Fire Pink (Silene virginica) is also known as catchfly because of its sticky stem which may temporarily trap small insects. (Note; this does not mean that the plant digests insects like carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap).

Our third orchid in the blooming order is now out and about. The Puttyroot (Aplectrum hyemale) is easily missed among the now very green forest floor. The once prominent leaf has now disintegrated leaving only the bare flower stock. This is one of those flowers that visitors sometimes ask, "When is it going to bloom?" And the answer is in bloom!

Our native magnolia trees are also in peak bloom right now. The Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a major component of forest community here at Wahkeena. It can be easily identified by its tall, straight growth pattern. A valued hardwood is it also known as Yellow Poplar or the hybrid name Tulip Poplar. But don't be mistaken, the Tulip tree is a magnolia and not a poplar- like Cottonwood and Aspen.

And it is also goslings time again....Which means for some people it is crying time again!  Canada geese are really good at three things- having babies, eating grass and pooping! But those little balls of yellow-green fluff are soooo cute! The pair above have five goslings. Another pair had only two and a third pair is yet to hatch. So it is definitely time to watch where you step! Carmen Warner loved her geese and today it is hard for people to believe that these maternal creatures, who mate for life, were once feared to be in danger of disappearing.

Life renewed is a good thing.

Posted by Tom

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 19

Azalea sp. behind nature center

Wow, we went from a cool April to a May that feels more like July! The native wildflowers and shrubs continue to bloom rapidly and the insects have exploded this past week. Lake Odonata has proven its name and the air is filled with dragonflies and damselflies. On our bird hike this morning we saw a White-eyed vireo catch and devour a dragonfly. (You can check the species lists on the blog home page for lists of birds seen and flowers/shrubs/trees in bloom.) The Pink Lady's Slipper orchids are in full bloom now. There are six in one location and seven in another, both are very near the nature center. The Puttyroot orchid is near blooming. While chasing warblers this morning, we found one with flower buds right along the Casa Burro Trail. 

A dominate flower along the trails is the Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) also known as Spotted Cranesbill (pictured above).

Below, the Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is in full bloom as well. Their green flowers are concealed below the arching stems.

But, my most favorite thing is the spring woods is the Hoary or Mountain Azalea (Rhododendron roseum)

The sweet scent of this flower is one of the best smells you will find in nature.

Hoary Azalea Close-up

More azaleas will be blooming during the week, and the hopeful news of cooler temperatures will ensure that the flowers linger longer.

Posted by Tom

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part 18

The Dogwoods have finally opened this part week, joining the Redbuds and the Crabapples, as the understory of the forest puts on its annual show. The showers of April have given way to the warm bright days of May....and wildflowers and warblers.

And the first native orchids are in bloom. First up is the Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis), which is quite abundant at Wahkeena. I have found many while pulling the evil garlic mustard.

And while the majority will not be in bloom for another week or so, one of the large Pink Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium acaule) is in bloom in a sunny location not far from the nature center.


There seems to be a great abundance of Jack-in-the-pulpit ( Arisaema atrorubens) this year. And its distribution is all across the preserve. (Also found while pulling garlic mustard.)


Back along the Casa Burro Trail, the Violet Wood Sorrel (Oxalis violacea) has burst open adding a splash of color to the greening forest floor.

 And phloxes have joined the show as well. The Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) is everywhere, especially in the open edge habitats.

In more shady environs, the pink Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera) blossoms are stretching up above their creeping green foliage. (Note: the stuff sold in garden centers as creeping phlox is more likely to be a variety of Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) which produces a dense low blanket of flowers.)

The new warblers are arriving by the hour. And once again the woodland is filled with the flute-like sound of the Wood Thrush. Joining in the band are Ovenbirds, Hooded, Kentucky, Black and white, Black-throated green, Worm-eating warblers and many more. Including the Scarlet Tanager, Louisiana Waterthrush, Eastern Towhee and Brown Thrasher just to name just a few.

So now would be a great time to visit Wahkeena Nature Preserve and witness this explosive period of warblers and wildflowers 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Day in the Life....Part 17

As lateness of this post will attest, it's been a very busy week here at the Wahkeena. Lots of visitors, programs and groups coming to see all that Wahkeena has to offer. We are entering a very colorful period as the Redbuds are now in full bloom and the Dogwoods not far behind.

The wildflowers are blooming very quickly now despite the cool temperatures. Joining Skunk Cabbage in the wet areas is Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). 

The Trilliums are out in full force as well. We have three different species here at the preserve.

