100 Degrees and What Do We Do?

At Dahlem, we go for a walk!

Actually, in all fairness, it wasn’t quite 100 at 9 AM when the Tuesday Morning Group loaded up in the van and we drove out to the Eddy Discovery Center in Waterloo.

The building was closed when we arrived, so instead of just standing around until it opened at 10:00, we headed down the road to the trail that led to the bog.

Now, I love bogs.  Bogs are a very Adirondacky thing, so I couldn’t wait to see some “familiar faces.”  But before reaching the bog, there were lots of new acquaintances to meet.  Like naked-flowered tick trefoil:

Not only are the small delicate pinkish-purple flowers lovely, but the seed pods they leave behind are equally delightful:

They remind me of free-form honeycombs that bees sometimes build on tree branches; with no container to give them form, they droop and sag from the branches, looking like a piece of art by Salvador Dali.

True to its nature, this ambush bug (and its companions) sat ever-so-still on its floral perch, waiting with immeasurable patience for another insect to blunder by, thus becoming the ambush bug’s next meal.  Unlike the several dragonflies I tried to photograph today, this insect sat calmly while I took shot after shot.

Another new plant for me was white vervain (Verbena auricifolia).  I’ve seen blue vervain, and I have hoary vervain in my wildflower garden, but white vervain I’d neither seen nor heard of before.

Although the temperature was climbing, a strong breeze blew pretty constantly, helping keep us a little bit cooler.  Unfortunately, this did not help with trying to photograph flowers, which insisted on dipping and swaying in the wind.  So, apologies that few of these images are as crisp as I’d normally like.

The first part of the trail to the bog goes through a lovely bit of woods, dominated by American beech, maples and oaks.

We crossed three boardwalks or bridges, and while I still wouldn’t have wanted to cross those areas without them, there was no water to be seen.  The drought this summer is pretty intense – everything is ridiculously dry.  Each wet area we passed may have looked a bit muddy, but mostly they were dry.

This gorgeous mayfly was taking a breather on a leaf.

This baneberry seemed to be holding its own in this weather.  This is the white variety, commonly known as doll’s eyes.  The berries will become bright white with a black dot on the end (which you can already see); the berry stems will turn bright red.

The white avens have already gone to seed.  The little hooked ends of each seed look like tiny crochet hooks, and like a crochet hook, they are designed to grab onto things, like socks, dogs and anything with a bit of fuzz that passes by.

The elderberry blossoms have come and gone, leaving behind hard green fruits.  Has something eaten most of the fruits here, or, because of the drought, did this plant just not produce many?

I still cannot get over the American beeches here in Michigan!  They are enormous and they are beautiful!  Not a sign of beech scale disease (that I have found yet).  This specimen was easily over 20″ across.

The tree on the right is the beech – standing next to an equally nice oak.  They were both over 18″ across.

And the beech on the left here must’ve been over two feet across – just stunning.  These are like the beeches of my childhood, which no longer exist in NY.  Just glorious.

At the end of the trail, a small patch of bog sat, just waiting for our eager eyes to take in its treasures.  I couldn’t wait to see who I’d recognize here, and I hoped there might be some orchids (there weren’t – must be too late in the season here, although back in the ‘dacks the orchids are still going strong).

The first friend I saw was the tamarack.  There were several growing here, but none of significant proportions.

What bog would be complete without carnivorous plants?  The sign said there were pitcher plants and sundews here.  I didn’t see any sundews, but there were plenty of pitcher plants, three of which were blooming.

Poison sumac, complete with berries, was pointed out, so we were all aware of this native plant that is just as dangerous as poison ivy.

Already leaves are turning color – the harsh summer weather is taking its toll.  This may be the only color we have this year; I suspect this autumn we will see mostly browns and yellows.

Other old friends included leatherleaf,

and bog rosemary (which refused to be photogenic).

While trying to photograph some of these plants, a brilliant blue dragonfly decided to check me out.  I was sitting on the boardwalk, so I might have been on his patch.  He zoomed around and around me, pausing just long enough for me to raise my camera before zipping off again.  This is the only shot I was able to get of him, but I believe it is an eastern pondhawk.

The trail to the bog is a one-way trip, so once we reached the boardwalk we had to turn around and go back the way we had come.  Along the walk back I saw a beautiful spicebush swallowtail and a giant swallowtail.  Neither of these butterflies landed – they fluttered past and kept going, so you’ll have to grab your field guide to see what they look like.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Eventually we ended up on the little geology trail, which leads to the visitor center.

We passed Saturn (and Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) along the way.

Now, the Discovery Center is not open all the time, but it is well worth the visit if you get the chance.  Operated by the DNR, there’s been some debate about whether to keep this nature center open.  Pay it a visit to let “them” know how important places like this are.

I am not a geology nut, but I do like interesting rocks, and if you like rocks, and/or geology is your thing, you will love this center.  They have a great geology exhibit (good for kids as well as adults).

The exhibit space is bright and open, and the exhibits are quite appealing.  And they have air conditioning.

I love a sign with a good sense of humor, like this one that shows, among other bits of the white-tailed deer’s natural history, which plants are the deer’s favorites, which are O.K., and which it eats only under duress.

There’s a nice interactive map of the Waterloo State Recreation Area.

There’s even a bit of art.  We all loved this metal crane and her colt.  These cranes are made in Kentucky by an artist who does them as a fundraiser here in Michigan.  Check out this website – go to the slide show at the bottom of the page to see how various businesses decorated their cranes.

Soon it was after noon and time for us to head back to Dahlem.  Reluctantly we left the cool sanctuary of the Discovery Center, and climbed into the van for the drive back to Jackson.

Thus concluded another successful Tuesday Morning Group program.  If you’d like to join us, come on out next Tuesday at 9:00.  I don’t know what we’ll be doing next week, but rest assured, it will be a good time.

About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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