Somewhere in this photo is a Polygonia comma butterfly - an Eastern Comma. You might be thinking 'but it's too cold out for butterflies, there's snow on the ground', and generally you'd be right but the Eastern Comma is one of the unique species that can hibernate through winter and wake up to feed on the earliest of the spring wildflowers!
"Overwintered adults fly and lay eggs in the spring until the end of April. The summer form emerges and flies from May-September, laying eggs that develop into the winter form. These adults appear in September or October and soon seek shelter in which to overwinter."
The past two months the local fungi has emerged in all it splendor. It's nearing the end of the season and I'd say this year's turn out was pretty great.
Enjoy the gallery of some of the ones I've found then scroll to the bottom to learn more about one of the most common types of fungi and then one of the most unique types I've found this year.
Migration map courtesy of All About Birds - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The wildflower I most relate to spring's official arrival is the Trillium. Here we are, despite all the snow we've had, the trillium have pulled through, welcome spring! Our cold tired bodies welcome your arrival and desperately await the sun and warmth which so closely follows you.
In Ohio we have eight different species of Trillium: T. navale (snow or dwarf trillium), T. grandiflorum (great white trillium-see photo above), T. sessile (toad shade/toad trillium), T. recurvatum (prairie trillium), T. erectum (red trillium-stinking trillium), T. undulatum (painted trillium), T. flexipes (drooping trillium), and T. cernuum (nodding trillium).
Only one of these species can be found in all 88 Counties - The Great White Trillium - our state's official wildflower.
The first few buds have just started blooming here in North East Ohio; through the next month if you find yourself walking through a deciduous forest keep an eye to the ground as these beauties will be blooming.
Trillium growth: from buds, to cups, to open leaves, to opening flower.
Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria (L.) Bernh.) are a native wildflower to the Eastern US which produces blooms March - May in rich and rocky deciduous woods and ravines. A long stem emerges from the fern-like foliage to bloom pantaloon-resembling flowers (hence the name). These can be differentiated from the similar looking 'squirrel corn' by the sharp spurs and yellow bases of the 'breeches' where as the 'squirrel corn' has more of a round heart shape and does not have the yellow base. Both the squirrel corn and the dutchman's breeches are of the 'bleeding heart' family and as with the bleeding hearts are highly toxic and can cause irritation even to the touch (unless you're a bumblebee). This plant is an important source of pollen and nutrients to early awakening bees.
Upon the arrival of summer, the dutchman's breeches will go dormant until early spring comes around again.
The common Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) goes by various other names, coughwort, hallfoot, horsehoof, foalswort, fieldhove, bullsfoot, donnhove, and in France Pas d'âne.
One of the earliest flowers to bloom, coltsfoot's flowers superficially resemble the dandelion, upon further inspection you will clearly be able to tell the difference by size (flowers are much smaller) the stem (much thicker, scaly, and taller) and the leaves are either nonexistent when blooming or the full round leaves (resembling a colt's foot) where as the dandelion have oblong sharp lobed leaves.
Flowers can be found blooming February - June along roadsides and other waste places.
The name colts foot comes from the leaf shape's resemblance to a cross-section of a colt's foot.
Originally from Europe, settlers introduced the coltsfoot to America for medicinal purposes.
As a medicinal herb, coltsfoot has been used for centuries for many purposes: cough dispeller, in treating asthma, bronchitis, and other respirator ills.
In the past in Paris, the coltsfoot flowers would be painted as a sign on the doorpost of an apothecaries shop.
An extract of fresh leaves can be used for making cough drops or hard candy, and its dried leaves can be steeped for a tea.
(pregnant, young, and elderly should take caution using this herb)
Below you can see the early bud, the flowers opening, and a full blooming flower.
Back on February 8th we got a beautiful icy snow layer, the first in a while. As soon as I bundled up in layers I made a b-line to the park. The snow came down in the big beautiful flakes. The wind nipped my nose. Alone in the park I could hear every creak of the trees, every flake of snow landing on each leaf. It was a magical morning.
