20 April 2009

Look What's Flowering Now!

We had some beautiful weather here in northern Indiana on Saturday, and I was able to take full advantage of it by botanizing at Sebert County Park in LaPorte County, Spicer Lake Nature Preserve in St. Joseph County, and Bendix Woods Nature Preserve in St. Joseph County. This is intended to be just a quick post to show some of the plant species that I saw in flower that Lindsay and I hadn't yet seen this year. For more information on several of these species, see my post here at Get Your Botany On!.

At Sebert County Park, I stumbled across American Dog Violet (Viola conspersa). This handsome blue violet is uncommonly encountered in moist woods, mostly east of the Mississippi River.
Limestone Bittercress (Cardamine douglassii) was flowering at Spicer Lake Nature Preserve. This plant of the mustard family (Brassicaceae) is commonly found in moist woods, often in somewhat disturbed areas.
The flowers of Limestone Bittercress have four petals, characteristic of mustards. This species is similar in appearance to Bulbous Bittercress (Cardamine bulbosa), but as you'll notice in the photograph below the stem within and below the inflorescence is pubescent, while that of Bulbous Bittercress has no hairs. There are also habitat differences, as Bulbous Bittercress is more often found in springy areas.
Also at Spicer Lake, Virginia Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) had begun to flower on trails through an old-field. I later saw this somewhat weedy species, which can be found throughout North America, flowering on the trails on our property. This is a welcome site for Bootypants, who thoroughly enjoys plucking the Virginia Strawberry fruit right off of the plants as we walk our trails during the summer.
Bendix Woods will probably be at its peak for wildflower viewing next weekend, when I will be leading a hike there for Shirley Heinze Land Trust. However, several ephemerals were already in bloom on Saturday. One of those was Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), which is found in moist woods throughout eastern North America.
The 1-inch long flowers of this gorgeous species are hidden below the leaves very close to the ground, and can be easily overlooked if you aren't specifically looking for them.
Lindsay recently talked about seeing Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) in this post; on Saturday at Bendix Woods, I saw the closely related Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) just beginning to flower. The flowers of Squirrel Corn often have a soft pinkish tinge to them. The plant is named Squirrel Corn because of the tuberous roots, which are yellow and look like kernals of corn.
I really do enjoy seeing this next plant every spring. This is False Mermaidweed (Floerkea proserpinacoides), a plant of moist woods that is very easily overlooked and somehow often confused with bedstraw (Galium sp.).
The tiny flowers of this species have three whitish petals. You want to amaze your friends? Find False Mermaidweed in mid- to late-April and show them the beautiful flowers. Trust me... they'll be amazed. In the United States, this species is found as far east as Massachusetts and as far west as California.
And from one spring wildflower with three white petals to another...
This is White Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), of the lily family (Liliaceae). White Trillium is the state wildflower of Ohio, and it's easy to see why. I've never come across someone in the woods who isn't completely enamored with this species. As the season progresses, the petals begin to turn pink. Next week, Bendix Woods should be a carpet of white, made up in large part by White Trillium.
Finally, I came across this little insect that I believe is a Click Beetle, though I have no idea to what genus or species it belongs. From what I understand, they are called "click beetles" because of their ability to snap two body parts together, which shoots them into the air to avoid predators.
This Click Beetle was perched on the spike of Plantainleaf Sedge (Carex plantaginea). If anyone can help with a positive identification of the insect, I would be love to know what it is.
More to come as the spring progresses!
By the way, the ticks are out, so watch yourself. Bootypants and I are tied at two each; Lindsay hasn't had any yet.

19 April 2009

Indiana Dunes BioBlitz - Will You Be There?

The National Geographic/National Park Service 24-hour BioBlitz at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will be held on May 15-16, 2009. Public registration for this event is now open. I am leading botany/birding groups from 1PM-4PM Friday, 4:30PM-8PM Friday, and 8AM-12PM Saturday. Karen Quinlan is also leading botany groups at these times. If you are available, you should really try to make it to this huge event. There are limits on the number of people that can join each field team, and joining a team is handled on a first come, first served basis, so reserve your spots early. Visit the official Indiana Dunes BioBlitz website for more details and to sign up for the event. I hope to see you there!

Chamaesyce polygonifolia, August 12, 2006

17 April 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

On April 16, I turned 30! One of the birthday gifts I enjoyed the most was a 70-degree day. With such beautiful weather, Bootypants and I had to go to Potato Creek for a hike. As you can see, the idea of the park always brings a smile to Booty's face.
Trail 4 is our favorite trail and we have been to the park a few times already this year to walk the trail. Many of the wildflowers that we had previously seen on Trail 4 were now flowering. Bloodroot was seen in multiple places along the 2.4 mile trail.
We also saw Yellow Trout Lily (one of my favorites).
Our good friend Mute Swan was also enjoying the beautiful weather (though he didn't have much to say).
This was the first time I had seen False Rue Anemone flowering this year.
Dutchman's Breeches was also flowering, though we only found it in one spot on the trail.
We also saw Downy Yellow Violet in flower.
Overall, it was a great hike. We got to see many plants, heard lots of birds, and really enjoyed a beautiful afternoon outdoors. In an attempt to capture the scenery and my favorite birthday companion I got this award winning photo. Can you guess who is having a great time and who is just humoring me?

Welcome Back, Mr. Beer!

Several years ago, Mike Walczak gave me a Mr. Beer homebrew kit as a gift. Lindsay and I used it soon after receiving it, making a pretty tasty ginger beer. We tried again not too long after that, but our second batch, a doppleback, did not taste so good. Because of that failure, we had not used Mr. Beer since....

