Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some Great Weekend Events

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, here are a few events that have popped up on my radar.

Those of you in the Indianapolis area, Garfield Park has an orchid show going on now until Sunday, Nov. 13th, 2011. Cost $3 per person or $8 per family. Check out the Indy Parks Nature blog here for more photos of these gorgeous flowers.

In Southern Ohio, Friday evening, November 11th at 7:30 pm at Avon Woods Nature Center, 4235 Paddock Road, Cincinnati 45229, Dr. David Brandenburg, author of  National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Wildflowers of North America will be presenting  Should I Have Eaten That? Allergies, Blisters, Convulsions, Delusions, and Other Adventures with Poisonous Plants”. Free and open to the public.

And, in Indianapolis on Sat., November 12th, Indiana Plant and Wildflower Society, INPAWS, will have their annual conference at the University of Indianapolis. Many great speakers on the subjects of native plants and their allies. Check it out!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Things to Do

If you know of any young naturalists, you might consider attending the Ohio Young Birders Conference. Supporting adults are welcome too. This is one of the best birding events around, because the presentations are by young birders! Everyone can learn a lot here..these young birders are truly amazing. Sign-up today and bring a young friend with you!

The Ohio Young Birders Club and
the Black Swamp Bird Observatory present:

5th Annual Ohio Young Birders Club Conference

Saturday, November 5, 2011

505 W. Whittier Street
Columbus, OH 43215
Google map of the area

Looking for ways to protect the environment?
Your "green umbrella"—those things you do to help protect our environment—is vital to sustaining your community. This website is the place to learn about ways to expand that umbrella and to track your green activities. You will be able to see your impact on the community and how that compares to your friends and neighbors. Plus, we'll show you how much money you are saving along the way!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Things to do this September

Hard to believe that summer is coming to an end, but that certainly doesn't mean that there is any less to do outdoors. Plenty of work is needed in my garden right now to collect seeds, mulch beds, and all that stuff that comes with the joy of gardening for wildlife. I want to be sure that I have plenty of food, shelter and water for migrating butterflies and birds that are beginning to move through our area right now. Isn't this why most of us plant native plants? To attract insects that in turn, bring us beautiful butterflies and birds to enjoy?

Speaking of birds, on the weekend of September 15 to 18, 2011, hundreds of bird watchers will gather at Lakeside, Ohio, on the south shore of Lake Erie for what will surely be the highlight of the birding year. Hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest, The Ohio Ornithological Society, and the Lakeside Association, the 2011 Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS) is generating a lot of buzz and interest. Space for attendees, vendors, and sponsors is quickly filling up!More information can be found on the website at:

On September 24, Saturday, please join us for a Butterfly ID workshop at Oxbow, Inc. Please RSVP to Join us in the field with trip leader and butterfly expert, Bob Nuhn. 1:00 pm at the entrance to Oxbow, Inc. ( ).

On September 25, Sunday, 10 am, join the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society for Wildflowers and Wildlife Along (and in!) the Whitewater River, Hamilton County, Ohio.

When other local parks are parched from drought, the Whitewater River corridor is green and alive. Starting at Campbell Lakes Preserve, our walk goes along and at times into the Whitewater, exploring the shore and the sandbars loaded with unusual plants, butterflies, dragonflies, and other insects. We’ll also see herptiles, fish, and lots of birds—maybe even the eagles that nest there. Our guides, Wayne Wauligman and Denis Conover, will take us through water up to 18 inches deep in search of wildlife, so participants must be prepared to get wet. We hope to see the host plant for the Dainty Sulphur, Carpetweed, that grows where the water recedes.

