Its Spring, but there's snow on the ground

Well, it had to happen. I was walking a beautiful property along a tributary to Tinkers Creek in northeast Ohio last week, and one of the land owners commented on what a beautiful day it was. Then his brother-in-law noted that it would snow one more time.

“When was the last Easter you remember without snow?”, he said.

I grinned for lack of any memory of Easter weather. I did, however, silently hope he was wrong. Well. He was right. I woke up this morning to a blanket of snow. We had planned to be camping this week, but my astute wife checked the weather and we realized this was not the week to take two little kids, and a rambunctious dog out in a tent. I was disappointed, but of course she was right. Allegheny National Forest can wait.

Instead, I had to comfort myself with some low quality photos of last weekend’s outdoor wanderings at Punderson State Park and Geauga Park District’s West Woods. I am including a couple of early bloomers in this post just to make it feel more like spring today. The first is a photo of a cluster of skunk cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus flowers taken in a wetland at West Woods. I have seen skunk cabbage blooming around northeast Ohio wetland and seep areas since the last week of February this year.

The yellow flower is coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). A naturalized wildflower, coltsfoot grows along trailsides, roads, and in disturbed areas. It is one of the earliest spring flowers. Although non-native, it does not appear to cause ecological harm, at least as far as I can tell.

This next photo isn’t a flower, but it is as beautiful as one. This is the nature center at West Woods. Geauga Park District did a great job on this wonderful building. If you are looking for a great place to learn about nature, or just love cool buildings, visit West Woods nature center.


Southern Ohio Wildflower Pilgrimage

The following is from a recent email announcement from the Highlands Nature Sanctuary:

Spring will soon return.

Why not spend it in the woods, among the company of flowers?

In all the world, nothing compares to the verdant beauty of an Appalachian Forest in the spring. Join us as we celebrate the return of the flowers.

Southern Ohio Wildflower Pilgrimage
April 17, 18, 19, 2009
The Arc of Appalachia Preserve System

Three days of over thirty field trips to southern Ohio’s spectacular wildflower showcases. Led by some of our area’s best botanists and naturalists. Each field trip is limited to 15 participants. The Arc of Appalachia region has some of the most beautiful wildflower displays in the U.S. Eastern Temperate Forest. You are encouraged to register as quickly as possible. Area lodging and complete meals available.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kentucky’s superlative Photographer, Tom Barnes, author of Kentucky’s Last Great Places, Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky, and the just-released Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky.

Sponsored by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System with the cooperation and assistance of The Nature Conservancy Ohio Chapter, Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Nature Center, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ross County Park District, Shawnee State Park & State Forest, Southern State Community College, and the Ohio Historical Society.

TO REGISTER: click here

For general information see Arc of Appalachia’s web site.


Tree Farm Trail

We walked the Tree Farm Trail at the Horseshoe Pond area of Cuyahoga Valley National Park last evening with the kids. We got to watch a great blue heron patiently waiting for a chance to spear its dinner in the shallows of the pond. Also saw greater lobelia along the connector trail that takes you to the picnic shelter on the peninsula of Horseshoe Pond.

Back to the topic of the Asters of September, we did see smooth aster, and New England aster along the trail, as well as a host of other beautiful late season wildflowers. This is the perfect time to get out and see these wonderful colorful natural works of art.

I could feel winter moving closer, and see fall in the yellowing leaves of the maples and ashes. Get outside and see the wildflowers before the opportunity is gone for the year. Time flies.


You choose- Spring or late summer wild flowers?

I used to pine for the coming of spring, with its trillium, and violets, and spring cress, and toothwort. From the depths of the winter with its colorless lull, I would envision the spring ephemerals and believe these spring beauties were the most magnificent of all.

Now I know, as I remember each year after August, that it is the asters of September that hold the crown. I take that back. It is not just the asters, it is late summer wildflowers in general that deserve the title of the most vibrant visions across the landscape. The goldenrods, asters, Joe Pye, ironweed, thistles. All of these create a tapestry of color on the September hills.

Today I was out on the Cross Country Trail at Virginia Kendall (Cuyahoga Valley National Park). Dozens of wild flowers lined the trail, both in the forested and field sections of the trail. September is the perfect time to see white snake root among other things. White berries weigh down the slender branches of gray dogwood shrubs. Berries abound on non-native Russian Olives, Hawthorns, Doll’s Eye, and many other plants.

After reading naturalist William Hudson’s “Tribute to Late Bloomers”, and getting out to explore Nature in the September sunshine, I think you’ll agree that the Asters and wildflowers of September are a sight we should always remember.

What do you think?