The east edge of the Douglas-Hart Nature Center woodland got a makeover. With over 3000 vehicles driving by each day and overgrown invasive plants, conservation staff felt it was a time to address the area. Normally it is not preferable to cut down habitat, but we knew that the unsightly mess would continue to become more troublesome for those that maintain our roadsides as well as the native species that we continue to promote throughout the woodland.
All the while we were cutting down scrub, we had always intended to improve the area with something better. The east edge border parallels about a 0.5 mile of trail. With the proximity of the trail with the road, we wanted to preserve a barrier that would not only provide a visual barricade, but also one that would reduce road noise so that patrons could more fully enjoy the trail experience. Since we wanted these barriers at all times of the year, evergreen trees were the natural option.
A good practice to follow is that if you are planting species in a row, which we were on the east edge, it is good to plant more than one species in case some sort of detrimental disease would affect the trees. Along the east edge there are White Pines (Pinus strobus) that were planted a couple of years ago. To finish off the area we selected Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana). While all evergreens provide desirable characteristics, red cedar has numerous wildlife benefits. Red Cedar is a significant source of shelter for wildlife.
The blue fruits on a female tree are eaten by a variety of wildlife including the Cedar Waxwing songbird. Red cedar also happens to be salt tolerant which makes it the perfect option given the proximity to the roadway. Red cedar is also one of the most drought tolerant evergreen species. Cedars in general can tolerate a wide variety of soils. The trees are also capable of providing a substantial windbreak, so much in fact that it was planted as a windbreak to offset the dustbowl conditions of the 1930’s. Luckily, the trees are now located in a spot where they will hopefully never have to prove their wind breaking abilities.
Happy National Take a Walk Day! Why not celebrate it by coming out and enjoying the trails? It is also spring and a variety of wildlife is starting to emerge. Spring is a time where plants and animals are growing and bursting with life! Flowers are blooming, insects are buzzing about, birds are singing, and mammals are waking up from their winter sleep. All kinds of wildflowers are beginning to bloom and many animals can be found out and about. Here is a “Spring Snapshot” of Douglas-Hart Nature Center.
Animals are starting to become active again, such as mammals, birds, and insects. A common mammal to see are squirrels. Squirrels can be found year round, but are most active in spring and fall. Eastern Fox Squirrels (Sciurus niger) can be seen running up trees, eating nuts, berries and seeds, and playing around. They can be commonly found in the Bird Garden eating the bird seed.
Not only are mammals being more active, but some of our insect friends have been making appearances. A couple that were spotted include a House Cricket (Acheta domesticus) and two Black Scavenger Flies (Parapalaeosepsis plebeia). In the spring, crickets will again become active in large numbers when the eggs begin hatching and they move out in search of food. Black Scavenger Flies aren’t normally found on blooming flowers, but rather on decaying plant and animal matter. It was neat to see both of these insects on a vibrant Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). Daffodils are a fall-planted bulb and are one of the first blooms in the spring.
Another insect that was seen out and about was a Shore Fly (Hydrellia sp.). Shore flies are tiny flies that can be found near seashores or at smaller inland waters, such as ponds. This one was found close to the pond along the east edge on a Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Bloodroot is a perennial that when cut, the root and budding root stalk (called the rhizome) secrete a red fluid that gives the plant its name.
There was another wildflower that was starting to bloom also. This would be Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). These bloom early in the spring and are an ephemeral plant that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Along with the wildflowers, there is also a shrub that is bursting with color right now. This shrub is Spicebush (Lindera benzoin). It is a 6-12 ft. tall shrub that provides food and cover for an abundance of wildlife and is the host plant of the Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus).
Lastly, there is a tree that is beginning to bloom. This tree is Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra). This is an understory tree that has showy yellow-green flowers in early spring, emerging just before or with the leaves.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out and walk the trails on this beautiful day, and see what you can find!
We are excited to launch our new Nature Niches Blog! Staff at the Douglas-Hart Nature Center wanted to provide a resource outlet to all of you on a variety of topics from flora, fauna, gardening, conservation, family activities, and more. We hope to share how-to videos or step by step guides or basic information about topics that interest you. Be sure to submit a topic idea via the blog website: www.dhnature.org/blog, email: email@example.com, message us on Facebook: @dhnature.org or comment in the blog below. Be on the lookout for our next blog featuring: Dragonflies.