Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Modern-day Muir

 "There are few things in life as noble or as satisfying as preserving a bit of the living planet." Paul Knoop. Jr.

Paul Knoop, Jr. 
"At the age of 80, Paul continues to be a champion of the land through his eloquent writings on behalf of meadows and woodlands, parks and forests- his writing speaks directly to people's hearts. Like a modern-day Muir, Paul's sphere of influence is as far-reaching as his countless students and friends across the Midwest. He will long be remembered as the Patriarch of Ohio Naturalists." 
                                       Taken from the George B. Fell Award presentation text.

The National Natural Areas Conference was held in Dayton, Ohio this past week.  Some of the most outstanding minds from across the country gathered in the south-western corner of Ohio, to learn more about natural areas and to laud a few of their own.

No one was more pleased than I, to attend the banquet where Paul Knoop, Jr. received the George B. Fell Award.  This is the highest award given by Natural Areas and Ohio's favorite naturalist son, Paul Knoop, Jr. was an outstanding pick by the committee.

There was much joy in Mud-ville, Rock Hollow, and every other natural habitat found in Ohio!

Cathy and Paul Knoop, Jr. (holding award)
Paul and his bride, Cathy, are a significant force for nature education in Ohio.  His kind and gentle teachings lure students into the light of Natural Areas.  He provokes thought. He encourages, and supposes...  just the thing to warm-up the brain cells of a mind, young or old.

Paul and Cathy are staples at Camp Oty'okwa the Big Brothers and Big Sisters camp situated in the Hocking Hills. I had the good fortune to meet Paul through Flora-Quest.  He has always been one of our key leaders and a vital part of our program.  His main career was spent as an educator at the Aullwood Audubon Center in Dayton, where he started leading Audubon Society field trips when he was just 14 years old.

Dr. Reed Noss, Paul Knoop, Jr and Steve McKee
 This conference brought many luminaries back to Ohio, including Reed Noss (who once worked as a naturalist at Malabar Farm!)  Reed was a panelist for the discussion during the plenary session.  Reed has nearly 300 publications and is widely recognized as one of the 500 most cited authors in all fields.  It was an honor to witness this happy occasion where friends were reunited.

Three Cowboys, the good guys,  Paul Knoop, Jr., Eric Miller and Steve McKee
But this is where Paul is most comfortable- outdoors in the land he loves.  These three men have done much to conserve land in Central Ohio and comprise most of the board of the North Central Ohio Land Conservancy.  The Mohican area in particular has benefited by the land set aside by their efforts and the educational work they provide.

Nature has some excellent friends in Ohio, and one of them, Paul Knoop, Jr. has just been nationally recognized for being the unassuming super-star that we already love and respect.

Congratulations, Paul.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Curious By Nature

Do you slow down in the fall to admire the eddies and pools on calm water? Study the leaf dams created in a meandering river?  All of nature seems to wind-down in the fall.

No more hustle and bustle- gone is that urgency of spring.

Fall water: the river retreats and slows.
 Fall lends itself to reflection and quiet study on a riparian corridor.

Fall is the premiere mushroom viewing season.
Colors sharpen with the cooler weather.  The air is crisp.  It is the perfect time to reflect upon nature and changes.  Long term changes, short term changes and how changes in nature affect us.  We are but a part of nature's tapestry, one of the many threads of life, woven together.

Nelson's Ledges at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
If you too are curious by nature and interested in learning more, I hope you will join us at the inaugural Cuyahoga Valley Institute program November 8th and 9th.  This is an opportunity to attend workshops that examine how current issues impact society and community.

How did the canal ways impact mid-America?
 "Centered on the culture, history, spaces, and natural resources of the Cuyahoga Valley Institute aims to provide you unique opportunities to enjoy your national park, learn more about its rich past, and explore ideas  for the future."  *

Study the story of succession: marshes, woods and grasses.
Do we need prairies?
 "The theme of this fall's inaugural retreat, Curious by Nature, is drawn from a book with the same name, written by retreat facilitator Candace Savage. Savage is a Canadian author whose work has received recognition from the Canadian Science Writers Association, National Magazine Awards, and Saskatchewan Book Awards.

Join Savage and other expert presenters in examining how current issues impact society and community. You will also have plenty of time for relaxing, hiking, enjoying locally-sourced gourmet meals, and connecting with other passionate learners."  *

After reading Candace Savage's book, Prairie: A Natural History, I cannot tell you how excited I am to meet her in person!  It is a compelling story of the land.

You'll want to join us for the Ecology and Succession tract.  I hope to see you there!

Please click on this link:
Learn more, read presenter bios, and register.

