A Day in the Life… Part 28

The native rhododendron is finally done blooming for another year, but the rains keep falling. I am thinking about shifting my priorities and starting construction on an ark in Lake Odonata!

Despite the wet weather, life goes on. This little fellow below is none the worst as he always has a shelter handy. The Box Turtle was working his way from the pond, across the gravel driveway, towards the wet meadow.

Being the curious sort, I had to turn the terrapin over and check its plastron (bottom shell). The shallow indentation confirmed that this is a male. Females would have a nearly level plastron.

I returned the turtle to the upright position. By now his plastron and carapace (top shell) were tightly closed. A survival instinct and adaptation that have serve the box turtles well.

Earlier in the week, Nora had asked me if I had put a dragonfly in the Spring Peeper tadpole tank. To which I replied, “no?” When I want over to look, I discovered that a Shadow Darner larva had been living in the aquarium and no doubt feasting on the small tadpoles. It was probably brought in with a clump of algae that provides food for the developing tadpole.
The adult had recently emerged from the exuvia (the larva exoskeleton). I took the lid of the aquarium outside so that once the insect’s exoskeleton had hardened it would be able to fly on its way in search of all manner of other flying insects to munch on.
Our sixth native orchid is now in bloom. Downy Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens). This is one of our more common orchids and is the only one at Wahkeena that has evergreen leaves. The white net-veined leaves form a rosette at the base of the flower stock.
The abundant moisture and warmth continue to “feed” the fungi population. Below, the White Pine Boletes (Suillus americanus) are popping up wherever there are White Pine trees.
Back in the woods, what few flowers are blooming are very small in blossom size. Below is Lopseed (Phryma leptostachya). The species name refers the the slender flower spike. Once the flower is pollinated and as the seed matures, they begin to “lop” over (down).
But the biggest attraction at Wahkeena this week has been the Hummingbird Moths. This moth is also known as the Clearwing or Hummingbird Clearwing, and is a member of the Small Sphinx Moth family.
(Photo by Nora Steele)
The moths have been necturing on the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) at the beginning of the gravel driveway that leads to the nature center. Hundreds of photographs of these moths have no doubt been taken as every visitor must pass this spot. One visitor was almost moved to tears at seeing her first ever Hummingbird Moth! (Hi, Lynn). Check out the Wahkeena Facebook page for a short video.
Well, time to get back to ark building.
Posted by Tom

A Day in the Life…Part 27

Happy Independence Day everyone. Been another week of rain, rain, rain. But today was a beautiful Saturday to be out and about and a busy day here at Wahkeena. So busy that a post started at 9 AM is finally being written at 6 PM!

The fifth native orchid to bloom at Wahkeena is the Green Adder’s Mouth Orchid (Malaxis uniflora) seen above. This one is really easy to miss and the plants this year are, on average, 3-4″ tall. This is another one of those flowers that might evoke the phrase, ” When will it be in bloom?”and the answer is yes that’s it.
While the woodland is mostly green now, there is color to be found in more unusual places and things. On a quick trip around the trail this morning I encounter the fungi pictured below.

 Green is not a color that most folks would associate with a fungus…but here it is.

Light lavender can also be found.

And bright yellow can be found in several species as seen above and below. Above is a jelly fungi that grows on dead conifer trees. While below is one of the gill mushrooms.

Another of the gill mushrooms is the red variety seen below
Hiding in the shadows of the stone steps to the shelter is the yellowish-brown Bolete, one of  the sponge or fleshy pore fungi.
So as you can see from this small sample, now is a good time to explore for fungi. One of the benefits of warm rainy weather.
The flower of our  third blooming orchid, Puttyroot, is long gone, and the plant is now putting all its energy into seed production. Large green pods now appear where the pollinated flower once protruded from a naked stem.
Nature’s “fireworks” may not be as dramatic as aerial explosions, but they still awaken the senses none the less.
Post by Tired Tom 

Rhododendron Update… Part 2

If you thought you missed it… You haven’t! The Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) is in its finest peak bloom right now. We are expecting it to last through this weekend and into next week. 

We think that this is one of the best blooming years that Wahkeena’s Rhododendron has ever seen!


A Day in the Life…Part 26

The lead story is still the native rhododendron. The picture above is just steps away from the nature center back by the old guest cabin. Lots of flowers in full bloom, but still more to come. This appears to be a particularly good year and the recent cooler weather has helped to preserve the blooms for a longer time. They also seem to be holding up quite well in spite of all the rains….and we have gotten a lot!

