Friday, August 18, 2017

Mohican love.

Some things are simply too special to be treated like the rest.  Your grandchildren for example, are somehow more- dear to your heart.  Or the Vietnam Memorial, feels like a yet fresh wound.  Something we treat a bit differently than a Revolutionary War relic.

Mohican State Forest is like that.  Sure, when it was set aside as a State Forest, it was because the land had been misused and eroded.  It needed the protection offered by the State. The Civilian Conservation Corps planted thousands upon thousands of trees to restore the land. A Memorial Forest was set aside, as a tribute to those who had died in American wars.   The land, like our country, began to heal.

Today, those pines stand tall.  Occasionally, with a glimpse from the right angle, you’ll even notice the straight lines in which they were planted.  But the course of time has changed things, dramatically.  These are no longer the saplings our forefathers planted.  They are tall, nearly century old trees.  A forester might say they are “over-mature”.  But in the scale of deep-time and the ages, they have barely started.  Compared to rock and the soils in which they stand, they are mere kindergarten trees.

Trees, like people, don’t always age well.  Some get disease, other are victims of invasive insects, accidents, or calamitous weather events.  Death is a part of life, and death in the forest means regeneration.  The fallen- feed the molds and microbes until they become one with the soil again.

The openings created when a tree falls become an interior island of biodiversity.    Pioneering plants, waiting as seeds in the soils, react to the sunlight with luxuriant growth.  Young trees quickly race toward the sky to fill the hole. Birds and other wildlife, respond to these edge habitats, filling them with song and young.

Not all of Mohican is planted pines.  The Mohican Gorge is a gift from the Ice Age.  The steep banks and soft native Hemlocks create habitat for ground thrushes, like Veery and Wood Thrush. Wintering migrants, such as crossbills and Evening Grosbeak seek the shelter of our dense evergreen forest, unlike the 4%-5% of evergreen cover the Division of Wildlife cites for the rest of Ohio.

We don’t want Mohican to look or feel -or sound- like the rest of Ohio.  It is special.  From the Clear Fork State Nature Preserve and the trails at the Covered Bridge to the pine woodlots, Mohican is more than a good place to produce pulpwood and timber.  It is not just a forest for the trees.  As in any dynamic ecosystem, Mohican needs all stages and ages of lifeforms- including trees.

Ohio Division of Forestry would like us to think of Mohican as an industrial woodlot.  And yes, they are the experts on producing board feet of timber and pulp.  However, if another stick of lumber never came out of Mohican, we would have no “timber crisis” or shortage in Ohio.  Our private foresters are serving us well, producing 97% of Ohio’s timber products on private lands.  But Mohican’s public land is simply too special to be in a timber rotation, or subject to selective cuts.

Mohican is for Moms and Dads. It is a place for family picnics and hikes.  The roar of saws and timber trucks should be as infrequent as the ones in our own backyards at home: restricted to safety issues and truly hazardous trees.

Most of all, Ohioans own Mohican and should not be brushed aside by the Division of Forestry to use our recreational haven for their timber crop.   

Mohican should not be treated like other state forests, it is simply too special.

Cheryl Harner, Weedpicker

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Admiring Trees

This week has been peak bloom for mid-Ohio's native Black Locust trees.  Their Latin name  Robinia pseudoacacia is a reflection of its Acacia-like flowers. You need to look no further than Ohio's highways and byways to find their white blossoms standing out like a beacon. The extra inches of rain we had this winter/spring must have super-sized their fragrant flowers. 

Two landscape specimens near Chesterville, Ohio.
 Any landscaper or nurseryman would be likely to snuff and dismiss this native tree with a "too weedy, too thorny." However, I am noticing the spectacular beauty of specimen trees from long-ago landscapes.  I never realized Black Locust could become such a sizable tree.  Each of these two are about five feet in circumference, and the older trunks are thornless.

The Acacia like flowers of Black Locust.
These flowers are the real selling point.  Giant pea-like blossoms waft an incredible fragrance across the country-side.  Bee keepers know that Black Locust is favorite for their striped wards. I've been told the honey tastes like cotton candy.

In honor of pollinators, let's all plant a few of these bee trees.

This unexpected behemoth resides in Ontario, Ohio.
It did my heart good to find this venerable old locust on the edge of a landscaper's parking lot of a in Ontario, Ohio.  One can only hope the owner appreciates the size and age of this over-sized tree and continues to allow it to grace the property. It would take the outstretched arms of at least two adults to encircle this massive tree.

Who is this funny-looking caterpillar?
 Black locust are not just beneficial to bees.  They are also the host plant to the strange stripey caterpillars of the Silver-spotted Skipper.

Silver-spotted Skippers... doing what they do.
 The only Silver-spotted Skipper photo stored in my files was this mating pair.  Funny how we forget to photo document the most common butterflies and birds we see. This should be a lesson to us. Five  years ago when the Monarch butterflies were in the worst year of their decline, we all wished we had taken more photos of them when they were considered commonplace.