Ecology and Succession:
Follow nature's roadmap from the early days of the park, before civilization moved across the fields and streams, to the current and always changing state of the land. Unpack the stories of the Beaver Marsh, the old Coliseum site, and Brecksville Dam, which are some of the many park sites that have been transformed.*

*portions quoted from the Cuyahoga Valley Institute website.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Sense of Place

Travel is the best way to experience the vast wonders of nature, and I have done my share. The verdant forests of West Virginia, the rocky mountains of Colorado, and the breath-taking vistas from Big Sur California, each are special for their own unique flora and fauna. 

Nothing annoys a plant enthusiast more than golf-course grass in the middle of a dessert or palm trees in Nevada! Seriously, we should travel to experience each unique location, not to visit some homogenization of landscape or the floristic counterpart of McDonald's fast food!

This gorgeous model has not been compensated to appear in this picture.
Yes, she is my daughter.
Experience the beauty of each place.  Breath deeply.  Let the colors penetrate your soul, and you will soon know why so many people migrate to the blue of Lake Erie for their vacations and relaxation.  This particular spot in Lakeside, Ohio is very special to my entire family.  One can visit our history and the natural world simultaneously.  View Perry's Monument on Put-in-Bay and scan little known Mouse Island, just off the point of Catawba Island.

No one enjoys horticulture more than I do.  After all, gardening is my primary hobby and it was once my livelihood. But, I have evolved.  Now I want more than ornamental plants such as hosta and day-lilies.  Subtle grasses and delicate flowers have their place too.

Quite possibly America's rarest flower, the Lakeside Daisy.
Too often we overlook the beauty in front of our very eyes. The Lakeside Daisy was considered unremarkable by locals, until visiting botanists recognized it for the rarity we now know it to be.

Consider the delicate flowers desperately clinging for life on an alvar, battered by waves of water and ice in hostile Lake Erie.

Little Blue Stem grasses line the shore.
Shorelines are given to erosion, by the same forces that batter those lakeshore alvars. So we are planting deep-rooted native grasses along the lake front on the west end of Lakeside. Native Ohio plants will do well growing in our climate and may have the fortitude to stand up to the temperament of the lake.
Butterfly-weed, Asclepias tuberosa is a host plant for Monarchs.
Milkweeds are also being added to the landscape in order to provide nectar and nursery space for Monarch butterflies.  Monarchs pass over these shores twice a year, on their way to and from Canada. Much has been written on the plight of our migration Monarchs, and we hope to give them a little assist.

Zebra-mussels may crowd our shore line, but make attractive slug control in flower beds.
Even alien invaders can be put to use.   Zebra-mussels are unwanted nuisances in our lake, clogging our water intakes and littering or shores with their sharp shells.  But, used as a mulching material, they blend in quite nicely with the existing shoreline and make a natural snail barrier for plants.  This is far better than using a poisonous snail bait which can harm pets.

Irish compost?  Sure, lake-weed is a natural for the garden!

The lake is determined to increase our compost piles with heaps of eelgrass, Vallisneria americana.
Farmers in Ireland have used seaweed to supplement their poor soils through-out the ages. Landscapes on Martha's Vineyard often utilize this bounty from the sea.  Why not? Eelgrass is filed with nutrients, readily adaptable to being used as a mulch and dries to a clean straw-like substance.

Piles of eelgrass on the shoreline.
When left to rot along the shoreline, eelgrass becomes rather rancid and fishy smelling. Pulled from the water and spread out to dry on the shore, it is odor-free and beneficial to shoreline stabilization. So we can clean up our lakeshore and put the material to good use at the same time.  This is just good old Yankee-engineering and common-sense gardening practices.

Planting Hibiscus moscheutos, our native marsh or rose mallows.
So join us where the sky meets the lake and the views of the Lake Erie Islands are unhampered! Lakeside is transforming the shoreline with a tidy little clean up along the lake. Plantings will re-introduce localized native plants and utilize some further afield Ohio natives that will thrive in this location.

We think it is a very progressive way to take a step back in time and witness our lakeshore au natural.

Monday, September 29, 2014

ONAPA visits Lakeside

 Saturday the 20th of September 2014 was a big day for Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association.  Our second Annual Meeting was held in Lakeside, Ohio. This organization is only two years old, but it has grown by leaps and bounds!  We have amazing volunteers working in preserves and the backing of some very impressive scientists and educators all across our state- and beyond.

Mr. Allison Cusick gave the Keynote address.
 Retired Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Chief Botanist, Allison Cusick, gave a rousing program on The New Sandusky Flora.

Besides being an excellent public speaker, Allison has also authored or co-authored 3 books. Currently, Allison is a Research Associate of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, PA. This man has hardly retired!