: Take I-74 to Dry Fork Rd. exit #3, turn left (south), cross over the highway, turn right on Harrison Avenue. Turn left on Kilby Road, right on Campbell Road to park entrance on left. Meet in the Campbell Lakes parking lot. The address is 10431 Campbell Road, Harrison, OH45030. Map link online at

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wasp Workshop with Eric Eaton

We just returned from the EDGE Advanced Naturalist Workshop on Wasps, led by Eric Eaton, Principal Author of the Kaufman Field Guide to the Insects of North America. This was an informative and fun weekend, held at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve. The Eulett Center, pictured left, is a great place to study and learn with large classrooms and the latest technology for viewing your subject.Although the focus of the workshop was on Wasps, we spent a lot of time in the field studying wasps and their prey. Caterpillars are often used as a nursery for parasitic wasp larvae. We had some great looks at wasps, but they weren't easy to photograph. I did learn that those drab moths that I see flying around my back door at night can be pretty spectacular in the caterpillar stage. Take a look at some of these photos: a Stinging Rose Caterpillar,

two larval stages of the Black-waved flannel moth on one leaf (the white fuzz is the 1st stage)

A Monkey-slug or Hag Moth.

and Red-humped caterpillars.

This tiny Purple-Crested Slug
looked great and made key identification features easy to see when Eric used the center's interactive microscope and display.

Adams County has some of the most diverse plant and animal life in Ohio, and many of these finds were located at Lynx Prairie.
Eric explains the Malaise trap and how it's used to collect specimens.

I now find it impossible to go outdoors and just look at one thing! Every living thing is related and has a unique purpose, even if at times it seems painful to watch. Once we became aware of the world of wasps, they were everywhere. Here a beautiful Orb weaver fell right before our eyes on to a picnic table after being stung by a wasp. The spider was paralyzed from the venom and most likely never to recover. If we hadn't interrupted the hunt, the wasp would have dragged it off to its chamber to be food for its larvae when they emerge.
In addition to wasps and prey, we had some good birds, butterflies, plants and many other species to entertain us. Stepping outside proves to never be a dull moment!
Here a caterpillar is busy eating his lunch.
Many thanks to Eric for sharing his vast knowledge and making this weekend so enjoyable.
Of course, Chris Bedel and Mark Zloba, our "edge" hosts, made sure that we were well fed, and keeping us on schedule. I'm looking forward to more workshops in the future.
For more information on Caterpillars, be sure to mark your calenders now for the next Midwest Native Plant Conference, July 27-28-29, 2012 at Bergamo Center in Dayton. David Wagner, author of "Caterpillars of Eastern North America" will be the Saturday night keynote.
Hope to see you in the field soon!

Monday, July 18, 2011

3rd Annual Midwest Native Plant Conference Recap

Here is a great recap of our recent conference held at the Bergamo Center in Dayton, Ohio by Jim McCormac. Stay tuned for our 4th Annual conference, July 27, 28 & 29th, 2012, again at Bergamo Center. For updates, visit

Monday, May 30, 2011

Lynx Prairie

While at the Advanced Naturalist Workshop on Sedges, we visited Lynx Prairie. Here are some of the highlights from this beautiful place.

 Here is one of the field, dotted with pastel pink and white flowers with a smathering of scarlet, for good measure.

The pink and white flowers are that of Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadii. This is a flower one doesn't see often and certainly not that many at one time. It was breathtaking seeing all of them together in the large field.

The lovely red color is from this parasitic plant, Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja coccinea. It is a hemiparasite, meaning it can draw nutrients from other plants, but can make its own food since it has chlorophyll in its leaves. 

There was another area filled with Indian Paintbrush and the huge leaves of Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum.

We found the rare plant Limestone Adder's Tongue fern, Ophioglossum engelmannii. It doesn't look like a typical fern, with only one thick leaf. After spores are produced, the leaf can quickly wither, so it can be difficult to find.
One of my favorites was growing in the middle of the path. I had to stop and take a couple photos. Yellow Star Grass is so cheery-looking, it always makes me smile. The scientific name is Hypoxis hirsuta. Hirsuta means "hairy" and, if it you look closely, you can see tiny hairs on the stems and edges of the petals.

If you have a chance, come this summer and check out Lynx Prairie. There should be many prairie species in bloom at that time and it should make for a great trip.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sedges (and Much More) at the Edge!