If you want to know what a person treasures, look at their photographs.  As for me, I am taking more photos of Black Locusts, bees and butterflies.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hiking KY. with Friends

 A recent trip to Kentucky celebrated friendship and a love of nature.  A large group of us invaded the Gen. Butler State Park (Ky.) for some hiking and lots of time with friends.  There were some nice wild flowers, but not the most pristine hiking.  We'll cover that later.
Jan Voelker, Connie Sauter, Jim Davidson and Susan Nash
A portion of my hiking buddies are noted here.  There was a much larger group, but these three were my cabin mates plus Jim Davidson.  Most of us have met through Jim Davidson and he has mentored us in plants, mushrooms, butterflies, dragonflies and all things moving around outdoors!

Connie moving in for the shot
 The Miami Mist, Phacelia purshii was in magnificent bloom at the Gen. Butler mansion's trail to the cemetery.  It was one of the few relatively level walks we made.  Much of the terrain and trails were steep and in none too good of repair.

Miami Mist, Phacelia pershii
 If you go to see wildflowers in Kentucky, I'd recommend using the Wildflowers of the Tennessee ans Ohio Valley (also good for Shawnee Park and Forest in Ohio.)  There are several types of Phacelia, but only two species have this lovey fringed edge on the flower.  Miami Mist is the larger and more colorful of the two species.

Juniper Hairstreak butterfly
A green butterfly is always a show stopper.  The only green butterfly in our part of the U.S. is the tiny Juniper Hairstreak.  Several were seen this day and chased about by excited naturalists!  This one was most cooperative as it nectared on Butterweed.  Butterweed is a native Senecio (Southern U.S.) that has been moving steadily north in the last 10 years.  Climate change, much?

Gemmed Satyr
The Gemmed Satyr may be more common that we think, as this tiny butterfly looks pretty non-descript until one sees the "gems". It too, is a show stopper if you manage to get the sunlight glinting off the gem spots. This butterfly has erratic "flippy" flight, commonly associated with satyrs. Take a moment to look closer at those little brown bugs!

Jim Davidson and Cheryl Harner
Parting shot: your blogger getting in trouble!  I can't help myself.  Jim Davidson is such a dear friend to so many who have learned from him and enjoyed the songs of yesteryear.  We have a tendency to walk and burst forth with old botanizing songs like:  "Oh, Dear, What Can the Madder be?"  Never underestimate the power fun has on learning capabilities.  It is far more fun and memorable to sing names than it is to argue over botanical nomenclature.  I wish everyone could have a mentor like Jim!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Gardening, Birding, Bees and Much More!!

If you haven't made your reservation yet, 

CALL TODAY!!   (740) 503-5108

The Licking County Master Gardeners put on a great program and I am thrilled to be able to return this year! They have ordered up some of the best nature-related speakers in Ohio.  This program is a FULL HOUSE of top-notch programs to help you enjoy and prepare for spring.

Please join us on Saturday, April 1.  

You love the vendor Market Place and the programs offered.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Big thoughts on big trees

The next couple  of months I am booked to do several programs on trees.  Some of the best naturalist in the state of Ohio and beyond have formed my opinion on trees.  That opinion has been further refined by numerous books and tree-tourism. 

Whether the program is focused on trees for birds, or legacy trees, or trees for your yard, the admiration for trees should be obvious.  Look to the side-bar on your right for more information about upcoming programs.

Richland Co. Ohio Big Tree Tour    2006
 Steve McKee started my interest in big trees with a tour he put together in Richland County.  One truism I have discovered by looking over 10 years or more of tree photos- people love to be photographed with a tree!  We should start a #BigTree hash tag just to share all these magnificent photos.

 If you are a birder, you might recognize the name on the cover of this book.  David Sibley wrote and illustrated this excellent guide to trees.  This is a broad, brush-strokes book.  It might not have the details a botanist would want, but I love the artistic impressions and discoveries David portrays of American trees.  It might give you some fresh perspectives, too.

Your blogger with a giant Eastern Hemlock in West Virginia.
 Trees make me happy.  Big trees make me downright giddy. Maybe if we spent more time with big trees we would have a better understanding of our brief and temporary lifespan on this earth.  This tree was around before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock; I hope is it still standing long after I am gone.  It was an honor to spend time in the shadow of its greatness for one afternoon.  It certainly had more impact on me, than I had on it.

If you, too, are interested in trees and would like to plant more habitat in your yard or local plot, please go to Riverside Nursery's excellent web-app and see which native trees grow in your Ohio county.  You will also want to factor in if your tree-site is wet or dry.  It is all right there, based on The Woody Plants of Ohio book by Dr. E. Lucy Braun.
Spring is coming!  Let's get out and plants some native Ohio trees.