... Until this past Wednesday, that is. On Wednesday night, we dusted off Mr. Beer and started a batch of Sticky Wicket Oatmeal Stout.
That's pretty much the kit - a fermenter, a spoon, the measuring glass, and a pot. The first step, and one of the most important, is sterilizing everything.
Once everything has been sterilized, it is very important not to allow the sterilized objects to come in contact with objects that are not sterilized. Otherwise, you can spoil the batch of beer.
As you can see, we had our brewing hats on!
Here, Lindsay is preparing the wort, which is the unfermented beer. At this point, it smelled like molasses.

The wort is then put in the fermenter, where it will sit for two to three weeks. After that, we will bottle the brew and let it carbonate for the next two weeks or so. At that point, we will try some of our beer, but most of it will be put in the refrigerator where it will age and become more flavorful. Updates to come in the future.

The Sweet Sounds of Spring

On Tuesday night (April 14), Diana Scott, Lindsay, and I met around sunset to listen to frog calls as part of the Frogwatch USA program. The following video was taken at the Ewing Wetland, one of the five sites that we monitor three times each year. At four of the five sites (including this one), we only heard Spring Peepers; we also heard Western Chorus Frogs at Potato Creek State Park.

There isn't a lot to see in this video because it was dark, but if you enjoy the sweet sounds of spring, have a listen!

For more information on Spring Peepers and other frogs and toads in northern Indiana, click here.

12 April 2009

Family and Field

Lindsay and I had a fun weekend with my family, who was in town visiting from northeast Ohio. On Saturday morning, my brother (Greg) and his wife (Kathleen) drove to Chicago to pick up my sister (Abbie) and bring her back to our house. While they were gone, Lindsay, my mom, my dad, and I took our nieces (Chloe and Lily) to Potato Creek State Park for an Easter egg hunt.

Think you could find any? We heard that there were over 1200 eggs; there were also over 100 kids there to "find" these eggs. The long buildup for the event to begin was quickly overshadowed as the actual "hunt" took less than 5 minutes.

Chloe and Lily both ended up with quite a few eggs; most contained candy, but there were also some that contained prizes such as "pick a gift" and coupons for local stores and restaurants.

Bootypants really wanted to join in the fun, but too bad for her; no dogs allowed.

After the hunt, we took a walk on Trail 1 at Potato Creek. Along the way, we came across various ephemeral wildflowers.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) was in bloom in seepy areas and along the creeks.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), which has probably been flowering for a week or two now, was at its peak.

While most of the Cut-leaved Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) plants still had closed flowers, a few had already opened up.

We found the tiny Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) flowering in a few locations.

In the famous "Cormorant Tree," we were able to get a good look at a gulp of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus).

At one point as we were hiking, Chloe decided that we should all race. As we ran along the trail, we encountered a muddy patch. Most of us went around the mud; Lily, being 3 years old, ran right through it, until three steps after her shoes got stuck and pulled off of her feet! Her socks were covered in mud.

Needless to say, she spent the rest of the hike sockless.

Chloe really seemed to enjoy walking Bootypants while we were at the park.

Today, I hid a bunch of eggs in our yard for the girls to hunt for. Chloe and Lily had a good time hunting for and gathering these eggs.

That's Lily putting an egg that she found into her basket, held by Greg.

Abbie enjoyed photographing the girls as they ran around the yard looking for treasures...

... as Kathleen looked on.

My mom and dad also came out to watch the girls look for eggs.

In the end, both Lily and Chloe came away with baskets full of eggs...

... but Bootypants got the last laugh!

If you are interested in seeing a bit more information about the plants that we saw during our hike at Potato Creek and while I was photographing the girls as they searched for eggs, click here and here.

10 April 2009

More Dead Animals?!?

I'm beginning to wonder about this place. In the past, I have posted about finding a Big Brown Bat, Star-nosed Mole, and Least Weasel dead on our property in northern Indiana. On March 16, 2009, we added to our mausoleum of mammals after finding these two rodents dead at different locations on our trails.
I believe that these are Meadow Voles, Microtus pennsylvanicus; I've sent them to Dr. John Whitaker at Indiana State University for a positive identification. You may be thinking... "looks like a mouse to me." Voles differ from mice in having rounder heads, smaller ears and eyes, stouter bodies, and shorter, hairy tails.
Meadow Voles are widespread in North America, found in a variety of habitats in all regions except the southwest and southcentral states. Research shows that their populations are secure, and that they actually seem to be expanding southward. Meadow Voles breed throughout the year, including in the winter if there is enough snow to act as insulation. They are active both during the day and at night. The life span of a Meadow Vole in the wild is up to a year, but is usually less.
Female Meadow Voles are said to be territorial, while the males have ranges that cover three times the area of a female. Unlike the males of other vole species (such as the Prairie Vole, Microtus ochrogaster), male Meadow Voles are promiscuous little guys. To be protected while they forage, these proficient diggers, create tunnels through vegetation and the ground beneath.
Look at those chompers! The diet of the Meadow Vole is comprised mostly of vegetation, though they have been known also to be cannibalistic. They must spend a good part of the day and night eating, as they are known to consume 60% of their body weight every day!

It is unfortunate that we continue to find these animals dead on our property, but doing so gives me a reason to learn more about the species. Even land as degraded as our old field is full of interesting creatures.

05 April 2009

Why Was Scott Up So Early On Friday?

On Friday April 3, I was up and on the road by 4:30 AM to go to the Ohio Botanical Symposium in Columbus, Ohio. I've posted a recap of the conference here on Get Your Botany On!.