Last weekend, May 20th-22nd, I participated in a sedge workshop at the Edge of Appalachia. This was one of a series of Advanced Naturalist Workshops offered at the Edge through the Cincinnati Museum Center. Chris Bedel and crew put on some great workshops with top notch instructors and I suggest you check them out! I learned a ton and got some great photos, but mostly of things other than sedges. My sedge photos were pretty blurry. I haven't quite got all the bells and whistles figured out on this camera, yet. Anyway, lots of cool stuff, so here are some highlights...

This sedge is Carex cryptolepis. We found this uncommon sedge in a seep at Lynx Prairie. Its distribution is fairly limited in Ohio, with it being found in Adams County and a few counties in the northeast region of the state.  

Another sedge we found along the path in the woods was Carex willdenowii. This sedge is named after the botanist Carl Ludwig Willdenow.

This is a huge wolf spider that we found outside our quarters for the workshop. I believe this is Hogna helluo. She was probably as big as my palm, fingers not included. 

Here she is dragging her egg case behind her. It is attached with silk to her spinnerets. She can still travel quite quickly even though she is dragging the egg case behind her. A side note, hellou means "devourer". I am sure she has devoured more than her share of prey.

Each morning we were greeted with a wall full of moths. This interesting pink and yellow moth is called a Pink-bordered Yellow, Phytometra rhodarialis. There were, also, a couple of Luna Moths and scads of various tiger moths that I haven't completely ID'd yet. Hopefully, I can cover those in a later post.

This photo is of a Broad-winged Hawk nest in a Black Cherry tree. While I was snapping some photos, the mother hawk suddenly burst out of the nest and flew out of view. It almost scared the poop out of me! It is probably no accident that she has built her nest in a cherry tree. Cherry bark has cyanide and it probably helps keep pests like lice away from the young ones. 

This is a cool flower I was really wanting to see and Rick Gardner found this plant blooming for me. This is Spider Milkweed, Asclepias viridis. So beautiful!

Here is a close-up of the green flowers, tinged with pink. So happy to have finally seen it in bloom. Thanks, Rick! More "Edge" to come in my next post.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cave Lake Ohio Heritage Naturalist Foray

On May 14th, the Ohio Heritage Naturalists had a foray at YMCA Cave Lake's 700 acres near Latham, Ohio. This place is full of botanical goodies and fascinating fauna, including the rare Frost Cave Isopod. 

As we were waiting for the group to assemble, Kathy McDonald found this interesting moth in the restroom. This is a Small-eyed Sphinx, Paonias myops. We, at first, thought it was a Huckleberry Sphinx, but this is its darker cousin. Many times, outdoor restrooms are a great place to find moths. The lighting inside the restrooms attract the moths at night and they remain perched on the walls during the day. John Howard is my hand model. :)

I found a Lily-leaved Twayblade orchid, Liparis liliifolia. I love the pale pink transparent flowers that contrast with its bright green foliage. I also love the name. It sounds like an insult from a cowboy-"Them are fightin' words, you lily-leaved twayblade."

Marjie Becus found this amazing Oven Bird nest. I had never seen one, so I was quite intrigued. So very camouflaged, Marjie did not see it until she almost stepped on it and the female bird flushed.
Chris Staron flipped over a rock and underneath was this gorgeous Slimy Salamander, Plethodon glutinosus. We found six more, seven total, in the area! Their name comes from the mucus they expel when disturbed. This helps them escape from predators.

In the same area we found the salamanders, we found Goldie's Fern, Dryopteris goldiana, an uncommon fern for Ohio.

We found quite a few Puttyroot Orchids, Aplectrum hyemale, in bloom. I love its yellow blossoms tinged with deep red edging.

We found this huge Black Gum tree, Nyssa sylvatica. Brian Riley measured the circumference and it was a whopping 37 inches. The inside was hollow, with room enough for Chris Staron to climb inside. They have a characteristic rough blocky bark which reminded me of alligator hide. This tree is gorgeous in the fall with striking red leaves.