There's something about cutting out a few hours for yourself that can be so rejuvenating.
To allow your mind to wander and sort. To breathe in the fresh air. To gaze upon trees much older than you that will, more than likely, outlive you.
I find walking (along with other various exercises) has given me more energy, helped me think clearer (and analyze things in a productive positive light), and I have started sleeping through the whole night.
There's many reasons for people to walk...
for health, for meditation, for exercise, for pets
it doesn't matter what your reason is, as long as you do it!
Every New Years Day we make a point to start the year out in nature. The past few years have been at the Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls, we've New Years hiked through both sun and snow, negative degrees to balmy. This year, however, has, is, and will be, different than the past 4 or 5 years. At the turn of the new year, we had relocated so Noah may attend school to pursue his dream of becoming a park ranger. Conveniently enough, it has brought us back to our old hometown. The biggest challenge was leaving the Summit Metro Parks and the National Parks system, the convenience of having so many great, diverse, parks just a short drive away had really spoiled us. But we can't look at this so much as a loss as it is an opportunity to really explore a whole new area, find the hidden treasures off the beaten path, and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
So for this year's New Year's Day hike we chose Johnson Woods State Nature Reserve to explore.
This past summer we tried to explore this preserve, but we were rushed through by the swarms of mosquitoes who found us to be a delectable treat. With this being a wetland with old growth trees, it makes sense.
About the woods from the ODNR website:
"Johnson Woods is one of Ohio's largest and best remaining old-growth forests.
Many trees rise 40-50 feet before the first limbs occur and several are more than 400 years old. Some are 120 feet tall with a diameter of 4 to 5 feet. The largest trees, then and now, are white oaks, red oaks and hickories.
Many of the larger oaks and hickories are now dying because they have reached the end of their biological lifespans. As older trees die, they are being replaced by more shade-tolerant trees, such as sugar maple and American beech. As a consequence of this natural succession from an oak-hickory community to a beech-maple community, the maples and beeches are becoming more prominent members of the forest community at Johnson Woods.
Swamp forest communities, dominated by red maples and pin oaks, are found in the more poorly drained sections of the preserve. Several buttonbush swamps are found in depressional areas which are frequently associated with a swamp forest community.
An impressive display of wildflowers flourishes in the spring, including trout lilies, large-flowered trillium, several species of violets, and windflower. Summer brings the cathedral-like canopy of leaves, which becomes more colorful as autumn has its affect on the woods. Winter emphasizes the massive trunks and the height of the huge trees.
In addition to its importance as one of the few old growth forest stands remaining in Ohio, Johnson Woods is also significant for its size. At 206 acres, Johnson Woods is a self-supporting ecosystem. Its large size makes it less vulnerable to storm damage and threats from disease. Birds, such as the pileated woodpecker, scarlet tanager, Acadian flycatcher, wood thrush, ovenbird and hooded warbler, are found nesting at Johnson Woods along with many other species that are dependent upon larger tracts of forests. The size, age and history of Johnson Woods make it one of the most significant forest communities in Ohio."
It was a frigid, blustery winter day, amplified by the unseasonable warmth which had kept the grass green up to that point. No snow had fallen so everything felt sharp and crisp. None of that would stop us, it was a new year and we must go outside!
The forest floor is a soft swampy ground, so a boardwalk leads the way through the trees and brush. Along the path are markers informing you about the trees and the grounds with which you wander. A bench allows you to rest and contemplate the trees, some trees here have been since before the Mayflower landed on the shores of America, it's inspiring and humbling to be in the presence of the trees. Reflecting on them makes our existence feel so short and insignificant. The trail is an easy one mile loop, but there's so much to see. With the newly set on cold weather, the ice needles had rose from the ground (see the last couple images), more info on what and why those are to come.
The briskness of the walk was the perfect wake up for the new year. I look forward to exploring the trail more as the seasons change.
