Monday, April 6, 2009

The Wild Ones

Sunset on Lake Erie, Port Clinton, Ohio. April 4, 2009. I was in the self-proclaimed Walleye Capital of the World to deliver a program on Ohio’s raptors at the 17th annual Lake Erie Wing Watch. A real highlight of the conference was Chuck Hagner’s talk on Kirtland’s Warbler, with lots of stories and photos from their Bermuda wintering grounds. Chuck is editor of Birder’s World magazine and an all-around great guy.

Ohio River near Sandy Springs, Ohio in Adams County, April 5th, 2009. This is about as far away from Port Clinton as one can get and still remain in the Buckeye State. I was down here, in one the most biologically rich areas of Ohio, to lead a field trip for the Cincinnati chapter of the Wild Ones. Whole lotta travelin’ this weekend – probably drove some 550 miles.

Members of the Wild Ones and guests pose for my lens in a gorgeous but tiny cedar barrens prairie. Adams County is noted for these unusual prairies which are filled with rare flora and fauna. In fact, the tree in the foreground, bisecting the group, is Dwarf Hackberry, Celtis tenuifolia, which is rare and local in Ohio.

The Wild Ones is a group that advocates the use of native plants in the landscape, and there can be few higher missions than this in the botanical world. Consider joining them. I appreciate the collective generosity of the folks above, who collectively made a donation of $175.00 to support the work of the Ohio Ornithological Society.

The Wild Ones are also co-sponsors of the inaugural Midwestern Native Plant Conference, to be held in Dayton the weekend of July 24 – 26. You won’t want to miss that, and sign up RIGHT HERE.

While Port Clinton remains the Great White North, with scarcely a dandelion rearing its aureus head, extreme southern Ohio is full of plants bursting to life. This is a Yellow Buckeye, Aesculus flava, exploding to life, its leaves thrusting explosively forth. In a day or two, they’ll be mostly unfurled.

Our mission was to find some very rare plants, and we succeeded well on that front, but we certainly didn’t neglect the botanical commoners.

A beautiful shrub, Spicebush, Lindera benzoin. This native understory plant blooms very early, and when the foliage emerges, it is always worthwhile to crush a leaf. They exude a most pleasant lemony smell, hence the common name. Spicebush Swallowtails savor the leaves as well; this is the caterpillar’s host plant.

In one spot, Bluebells, Mertensia virginica, were rapidly coming to life. Sometimes, vast numbers will carpet stream terraces, creating a scene that nearly anyone will admire.

Needless to say, we were ecstatic to discover lots of blooming Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. The flowers are exceedingly fragile and short-lived, although the leaves are obvious and persist throughout summer. This is one of only two native members of the Poppy Family (Papaveraceae) in Ohio.

We carefully brushed up part of a rhizome, and nipped off a chunk so everyone could see the origin of the name Bloodroot. The rich red juices were often used in the creation of dyes.

If the group was ecstatic over all of the blooming Bloodroot, they were apoplectic over the discovery of flowering Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. This wildflower is a family closely allied to the poppies: the Barberry Family, or Berberidaceae. There are but four natives in this family, in our neck of the woods, and we saw three of them on this foray. One of the others is quite cool, and I obtained good photos for a future blog.

Twinleaf flowers are incredibly short-lived, persisting but part of a day. Breathe too hard near one, and it falls to pieces. Although I have seen many over the years, this is the first time I’ve managed any decent photos. The genus of this plant – Jeffersonia – commemorates our third president, Thomas Jefferson, who was an extraordinary naturalist.

This Wild Ones foray was a wonderful field trip, and we found many exciting plants and animals, including some mega-rarities. I’ll have posts on some of them later. Thanks to all who attended, and I’ll look forward to another excursion.

1 comment:

Vickster said...

I saw quite a few Twinleaf blooming last week in southwest Ohio. A real cutie!