Sunday, October 30, 2011

Did you know?

Wahkeena Nature Preserve has been part of the Fairfield County community for over 50 years. A 150 acre preserve for birds and other wildlife, Wahkeena is a peaceful place to get away from the stresses of our modern life. For over 30 years, Wahkeena has been a leader in providing quality environmental education to schools and the public. Continually staffed with knowledgeable and friendly naturalists, Wahkeena is the place to go to learn about the natural world.

As everyone knows, the last few years have been financially trying times. And that is no exception for the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), the private, non-profit organization that currently operates Wahkeena. The Society has had to find local partners to help manage their 58 sites across the state. Currently, only two sites, including Wahkeena, do not have a local partner.  On November 8, 2011, the Fairfield County Parks will be asking for a .4 mil levy to continue operation and to develop the park system to its full potential. Passage of the levy would allow OHS to partner with the County Parks, ensuring the continued operation of Wahkeena.  Without this partnership the future of the preserve and the ability to offer programs is uncertain. So whether you are one of the many thousands, who as a school child visited Wahkeena for a day of exploration and fun, a teacher who values a rewarding experience for your class, or a family or individual that appreciates the wonders of the natural world and the preservation the rich heritage of Fairfield County, please consider a YES vote for the Parks in November.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Autumn at Wahkeena

For your enjoyment...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fungus Among-us? You're a fun-guy!

Everybody knows these bad puns about fungi, but did you know that the fall season is the best time to see it?

Most folks seem to know about morels (or just 'mushrooms' as many people say), and consequently think that spring is the best time. A quick aside here: if you come out in the spring and ask me if we have any mushrooms, I will always play dumb on that one! "We have lots of different species of mushrooms," will be my reply. I know that folks are asking specifically about morels. As always though, we tend to answer the exact question you ask. For example, Q: "Do you what flower this is?"   A: "Yes." If you want to know what the flower is called, you have to ask just that!  :)

Anyway, as I said fall is a great time for fungus. We have moderate temperatures and just the right amount of moisture. It is said that there are as many colors of fungus as there are wildflowers! Wow! I've been collecting photos of some of the fungus from around here for the past couple of weeks, and while I don't have a huge variety of colors, it is still impressive to see how many different kinds I found.

As for ID, fungus is difficult. I will not even be attempting to put names to any of these pics. Sometimes one even needs to see that spore print the mushroom makes to ID down to species.

Before we get on with the pictures, I'll leave you with a common fungus saying...
"There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters!"

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Final Flowers

Fall is the time when we focus on the changing leaves and all the beautiful colors that are revealed as the trees stop making their own food. But for a little while longer, we can still enjoy some very hardy and equally beautiful fall flowers.

Asters are the biggest category of fall flowers and there are so many! They can be hard to identify, but there are a few that are fairly easy. The one pictured above is New England Aster. It has large purple blooms and a clasping leaf. The color in my picture here is a little washed out. Asters are one of the most important fall flowers for insects who eat and collect pollan and nectar. On warm sunny afternoons these plants can literally be swarming with pollinators!

Turtlehead is a wetland plant that well, looks like a turtle's head! This one is Pink Turtlehead, and we also have White Turtlehead. Bumblebees have to crawl far down into the flower to access the nectar reward, while at the same time moving the pollen from plant to plant ensuring cross fertilization.

This is one of my favorite fall flowers. It's called Nodding Bur Marigold. I love its bright golden color and its sunflower like bloom. This is another wetland plant which can be seen around the ponds and in the boardwalk area.

Jewelweed or Impatients also can have yellow flowers. These trumpet shaped flowers are an important source of nectar for hummingbirds migrating to the south. They can become a little "weedy" in a garden setting, but if you have a place to let them grow, wait until a frost or freeze to remove them from your landscape. They have an important job to do!

Lastly, Goldenrod is the true workhorse of all the fall flowers, but unfortunaly gets a bad rap. Because of fall hayfever symptoms coming on strong at the same time the goldenrod blooms, this misunderstood flower gets all the blame. If a plant has bright, colorful, and/or large flowers it needs insects to pollinate it. That's why the flowers are noticable. The plant is advertising to insects to come and check it out. The pollan grains from insect pollinated plants are smooth, and somewhat sticky. The pollan grains that make you sneeze are covered in sharp hooks and spikes. This is becuase they come from plants that are wind pollinated. These pollan grains are blown about by the wind and they need those hooks to grab on to other plants. Wind pollinated plants do not have showy flowers because they don't need to advertise. Your sniffles and sneezes are caused by ragweed, a very unassuming looking plant.

Before you look up at the colorful leaves...

look down at some really gorgeous flowers!

Oh, one more thing....the picture above is POISON IVY!