The borders of Lake Odonata are now ringed with Lizard’s Tail (Saururus cernuus) an emergent aquatic plant. The common name comes from the long curving white flower that to someone resembled a lizard’s tail.
The young Canada geese now resemble their parents more and more each day. Above, the three young are flanked by the parents.
The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is blooming and attracting many butterflies and other insects as well. The flowers offer a somewhat lilac scent to passersby. 
Another wonderful butterfly plant are the Monardas. Above is Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).
Below is the brilliant  Bee Balm or Oswego Tea (Monarda didyma). 
 The genus name of these members of the Mint Family honors Nicolas Monardes, an early 16 century physician and botanist. The other common name ” Bergamot” is derived from the town of Bergamo in Italy.  Some of the species, like Bee Balm, are considered “garden escapees”. I always envision a moonlit night with the garden gate left partial open…and all the cultivars running for their lives! 
So keep those gates tightly latched.
Posted by Tom

Rhododendron Update

We promised an update, and here it is… The native Rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) is now in peak bloom. Bloom time will probably last for at least another week, depending on the weather. 
The bursting flower bud, seen below, typically goes under appreciated but it rivals the flower in beauty. 

A Day in the Life…Part 25

It’s true….life really is like a box of chocolates…you never known what you’re gone a get.
This morning, this is the scene that greeted me right outside the nature center. The young deer seemed to be puzzling over what these odd grass eater were doing in his territory.
It had been a very rainy week with strong wind gusts causing tree damage in several locations. The picture below of the Cherry tree with Pileated Woodpecker holes first appeared in an April post.
That same tree now looks like the picture below.

The interior of the tree is riddled with carpenter ant galleries-no doubt what the woodpecker was after. The insect damage, along with the woodpecker excavations, doomed this tree. And of course, it fell directly across one of the trails.
On the way back from clearing the trail, I spotted the terrestrial snail seen below. It was happily resting on a moist Christmas fern frond. The snails and slugs have certainly been enjoying the wet weather even if the rest of us are not!

A very unusual flower is now in bloom in many locations along the trails. It is the Indian
 Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) also known as Corpse Plant. This plant has no chlorophyll for converting sunlight energy into food. Instead it get it’s food energy from decomposing organic material in the soil. Plants that obtain energy in such a way are known as saprophytes
For several weeks now we have been getting inquiries about when the native rhododendron will be in bloom. People often think it blooms earlier when all the cultivars are flowering in May. The native species – the Great Laurel or Rosebay (Rhododendron maximum) is now beginning to bloom. 
Some of the flower buds are still tightly closed.
While others are beginning to show pinkish flower tips.
The next stage shows more of the white blossoms emerging.
And then finally the flower begins to burst into almost full bloom as seen below.

But don’t come rushing out to see it right away. The shrubs will not be at peak blooming until next weekend. Remember….this is just the beginning. With favorable weather conditions, it should be good for the next two weeks. It is blooming a little early this year, but that could be contributed to the hot weather and recent rains.
We will continue to post blooming progress here on the blog and on the Wahkeena Facebook page as well.
Posted by Tom

A Day in the Life…Part 24

It has been another busy week in and around the preserve. Time has been split at Wahkeena, Rock Mill, Camp Oty Okwa and points in between. Programs for OAGC’s Nature Study Camp and the Educator’s Week has kept all of the Wahkeena staff hopping. But here’s a little bit of what is happening at the preserve.

 The Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) seen above, is now a prominent flowering shrub in the landscape at Wahkeena. Next time you see Elderberry, take a closer look at the flowers and  you will see that they are teeming with insect life- beetles, flies, bees and wasps. The large umbels of white flowers will later be replaced by clusters of dark berries- a feast for man and beast.