A park I've always know was there, but never ventured to explore. At the end of a dirt road beyond the skate park, beyond various industries, sits Grosjean Park.
No maps, no information, just a blank kiosk with a sign letting you know you've arrived.
When we went it was fantastically overgrown, so we picked a direction and started walking. Soon we came upon a beaten path leading us past various posts with numbers (possibly remnants from years past as campsite markers? In doing research I couldn't find any evidence of public camping in the park. If you have any info on this please share!) following the path lead us down to the creek, Apple Creek to be precise. The wide but shallow creek stumbling over stones as it travels round twists and turns ultimately ends up joining Killbuck Creek by Blachleyville Rd. We then left the creek and headed back up the trail, I kept noticing a plant which seemed to blanket the banks, the bushes, really anywhere there was ample light, it wasn't virginia creeper nor was it kudzu, after looking into it it's in fact Japanese Hops, a noxious weed meaning it is not only invasive but it is detrimental to the natural balance of an area. We continued on through the woods, along the creek, over logs, until we came upon a group of houses and turned back. The trail along the other way (walking towards the skatepark) is more well manicured, opening from the trees to a beach like area. Sand and stones frame the creek around sharp turns. It is a very beautiful area.
Why is the park so overgrown?
It's not necessarily a park for hiking, the main focus of this green area is as a trout release area for the organization Trout Unlimited (more on the Clear Fork River TU Chapter here) . This is a hotspot for fly fishermen (catch & release) and is a pretty well known area in those groups. Therefore there's very little need for trail maintenance as most use the water to travel in their waders.
How did the park come to be?
In August 2001, Alice (Grosjean) donated 86 acres of land to the City of Wooster to be used as a park and nature trail. She wanted it to be named "Grosjean Park" in honor of her husband (George).
Driving down rt 30 towards Wooster before you get to the Madison Ave exit, look to your right, all those trees, that creek, the meadow are all part of Grosjean Park.
Item of notoriety -
In researching this topic I came across a fascinating document "Wooster Envisioned - Comprehensive Plan 2014" this document is of extreme importance as it lays out the plan to improve Wooster as a city and how it is to move forward.
I bring it up as one of the key areas it focuses on is the Little Apple Creek - Grosjean Park area.
"Parks & recreational services are often regarded as unimportant in city budgets because their cost exceeds their direct revenue. The benefits of parks and recreation services are instead measured by the social and economic impacts on the surrounding area and the community as a whole." - This is why it is so very important to get involved, volunteer whenever you can!
Work with local groups such as the OARDC or Trout Unlimited to make improvements to Grosjean Park that will enhance access and serve as a destination for environmental education and/or outdoor recreation.
The proximity of Grosjean Park to the Little Apple Creek and Downtown make it a very valuable space for enhancements. By partnering with local groups, the City can use this space to educate while enhancing the function of the park itself. The advancement of the park will establish it as a destination and resource.
Ensure new development near Little Apple Creek maintains naturalized, publicly accessible, passive park space.
Little Apple Creek is one of Wooster's best natural assets and should be preserved at all costs. The area should be used as an asset to the whole community by making sure it is accessible to the public and undeveloped. Creating a bike path along the Creek will make it more attractive to residents while ensuring the area does not get developed.
-Objective PR.5 - Protect and enhance the Little Apple Creek greenway.
Action PR.5.1 - Protect the riparian areas along the Creek.
Action PR.5.2 - Create new recreational and educational amenities and activities along the Creek.
Action PR.5.3 - Support the creation of a "Friends of the Little Apple Creek" group for fundraising and volunteer labor, promotion, and security.
Action PR.5.4 - Work with Trout Unlimited to create or attract an angling or conservation event.
These are just overviews of the document, more information can be found at the links below.
The entire comprehensive plan can be found here (copy and paste full website into browser window)-
The chapter on Parks & Recreation can be found here (copy and paste full website into browser window)-
There's a lot of potential for this great natural resource, keep an eye on it for great things to come!