Such a great day out to an awesome place. Cave Lake is available for monthly camping. More information is available here.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Critters and More from Flora-Quest

In the previous post, I covered some of the fantastic flora we found on Flora-Quest. Now I will focus on some of the fauna we found on our Streamside Discovery foray.

We found a few of these caterpillars munching on meadow rue. This is a Canadian Owlet, Calyptra canadensis. It will become a cool looking moth when it reaches maturity.

At one of our first stops, we hopped out of the van and heard the calls of Mountain Chorus Frogs, Pseudacris brachyphona. Its call sounds like one running their fingernail across the fine end of a comb.

In the same vernal pool we found the Mountain Chorus Frogs, we found egg masses of the Spotted Salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum. You can see the tiny salamander larvae within the eggs. Diana Boyd from Keystone Flora native plant nursery is my lovely hand model. The egg mass has a green tinge due to a symbiotic algae, Oophilia amblystomatis. The jelly coating on the eggs prevents them from drying out, but it also can inhibit oxygen diffusion. The algae uses carbon dioxide produced by respiration from the developing salamander embryo and, in turn, produces oxygen through photosynthesis for the young salamander.

A red eft, the terrestrial juvenile stage of the Red-spotted Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens. This critter was boldly walking across a log, unafraid of anyone, and for good reason. If you decided to eat a red eft, you would be going to the hospital. They are extremely toxic. The poison from one red eft can kill approximately 2,500 mice.

Chris Staron holds an Eastern Milk Snake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum, he discovered under a rock. The name comes from the old myth that the snakes were found in barns and would steal milk from the cows. The real reason they were found in the barns were to eat the rodents. Duh. :)

Josh Dyer, from Crawford County Park District found this cute Ring-necked Snake, Diadophis punctatus. Note the diagnostic ring around its neck and its yellow belly.

Josh is holding a Long-tailed Salamander, Eurycea longicauda longicauda, that John Howard found for the group. This one has a tail that is shorter than normal, indicating it is probably in the process of regrowing the tail. Salamanders can drop their tail when a predator grabs it, leaving the predator happily holding the tail while the salamander gets away. The salamander can regenerate, or regrow, the tail. 

This is a larval Kentucky Spring Salamander, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus duryi. It still had its gills. Josh is my hand model, again.

John Howard, naturalist extraordinaire, holds a life snake for me, one I had never seen before, this cute little Worm Snake, Carphophis amoenus. It looked just like a giant nightcrawler. 

What a great foray in a beautiful part of Ohio. If you haven't been to Flora-Quest, I suggest you check it out sometime. It occurs each year, the first weekend in May.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flora-Quest 2011

Flora-Quest 2011 took place the weekend of April 29th-May 1st. Such a wonderful time with lots of good finds of plants and animals. I led a hike with John Howard called Streamside Discovery. We focused on some of the flora and fauna one might find along the streams in Scioto County. The following pics are of a few of the flowers we discovered. In a future post, I will cover some of the animals.

Pinkster Azalea, Rhododendron nudiflorum

Whorled Pogonia Orchid, Isotria verticillata

Large Yellow Lady's-slipper, Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens

.Pink Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium acaule

Dwarf Iris, Iris verna

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Suburban Blooms

I have not been able to get out exploring much this spring, sadly, but I am enjoying my small suburban yard and surrounding woods looking for some blooming natives to get my 'fix' until I can get out into the wild. One of my favorites that does well in the woodland garden is Foamflower, Tiarella, a small plant with tiny white spikes of flowers and heart-shaped leaves.

Some other favorites: Goldenseal, Hydrastis candadensis, Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla, and White Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum.

Every woodland garden should have Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Wild Ginger, wich has a tiny red 'star' hiding under the leaves.

We try to use native shrubs in our landscaping, and those that have worked well are Blackhaw, Viburnum prunifolium, Black Chokeberry, Photinia melanocarpa, and Gray and Rough-leafed Dogwood (not pictured). Spicebush and Paw-paw, growing wild in the woods, help attract two beautiful butterflies to our yard: Spicebush and Zebra Swallowtail.