Saturday, April 27, 2013

KRVT wildflowers

Another week of April rain, hail, snow, and work kept me inside, but Saturday was glorious: sunny and warm.  I was torn between a trip to the Kalamazoo Nature Center to see wildflowers or my first bike ride of the season.  The bike ride won, but it turned out to be a good afternoon for wildflowers as well.

I think of the northern leg of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail as the most scenic and the most likely section for nature but today I took the western segment that connects to the Kal-Haven Trail.  This part of the trail runs from Westnedge Avenue near downtown Kalamazoo to the 10th street trailhead with lots of street crossings, light industry, and it includes nearly a mile on the edge of Ravine Road.    
The westernmost part of the KRVT  (around trail marker 1.5 mi) had several nice patches of yellow Trout Lilies and a large number of Toothwort.  They continued nearly all the way to the trailhead parking lot. Mixed in, were a handful of Dutchman's Breeches in bloom.  (Apparently it's still before their peak.)
The highlight was the most impressive display of Bloodroot that I can remember seeing.  There were several large patches of brilliant white Bloodroot flowers, including one with more than 100 blossoms together.  The Bloodroot flowers were so bright and so big, relative to other Spring ephemerals, that I thought the first patch was some kind of domestic flower that escaped a garden.

Individual Bloodroot flowers don't last long so I was happy to have seen them at their peak.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wildflower season 2013 begins

I hadn't had much of a chance to get out in the woods to look for Kalamazoo wildflowers due to a combination of work commitments, travel, and what seemed to be nearly constant rain (as well as Saturday's snow).  Last year, the wildflowers bloomed a full month earlier, so I was afraid I'd missed the start of the season.  But, a quick visit to the Kalamazoo Nature Center this afternoon, showed the 2013 season was just starting.  The early ephemerals were in flower; the Hepatica may be near their peak and the Spring Beauty seemed to be just starting.  Bloodroot was in flower.  I even saw a few Harbinger of Spring with late blossoms, although most of them had gone to seed.

I had glimpsed Marsh Marigolds in bloom along I-94 yesterday, and they were also flowering at the nature center.  Like the Spring Beauty, they seem to be at the beginning of their bloom.
Toothwort, Trout Lily, and Rue Anemone had buds but few blooms.  Mayapples were emerging, but their umbrellas were still tightly furled.  Most of the Dutchman's Breeches only had a few immature green flowers, but a handful of plants in sunny areas were in flower.

So far, this year seems similar to the 2011 wildflower bloom.  If that pattern holds, a period of warm weather could cause a condensed season where everything blossoms within a few weeks.  In any case, the next week or so should be a great time to visit some of the local wildflower hotspots or travel a bit to other wildflower spots in West Michigan.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hueston Woods State Park

Spring has sprung in Ohio.
Hueston Woods State Park is about 5 hours southeast of Kalamazoo in Oxford, Ohio.  Last week's rain had kept me indoors despite my eagerness to check our local wildflowers and I was going to out-of-town this weekend.  Yesterday, I was at Miami University of Ohio for an event and I had the afternoon free so I decided to visit Hueston Woods which was only five miles from the University.
Oxford is more than 100 miles south of Kalamazoo and the signs of Spring were visible in town with daffodils and magnolias in bloom, while Kalamazoo enjoyed crocuses and promise for the future.  The same was true in the woods.  As soon as I pulled into the parking lot for the Blue Heron trail  I saw thousands of flowering Spring Beauty, Dutchman's Breeches, and Toothwort.  Mayapple umbrellas were up and open.  The short trail to Acton Lake was through a mature maple beech forest and the wildflowers continued, with Toad Trillium being a highlight.  
The park offers several short hiking trails, a separate mountain bike trail system, horse trails, camping, a Nature Center, swimming, boating, and fishing, a lodge, a golf course, and a disc golf course.  (See the park map for details [pdf].) 

The park also allows fossil collection (for personal use) in two areas along Four Mile Creek.  The Ohio DNR provides a nice guide to the Ordovician fossils of the park [pdf].  I found a couple of nice brachiopods, a horn coral, and lots of mollusk shell fossils in just a few minutes.  (Dry Dredgers, a fossil enthusiast organization, reports on a field trip to Hueston Woods with lots of photos.)
While it was nice having a walk in the Spring woods while Kalamazoo had some end-of-season snow,  the park is a long drive from southwest Michigan.  If your travels take you to the area, I would certainly recommend it.
Hueston Woods State Park
College Corner, OH 45003

free admission