Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice!

Today is the year's shortest day. To celebrate we cut our Christmas tree at Wahmhoff Farms.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Year-round Kalamazoo

Here's a technology that's new to me: Prezi. It's marketed as an alternative to PowerPoint, but it seems like more than that. The presentation may take a minute to load.

Navigation: clicking the arrow below the box should take you through the presentation, or you can press "tab" on your keyboard.

To see it full screen, use this address: and mouse-over "more" to select full screen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snow Day

The first winter storm of the season hit Kalamazoo last night. The kids were delighted when school was canceled.

It's a good day to read about snow science (and see some amazing snowflake photos.)

Friday, December 4, 2009


While this wasn't the first snow of the season, it is the first snow that really stuck. This morning's Winter white was a dramatic change from yesterday's earth tones.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall color

Many local trees have lost their leaves already but a few still show spectacular color, like this maple in Kalamazoo's Bronson Park.

The Botany Photo of the Day has an interesting post on how sunlight affects color development in individual leaves.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009


This morning, I saw a hawk swoop low across a courtyard at WMU. It flew out of sight but I heard a thud. It had crashed into a glass door at Dunbar Hall & when I took this picture I thought the poor bird was dead. But, almost immediately its eyes flickered and then fully opened. A few seconds later it flew up and landed in typical hawk pose. It looked a bit confused but on its way to recovery.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orange Fringed Orchid

This pretty bog flower is usually called the "Yellow Fringed Orchid" but our local ones are orange. A less common but more romantic name is "Bobwhite’s Moccasin." Platanthera ciliaris is its current Latin name. It's legally protected in Michigan as an endangered species.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Portage linear park

Portage Creek Bicentennial Park is a paved trail hidden behind Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo's main commercial strip. It's a popular spot for biking, rollerblading, and strolling. Parking is available at the Portage Library, Celery Flats Interpretive Center (Garden Lane), Milham Avenue, and Kilgore Road. It's the centerpiece of Portage's bikeways.

Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Celery Flats livery on summer weekends. [2011 update: budget problems eliminated regular rental program; group rentals, by reservation, may be available.]

Portage Creek Bicentennial Park
910 E Milham
Portage, MI

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Starflower, Trientalis borealis, is another wildflower I needed to look up in a guidebook. Its seven petals are really distinctive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fringed Polygala

Walking through the woods near the Pere Marquette river, we saw lots of these colorful little flowers. At the time, none of us recognized them, but I found them pretty easily in a fieldguide. Polygala paucifolia are commonly known as the fringed polygala, gaywing milkwort, or flowering wintergreen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


The Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, is one of Michigan's showiest native trees. The flowers are about the same size as trillium flowers and their blooming season overlaps. Because of its beauty and reasonable size, this native has become a popular garden tree.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet tanagers are a brilliant bird of the mature forest. They migrate from South America-- Ecuador, Colombia, Peru-- each summer to nest and breed in Michigan and neighboring states.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fade to pink

Trillium grandiflorum's common name is the White Trillium because of its beautiful white flowers. As the flowers age, they take a pink tint. Some even turn a deep red as the petals wilt.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Canada geese, Branta canadensis, are common in our neighborhood, but this year was the first time they nested in our backyard. Now the eggs have hatched and the babies are eagerly eating dandelions from my lawn.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lady's Slipper

Cypripedium acaule or Pink Lady's Slipper orchid, is a seasonal beauty. I usually think of them as wetland plants, but this one was growing in sandy soil on a bluff above the Pere Marquette river. Most wild orchids are protected in Michigan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

half-free morel

I'd never found this kind of morel before this weekend and I would have had trouble identifying it if I hadn't read this Northern Country Morels webpage.

We also found Gyromitra esculenta, a false morel that can be lethal. We didn't pick those.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Race for light

The trees are starting to leaf-out which means the early wildflower season in Kalamazoo is coming to an end. Many of the plants that were in bloom two weeks ago have finished for the year and their leaves are already fading. The trillium, phlox, anemone, and blue-eyed Mary are in full flower now, but soon the floor of the woods will be in daylong shade.

In the few weeks after winter's last killing frost and before the tree leaves form a solid canopy, ephemeral wildflowers need to sprout, bloom, get pollinated, and set seed. It's a short season, but beautiful.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Morels are one of the highlights of Spring in Michigan. These distinctive mushrooms only appear for a few weeks each year. Mothers' Day is typically the height of the season around Kalamazoo. I spotted these yesterday at the Kalamazoo Nature Center, which meant I couldn't pick them. This weekend, I'll go morel hunting with friends. Success is never guaranteed, but the walk through woods is always worthwhile. The mushrooms, prepared simply by frying in a little butter, are delicious.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trout lily

A trout lily by any other name...?

This early wildflower is also known as Faun lily, Adders Tongue, and Dogtooth violet, which is probably why botanists prefer the latin name Erythronium americanum. By any name, it was really popular with the bees and beetles at the Kalamazoo Nature Center yesterday afternoon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Marsh Marigold

April 15 means income taxes but for me it's a reminder to go look for wildflowers around Kalamazoo. The marsh marigolds, Caltha palustris, were spectacular in the afternoon sun.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


As I write this, it's -3° (-20° C) in Kalamazoo. Even the wildlife looks cold. Of course, its much colder on the other side of Lake Michigan.