Friday, October 16, 2015

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania is ensconced within the lovely Allegheny Plateau. It is a portion of the LEAP (Lake Erie and Allegheny Plateau) study area sponsored by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  This week, LEAP had a training workshop at the Jennings Environmental Center and our field trips filled our hearts and minds with fall beauty.

The Jennings Prairie features Shingle Oak, Quercus imbricaria.
 When I arrived, my first thought was, "A Prairie?  You've got to be kidding me?"  I felt fairly assured in my belief that prairies are not a natural part of the Pennsylvania landscape.  Well, I was mostly right.  A native prairie in Pennsylvania is a rarity. That is exactly what made this area worthy of protection as the Jennings State Park.

Blue Willow- an unusual prairie component.
Blue Willow, Salix myricoides ("myricoides" means: like bayberry) forms small stands in this wet prairie formed from clay soils. It seemed to be an unusual component for a prairie, and a plant I have only previously seen in Ohio fens. Its attractive blue leaves are wider than most plants in the willow family and do resemble the leaves of the bayberry.

A Memorial wall for Ohio born botanist, O.  E. Jennings
This unique botanical area was discovered by Otto E. Jennings, a Pennsylvania botanist who was born in Ohio and attended OSU.  He was legendary in these parts and the Jennings State Park was named in his honor.  Follow this link to learn more about him.
Blazing star- the "prairie"giveaway!
 Jennings discovered this prairie when he found a large community of Blazing Stars, Liatris sp.  This photo shows the seed head in fall, but the link above takes you to an excellent photo of the purple flower in full bloom.  It is a standard for Ohio and Indiana prairies, but the plant is considered a rarity in PA.

 Another interesting component of this wet prairie is the Massasauga rattlesnake.  One was seen just early last week, but it was likely headed toward hibernation.

Botanist and land managers working on a rapid forest assessment.
 The workshop held at Jennings dealt with assessment of natural areas.  Our group which comprised of land managers, botanists and ecologist from both Ohio and Pennsylvania headed out to the woods to put our knowledge to work.  We enjoyed assessing this high quality Allegheny forest at Wolf Creek Trail which is part of the Western Pennsylvania Land Conservancy's holdings.

Wolf Creek at Slippery Rock, PA.
I'll leave you with a photo of the the colors along Wolf Creek Trail.  Nothing I can say will enhance the beauty this natural area already provides of its own accord.  Get out soon and enjoy a natural area, even if you are only able to assess it by the beauty which you behold. 

Fall is here...

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