Never let it be said that the Tuesday Morning Hikers are not a hardy lot! By 9 AM it was already headed for 90 degrees and the humidity was equally high, yet this group of nature enthusiasts sallied forth, undeterred.
First stop was the native plantings garden around the building. Gary is talking about the benefits of native vegetation, particularly how the monarch butterflies seem to prefer swamp milkweed when it comes to laying eggs (they found over 60 caterpillars on these two plants last summer). The supposition is that the leaves are more tender than those of the common milkweed, and thus easier for the larvae to consume.
This lovely garden spider (an orb weaver) was found in its web alongside the trail. Right now it is a fairly small spider, but as the summer progresses, it will get larger and larger as it consumes more and more insects.
Blue flag is our native iris, and they are now coming into full bloom in our wetlands. Such a lovely sight.
Reed canary grass, an aggressive non-native, is taking over many habitats. I’m used to seeing the giant reed grass back in New York, also known as phragmites. The species here is a smaller variety, but equally invasive.
Still, grasses are often under-appreciated when it comes to beauty. Up close, they are quite lovely, especially now as they bloom.
We didn’t appreciate the relative coolness of the woods until we left them for the prairie.
Here Gary is explaining how to identify one of our native ferns: royal fern. It does well in dry and wet locations.
Out in the prairie, the spiderworts are in bloom!
We also had a couple of these little orange butterflies. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking it’s one of the checkerspots, but I need to find a good butterfly book to get an ID – unless there’s a butterfly enthusiast out there who knows which one this is!
We left the prairie and walked down to the fen. Gary explained the chemistry of fens (more alkaline than bogs), and that they are good homes for things like the massasauga, aka the pygmy rattlesnake, which is a protected species in Michigan. I saw three of these many years ago over in Cicero Swamp near Syracuse, NY, while helping a graduate student who was doing research on these docile animals. Very cool snakes.
After seeing the fen, the group headed back toward the visitor center – the heat and humidity were just too much to spend much more time outside. Still, we saw several plants, some new insects, and visited a nice little pocket fen. All in all, a good way to start the day.
Every Tuesday morning at 9:00 this group heads out to see what’s what. Anyone who would like to join us is welcome.