6/1 The Best Berry You’ve Never Tasted

Mulberries that actually taste great, from a tree by the Louisville Nature Center

Right now the forest is alive with the “beads on a string” whistling of Cedar Waxwings. I wanted to include a pic of what they’re doing – gorging on mulberries, but mostly it’s a way-high-in-the canopy sort of party. This social, frugivorous (fruit eating) bird is here because in some parts of our forest, every tenth tree is a mulberry. Desirable as these mulberries are to birds, most of them are not the native Red Mulberry, Morus rubra. Read More

5/22 Opening Pandora’s Box


Cut stumps reveal the plant diversity in this landscape has been narrowed down to nothing but “old growth” Bush Honeysuckle

Working on invasive plants is like managing the behavior of a defiant two year old. One must be consistent and firm in resolve, day after day, for at least sixteen years. Let up for even a little while and you lose a lot of ground. Of course, most two year olds grow up to be some sort of adult, but invasive plants never go away.

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5/10 The Box Turtle’s Predicament


Box turtles mating; the male leans back with feet locked under the female’s carapace

And no, I don’t mean this sort of predicament. In fact, there’s not enough of this going on, and that’s a real problem for turtle populations.  Read More

4/23 Battle of Wits

image: Fritz Rohmer Reynolds

Once upon a time, Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum biflorum, dangled its creamy bell-like blooms all over this forest. Then came Bush Honeysuckle and deep shade. Even then Solomon’s Seal bloomed along the trail where light could reach it. Then came deer and no more flowers. Like discerning foodies seeking the perfect meal, whitetails parse the forest floor and they don’t miss much. A better common name for Solomon’s Seal would be “Deer Asparagus” (it’s closely related).

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4/16 Sleepers Awaken


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Whether it’s the alarm clock forcing you out of bed, or the breaking dawn telling you to sing – everybody has to wake up sometime. If you’ve been sleeping for six months in the earth, I imagine it might be a little harder. But for at least one Box turtle in our forest today was the day. Look closely at the pic above, it’s more than just mud. Read More

4/9 Big Woodpecker

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“Does that big woodpecker still live in here?”, a forest visitor asked me last week. By amazing coincidence we were standing almost at the spot where, a few days later, I was lucky enough to see one up close. Though sometimes elusive, Pileated woodpeckers can be surprisingly easy to watch since they often forage near the ground. North America’s largest woodpecker is definitely at home in this forest; both bird and forest have made a comeback in the last half century. Read More

4/2 Here But Not There


Tout lily about to bloom, surrounded by Privet, Japanese Honeysuckle and Wintercreeper

Much as I appreciate a fine spread of early spring wildflowers, I used to think of them more as the icing on the cake. A pretty face, here and gone, no match for the gravitas of old trees. And it’s hard to get intimate with spring ephemerals; don’t touch-don’t-pick-stay on the trail. The most helpful thing we can do is keep our distance. I want to get in there and crawl around, experience them up close.

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3/23 Burden of Snow


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male Spicebush flower bud starting to open

Have you ever wondered why plants have such varied architecture? Among the selection pressures shaping the planet’s flora, heavy burdens of snow have been major. This past week’s spring surprise, though very brief, showed how differently the plants in our forest handle this kind of stress.

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3/21 Early Herps

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Early spring trilling of frogs is not to be heard in this forest anymore, despite acres of temporary wetlands. But thankfully other herps have managed to survive the various uses this land has been put to, and its increasing isolation from other fragments of habitat. Box turtles find our moist lowland forest has everything they need, and I was lucky enough to witness the very early emergence of this male turtle on a warmish day over a week ago.

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3/12 Ephemeral


Fleshy leaves sheltering a cluster of flower buds – Cut-leaved Toothwort, Cardamine concatenata, has already emerged on 3/5. “Spring Ephemeral” is not the best term for these hardy little early bloomers. Though their flowers are brief, they’re very long-lived. As the first to come up from the warming soil, they’re also well-adapted to any radical swings of temperature March may offer up. But early spring has its advantages, mainly a sunny leaf-free understory (when the sun is even out). Spring ephemerals are not “shade plants” when they’re blooming.

Going dormant early, they survive by storing energy in corms and rhizomes for most of the year. Their long absence definitely makes my heart grow fonder. Read More