 He encouraged us to  "lament what has been lost, marvel at what has persisted and cheer at what has been preserved."  We literally cheered for some plants during this program, as Allsion is a gifted orator who knows how to engage a crowd!

His program referenced E.L. Moseley's Sandusky Flora which cataloged the plants of the Marblehead Peninsula and surrounding areas at the turn of the century (1900.)

 There were displays by supporting non-profits, Ohio Ornithological Society and Mid-West Native Plant Society were both in attendance (special thanks to Julie Davis and Kathy McDonald.)

Kevin Sibbring visits the ONAPA display.
The ONAPA display (thanks to Jan Kennedy) was also present, and Lakeside's CEO, Kevin Sibbring attended the event and gave us all a warm "Welcome to Lakeside."

Black Swamp Bird Observatory's display.
ONAPA supporters Kim and Kenn Kaufman.
 My friends, Hugh and Judy Kolo-Rose brought along the BSBO display and offered an amazing selection of books for sale.

ONAPA's Silent Auction, was an outstanding success, thanks to the efforts of Mary Christensen and Katryn Renard.  A special thank you goes out to the generous people and companies that donated items to this auction.  You have been a great blessing to ONAPA, and we appreciate your kind support.

Guy Denny
ONAPA  President, Guy Denny, gave an overview of the year and the amazing things ONAPA has accomplished.  Of course, he wouldn't say this, but Guy is the glue that holds this organization together!  We appreciate all he does and the incredible knowledge of leaders like Guy, Dick Moseley, Jim McGreggor, Bob McCance, Tim Synder, Ray Heithaus, Jim Mason and all the other board members who attended (and those who were unable to be with us.)  They do so much to protect our natural areas.

One field trip was held in Lakeside Ohio along the Ohio's Most Beautiful Mile.
 Field Trips!  What would an ONAPA event be without free Field Trips?  Guy Denny led a group to Castalia Praire, while Dick Moseley led a trip to Sheldon Marsh.  Meanwhile, your blogger got to lead a field trip on the shore of Lake Erie in Lakeside, Ohio.  We had wonderful groups both Saturday and Sunday. We discussed the unique Carolinian Forest botany of Lakeside and visited many native trees and plants along the lakefront path.

The self proclaimed "Cane Brigade."
As always, when leading groups one often gets more than they give.  It was such an honor to spend time with friends on this beautiful shoreline to exchange information on botany and plant ecology.  But even more than that, I was reminded how important it was to have this simple offering available to some wonderful folks who would have physical barriers to enjoying the other field trips.  Lakeside lends itself to the enjoyment and education of people in all walks and ages.  It was a distinct honor to be able to share one of my favorite vistas with my botanical friends.

Thank you to everyone who attended and supported the Silent Auction.  You are making this state a better place by supporting our Natural Heritage!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September on Lake Erie

Having spanned the country and visited countless parks, forests, natural areas and sea shores, I can assure you, it is nearly impossible to find anyplace more beautiful than Lakeside, Ohio.

 There is something about this town. First it gets into your heart and then silently creeps into your very soul. The call of shore birds and gentle slapping of the waves speak to me.  The vista of Lake Erie's Islands, floral gardens and these playful stone cairns  delight the eye. They won't last for long against Lake Erie's storms, but they balance the joy of "today" against the "forever" of rock.

Jewel-weed, Impatients capensis  on the rocks.
Lakeside is well known for its history and architecture.  It is a gated community in the summer, where children rule the streets and ice cream is considered the nectar of gods. It is a Chautauqua, and I could probably devote an entire blog to that alone, if I have not already. 

But it has a compelling natural history as well.  For example, these orange flowers growing in wild abandon on the lakefront attract Ruby-throated Hummingbirds which visit them for sustenance on their migration south for the winter.

Lakeside's administration has turned a serious eye to this issue and is promoting native plants and the "natural look" of our great lake, Erie. The fall migration of birds and Monarch butterflies both pass through these historic grounds. Our wildlife will appreciate the consideration we are giving to milkweeds for monarchs and bee-balms for pollinators in general.

Our native plant enthusiasts should be proud of the on-going effort to select Ohio native plants for the restoration of the west end's lakefront.  I hope you will join me for the Ohio Natural Areas and Preserves Association's Annual Banquet and field trips this weekend.  Keynote, Allison Cusick will be speaking about our native Sandusky Flora, and we will be leading tours on this lovely stretch of Ohio's Most Beautiful Mile.

The gales of September on Erie.
 And "weather" it is windy or balmy, Lake Erie and Lakeside is always my favorite place to be each fall. Every moment is to be savored...

especially, during the sun sets.