21 June 2009

Loblolly Marsh Bioblitz

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended my third bioblitz of the year, this time at Loblolly Marsh in Jay County, Indiana. As recently as 1997, Loblolly (apparently named for the "stinking river" that once ran through the site) was agricultural field. Thanks to the tireless work of many, and especially Ken Brunswick, subsurface drainage tiles have been removed and what was once wetland is now wetland again. There is also tallgrass prairie in the restored areas, and trees have been planted in select locations to restore forest.

Much of our 24-hour biological inventory took place within these restored communities, but a portion of the inventory occurred in a natural oak-hickory woodland. Our botanical inventory yielded approximately 360 vascular plant species. Some of these were planted or seeded, but the majority were either in the natural woodland or were restored from the existing seed bank after a more natural hydrologic regime was restored.
I was so busy writing down plants and looking for new ones that I didn't have time to take many photos. Those that I did take were mostly of plants along the road.

This is Troublesome Sedge, Carex molesta. I find it often this member of the Sedge family (Cyperaceae) in ditches, along roads, and in former agricultural fields that are naturally revegetating. Although somewhat weedy, this native sedge really is a beautiful plant. It can be found throughout much of eastern North America, in the Great Plains, and in California.

This was a new one for me in Indiana. Pinkladies (or Showy Evening Primrose), Oenothera speciosa, is not native in Indiana, but has persisted along the road at Loblolly Marsh for many years. These flowers are a good three inches across, making a colony of them nothing short of showy. I usually think that plants with flowers this large are too flashy; however, this one doesn't fit in this category, as I find it quite attractive. Pinkladies is a member of the Evening Primrose family (Onagraceae).

Limestone Wild Petunia, Ruellia strepens, is a common plant in northeast Indiana, but it is only known from two historic collections at a single location in northcentral/northwest Indiana. Range-wide, it is know from Nebraska south to Texas and east to the East Coast. I have only ever seen this member of the Acanthus family (Acanthaceae) growing in calcareous soils or in shallow soil over limestone (such as on glades).

The highlight for me in the woods was American Columbo, Frasera caroliniensis, a member of the Gentian family (Gentianaceae). I've only seen this species a couple of times before, and it was not flowering either of those times. American Columbo forms a large, distinctive basal rosette of leaves, making it easily identifiable prior to bolting to a height of up to 8 feet tall. And those flowers are something else, too. Now that's an attractive flower! To see a famous photo of the plant in its full glory, click here.

We had a wonderful time at the bioblitz, and there was a good public turnout as well. While one goal for a bioblitz is to obtain a biological inventory for a site, another goal is public involvement and education. Students and families come to the bioblitz to join the inventory teams, find out how scientists work, and learn about the diversity of life that can be found in a single 24-hour period right in their backyards. It's great to see kids get involved and get excited about nature, and it gives me hope that there may be a next generation of naturalists on the horizon.

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