All images are property of Emily Speelman and Emily Speelman Photography 2015
As avid hikers, Noah and I have been to many, many, parks, forests, and preserves in our area, yet only last week did we find a 'new' park in our old hometown. -Barnes Preserve-
On Sylvan Rd. just past Secrest Rd. is a small turnoff with a wooden sign letting you know you've arrived. From there, let the adventurer in you take over; a bit of wandering and you'll find the path. Walking through the woods the path opens up and you can see where other people as well as equine have traveled through leading the way around the bend where a pond can be found just off the path. At the pond we were greeted by a choir of squeaking, peeping, and splashing frogs, the day we chose was a bit cloudy, windy, and chilly so not many other animals were out. While at the pond admiring the number of hickory trees and their yearly harvest I found a Hickory Tussock Moth Larva (the white and black caterpillar; about the caterpillar: poisonous to the touch but fun to watch (really though, it'll give you a pretty rough rash)!). From there we continued down the path where we came upon a brilliant bright yellow meadow of goldenrod "The Meadow Scenic Trail" a sign from years past still enduringly braves the elements to inform travelers of their whereabouts. The meadow reveals views of rolling hills and farms as far as the eye can see. Once you near the end of the meadow trail you will find a row of fruit trees and the remains of a barn, the fences still in tact. The end brings you to the Wayne County Care Center, we walked up the road to the park's informational kiosk, but couldn't find a loop back so we walked back up through the meadow (no complaints here, just noting).
In researching this park there are many, many great things in store, a little history of the park first, then feast your eyes on all the great additions soon to come!
History of the park:
The Barnes Preserve land was once part of the Wayne County Care Center's farm and is named after the Barnes family that operated the Care Center for many years.
After the farm at the Wayne County Care Center ended operations...
"The park district was organized in 1991 with three commissioners — Peter Sanford, Libby Bruch and Stewart Simonds. And while Simonds himself put in a few trails and science classes from Triway High School made paths there and put some semblance of a pond, there was no money to do much of anything else. The district made three failed attempts — in 1996, 1998 and 2001 — to pass a 0.25-mill levy. And in 2005, Van Pelt said, the park district lost one of its biggest champions when Simonds died unexpectedly.
In the meantime, a barn on the property was destroyed by fire, taking with it some picnic tables. The 2010 tornado that tore through the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center also hit the preserve, taking 70 trees with it.
But now, with the incorporation of a Friends of the Parks organization and the receipt of several grants, plans to develop the Barnes Preserve for future generations are rolling along. Simonds launched the Friends group in 1999 and it gained nonprofit status the next year. Four years ago, Van Pelt said, the all-volunteer organization was reactivated and now meets monthly alongside the park district’s commissioner. "
(Source: Wooster Weekly News July 2015)
The future of the park:
"The development of the Barnes Preserve is multi-faceted, consisting of five (5) separate phases and will address two existing problems. First, it will address the need for the development of the Wayne County Park District to increase the outdoor recreation opportunities available within the County. Second, it will address and resolve the need for a fully accessible outdoor recreation site in Wayne County, including meandering trails throughout the woods and meadow that are accessible for all Ohioans, specifically designed to fully include individuals with physical disabilities....
Upon its completion, the Barnes Preserve will provide non-motorized, diverse trails which allow for bicycle use, skating, walking and jogging; picnic areas, wildlife observation, photography areas, fishing, and playground equipment accessible to individuals of all abilities."
To be completed this fall....
"Installation of two parking lots; handicapped accessible lot is at Pavilion (Fall 2015)
Construction of fully accessible Pavilion and ADA compliant picnic tables (Fall 2015)
Construction of a wheelchair accessible observation deck at wetland pond at woods’ edge (2015) "
More info on Friends of the Wayne County Park District & Barne's Preserve can be found here.
Volunteers make it happen! Click the link to find out how you can get involved.
View images from our adventure below.
Since 2015 we have been exploring and sharing all the amazing things we’ve found in nature.
Emily is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist who is most often found out in the woods.