A new plant discovery was recently made at Wahkeena. A small population of Netted Chain fern (Woodwardia aerolata) was found at the base of the sandstone cliffs in the northwest section of the preserve. Ohio Wesleyan University botanist, David Johnson, confirmed the identification. David also shared that the fern is only known in eight Ohio counties and that our find is the first in Fairfield County!
It would be easy for the casual passerby to mistake the Netted chain fern for Sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) which is pictured below.
The big news this week was the young black bear that was killed by a car on the Rt. 33 bypass approximately 3 miles from the preserve. The bear was killed early in the morning on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.  Apparently the bear had been chased towards the highway by a dog, where it was struck by a car. The DOW official on the scene indicated that the bear was a two year old male that weighted between 100-120 lbs.  This is the second black bear sighting, near Wahkeena, in two years. Last year a bear was seen pulling down bird feeders near a house one and a half miles up our road. So the chance of having a bear at Wahkeena continues to be a real possibility.
So bear with us as we regroup and get back in touch with more of what is happening at Wahkeena.
Posted by Tom

A Day in the Life…Part 23

This edition will focus more on the animal inhabitants at Wahkeena. It is baby time for many of our residents. The baby Wood ducks pictured below were captured by visitor Alan Coovert of Hocking County. The young ducklings can be easily seen from the parking area which overlooks the shallow wetland were mother and young may feel more secure from potential predators that inhabit the larger bodies of water.

This morning a saw the Gray Petaltail dragonfly pictured below. I was walking over to the garage when something large that was perched on the outside of the door flew away. I followed the object to the large walnut tree just outside the nature center. And there it was blending in very well with the bark of the tree, as you can see (or maybe you can’t!).
I grabbed an insect net in the hope of getting a better look. I also had to get a step stool as it was above my reach on the side of the tree. Below you see it perched on the handle of the stool.  This dragonfly is every bid of three inches long and quite a magnificent creature. 
On the flip side….are the beavers ! #%?
The picture above is the collapsed hole in the asphalt driveway caused by beavers tunneling under the exit drive. Below is a shot of the collapsed area. The tunnel stretched all the way across the drive with several side tunnels branching off the main tunnel. The damage will cost thousands of dollars to repair. We were lucky that the beavers did not chew through the buried phone line, seen as the black line running across the tunnel. If they had cut that…you would not be reading this!
On a more happier note, the Butterfly Weed or Orange Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa )is beginning to bloom in the sunny areas. As the name implies, this plant is very attractive to butterflies and other insects.
 The end of a busy day and a busy week and another busy week to come. This week, groups from the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs, Ohio Wesleyan University and the Annual Educator’s Week Conference will keep us hopping. 

A Day in the Life…Part 22

We have reached the last day of May and now the preserve is fully into the green and white period of the year. As soon as visitors walk down from the parking area, they will see this reflected in Lake Odonata. The surface of the pond is slowly closing as the water lilies leaves emerge and the large blossoms open.

Water Lily (Nymphaea odorata)

Near the nature center and along the tops of the sandstone ridges, the Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is now in full splendor.

Below the shrub Mock Orange (Philadelpus coronarius) flourishes along the sunny edges. This plant is an example of a native to southern Europe that was introduced to Wahkeena during Carmen Warner’s occupation. This shrub earned its name because of the slight citrus scent given off by the flowers.

Mock Orange Close up

Below is another introduced species that is much less desirable than the one above. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) was first introduced to North American in the early to mid 1800’s for erosion control and as a root stock for ornamental roses. In the 1930’s it was promoted as “The Living Fence” as farmers were encouraged to plant it along the edges of their fields and pastures. But… Someone in the Department of Agriculture forgot to tell the birds to poop in straight lines along the field edges and it quickly became an unwanted invasive species!

The next picture is Southern Arrowwood (Vibrunum dentatum). This shrub is native to the area and grows in moist habitats. The common name refers to the use of the straight stems by native peoples to making arrow shafts.
Common Blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis) is also in bloom in the sunny areas of the preserve and will later provide a treat for many types of wildlife and humans as well.
Common Blackberry

The young Sassafras tree below has a stem that looks a lot like Spotted Joe- Pye Weed, a tall summer flower. As the tree matures the green stem will give way to a orange-brown bark

Sassafras  (Sassafra albidum)

Another “greenie” is the Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium). This Jack-in-the-pulpit relative has a concealed flower at the base of an enclosed structure called a spathe. The slender yellow structure is called a spadix and is a mechanism to encourage pollinator’s access to the hidden flowers.

The spectacular flowers of the Catalpa trees, seen below, are blooming at the pond edge and in other moist habitats.
Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)
Adding a faint splash of color, our fourth native orchid is now in prime blooming condition. The Large Twayblade (Liparis lilifolia) is found in multiple locations along the Shelter Trail. “Tway” means two and refers to the twin basal leaves of the plant.
This post was a little late this week because we have a new blogger.
“Hey, what happened to the mouse?”
Posted by the Wahkeena Crew

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 Slipper 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 …you might have to squint 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 introduced 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. 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