Large Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)
Toadshade (Trillium sessile)
The Solomon's Seals are quickly unfurling as well.

Smooth Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
And the Large Flowered Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora), despite its wilted appearance is now in prime blooming condition.

Now is also the time that the ferns are sending up new fronds. Wahkeena has 30 different ferns. Below are a few of the new "fiddle heads," the term given to the tightly curled new leaves. 

Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea)
Silvery Glade Fern (Deparia acrostichoides)
On the animal side of nature, for the first time we have three pairs of Canad Geese nesting on Lake Odonata. In the past, the first pair back in the spring have driven off any other Canada Geese. There was plenty of fighting this year to drive off the other pairs, but to no avail. The female below is nesting at the base of a large white pine near the Red-shoulder hawk's enclosure. A second nest is on top of the beaver lodge and the third is on what is left of the large island in the center of the pond.

Now is the time to visit Wahkeena and see the wildflowers. And new warblers are now arriving every day.

Posted by Tom

Sunday, April 19, 2015

In Memorium

It is with deep sadden that we at Wahkeena Nature Preserve acknowledge the passing of a truly GREAT naturalist and FRIEND, Dennis Profant. Dennis was an instructor at Hocking College in the School of Natural Resources.

1956 - 2015

I echo the sentiments that Jim McCormac so eloquently posted in his blog. Not only was Dennis the consummate teacher, but also a life long learner. There was always something that Dennis wanted to learn more about. And although his knowledge was vast, he understood that there was always more to the mysteries of the natural world around us. Dennis had a great sense of humor as well and we would often share a pun or two or three whenever we met. He was one of the people I always made a point to see on my visits to the college. I knew I would glean some new morsel of natural history with each visit. Over the years, Dennis made multiple visits to Wahkeena to learn more about ferns, photograph a new orchid and especially to observe and collect moths. Some of my most treasured memories with Dennis were when we would take a break from the moth sheets and enjoy some hand- crafted wine on the back porch. Simple put, Dennis was a really great guy. Fortunately he will live on in the form of all the students he has mentored over the last 25+ years, including many Wahkeena interns.  And for me, he will live on in the Tulip Tree silkmoth, the Rosy Maple moth, his beloved slug moths and everyone of those dag gone little brown ones, to which he would always say, " Oh that's such and such."

Be at peace my friend. And thanks for sharing the journey. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Day in the Life...Part16

Well, here we are at the end of the third week is April and things are really stating to happen now. The first tree has leaved out. Pictured above, the Yellow Buckeye (Aesculus octandra) is the first of our native trees to reveal their leaves. The flower will come a little later.

Below the first native tree to flower is Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), now in bloom near the nature center and a common understory tree on the sandstone ridge tops.

The Redbud and Flowering Dogwood are both getting close to being in full bloom. But it is the spring wildflowers that are really growing rapidly. (A list of blooming flowers can be found at the top of this page.) Below is one of the early bloomer- Bloodroot (Sanquinaria canadensis)
This delicate flower does not last very long and the petal are easily displaced. The common name came from the orange-red fluid in the root and stem of the place.

Typical Bloodroot
A not so typical double flowered Bloodroot is shown below. The genealogy of this particular plant is as follows. The original plant was growing in the garden of Jane Klein in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Jane was a long time, active member of the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs (OAGC). Carmen H. Warner, founder of Wahkeena, was also an active OAGC member. A number of years ago, Jane brought a start of the Bloodroot in a small container to an OACG Board meeting. It was raffled off for $1 a chance as a fund-raiser. Recent OAGC Part President, Mary Lee Minor won the raffle and the little start has grown and lived happily on the north side of her house in Bucyrus, Ohio. A couple of year ago, when Mary Lee was President, she gifted Wahkeena with a start of the same double Bloodroot. And I am glad to say that it too lives happily on the north side of the nature center and is thriving along with Trilliums, Bellwort, Soloman's Seals and Wild Geraniums.

It really is quite an attention grabbing plant.

Double Bloodroot Flower Closeup

This Sunday marks the start of our spring wildflower walks. A schedule of all programs can be found on this site as well as posted regularly on Facebook. The warblers are also appearing in increasing numbers each day. On Thursday we saw a good number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets just outside of the nature center. And on Wednesday we watched a Wild turkey fly about 100 yards from tree to tree. Yes, wild turkeys can fly.

Everyday bring new sights to behold, so get out there and become one with nature.

Posted by Tom