Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve

This site has drawn me for years, and I made my first visit this past weekend. I first learned about it when I was looking for ideas about how to attract volunteers from communities surrounding environmental amenities. I read about it again while I was doing some pleasure reading about the Garden, and learned that Martha Crone, one of the Garden's long term curators, actually was a member of the family whose donation of land started the Reserve so many years ago. Many of the Garden's plants originally came from what is now the Reserve. Access is restricted, because it is a research site. Uncontrolled public access would jeopardize research results, but the program does have public tour dates, and some other tours can be arranged as well. We gained entry through a Bell Museum program. There are a variety of habitats at the Reserve, including this lovely prairie scene. The orange plant above and at center is Butterfly Weed, a member of the milkweed family (Asclepias tuberosa).

There is also large stand of northern white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) growing quite a bit south of its usual range. It borders a twisted section of Cedar Creek. The forest floor in this area is humped with long-ago felled cedar that are now covered by much vegetation, some of it boreal.

It was particularly a treat to see blooming Partidge berry (Mitchella repens). Of course, because we were on the sandplain, I leapt like an amorous stag to the conclusion that it was a stunted trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens), which I have not seen and which I would dearly love to see. The kind Ed Cushing, who led the trip, said that it was a mitchella, and another tour participant said the common name was bearberry. When I got home I spent hours poring through my books and on-line resources, comparing them to my photo. Without exception, the ones I looked at identified partridge berry flower as having 4 petals. Clearly, these plants had five petals. And it was not, of course bearberry at all - wrong leaf, wrong flower, but both are forest creepers. That night I could not sleep - I doubt it was because of my confusion, but I'm sure it didn't help! I finally pulled out a great book I have never really used by a fine former teacher of mine, C. Colston Burrell. I was fortunate enough to have him as a teacher when he was living in Minnesota some years ago. His book A Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Wildflowers included a picture of partridge berry showing it with five petals and with four petals.

Another first for me was this Tufted loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora) a member of the primrose family. The Horton Hears a Who flower puffs made me smile.

We ended the 2 hour hike with a good view of a meadowlark in George Skinner's spotting scope. I hadn't seen one yet this year, so it was an especially fun siting.

1 comment:

twinsetellen said...

It is seeming like a particularly stunning year for Butterfly Weed. The swath going up the hill to JFB is very nice.

In re: trailing arbutus - it is wonderful, in part because thinking of it brings to mind memories of Wilson's grandmother who loved it so and in whose company I got to see it many times in Ohio.