Wahkeena’s Hike for Health

Pink Lady's Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium reginae)

This past Saturday, I finally took the advice I hear often: take a hike! So I did. Actually, it was a fundraiser called Hike For Health. A hike for health that benefited the walker and also raised monies for the OAGC (Ohio Association of Garden Clubs) Foundation. I chose to hike at the Wahkeena Nature Preserve in Fairfield County south of Lancaster, OH. Talk about a gem in the wild, Wahkeena sparkles!

Amazing sights included the native Pink Lady’s Slipper Orchid and the Showy Orchis as well as the Flame Azalea, all of which were in bloom. Using my cell phone’s ringtone, I managed to call in not one, but two Ovenbirds who ended up having a territory spat because of me. I also called in a Tufted Titmouse by whistling. In fact, the titmouse came within about 6 feet and apparently wanted me to feed it. It was the highlight of the day. Enjoy the photos. If anyone has some identification on the fungi, let me know and I’ll add captions.

Flame Azalea buds (Rhododendron calendulaceum)

Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum)

A bumble bee giving me a high-five

Squawroot (Conopholis americana) A non-photosynthesizing parasitc plant of oak roots

Devil's Urn (Urnula craterium)

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Local events:

Be sure to check out other events at the Events Calendar page tab at the top of this page.

My garden club, the Here & There Garden Club, will be holding its annual Plant Sale this Saturday, May 21, from 9 am to 1 pm at 5200 Bigger Road, Kettering OH 45440.

College Hill Garden Club will hold its annual plant sale May 19-21 at 40 Carson Ave, Dayton OH 45415.

The Mercer-Smith Historical Park is giving a free presentation and holding an Open House demonstration. “Heritage Plants in a Frontier Garden” will be shared this Saturday, May 21. The presentation is at 10:30 am in the Fairborn Library Meeting Room (1 E. Main St., Fairborn OH) and the Open House runs from 11 am to 3 pm at Mercer-Smith Historical Park (corner of First & Middle Streets, Fairborn OH). Learn some of the ways that plants, seeds and gardening techniques of the early 1800s differ from those of modern day.


Let’s get the party started

Robin Williams is quoted as saying, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!'” Well, here in Ohio – we’re starting to get down! At least in the southern part. I was up in Cleveland last weekend and, sadly, winter still has a grip there.

OAGC’s Hike for Health

Wahkeena Nature Preserve's Nature Center

I recently visited Wahkeena Nature Preserve in Fairfield County south of Lancaster OH in preparation for the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs Foundation’s Hike for Health day on May 14. OAGC’s members are accepting pledges to raise money for the OAGC Foundation’s charitable endeavors on this day of awareness. (Email me if you would like to support me with a pledge. I’d be grateful for your support.) A side benefit is the bettering of the health of the walkers as they walk the trails at Wahkeena or other areas closer to their home.

Spring’s party has already started at Wahkeena

Long-tailed salamander

It was a great day for a short hike with Wahkeena’s staff, site manager Tom Shisler and Robyn Wright Strauss. We spotted the newly arrived Louisiana Waterthrush and even some Pine Siskins who had yet to depart for their summer grounds up north. We also heard the Yellow Throated Warbler. Always with an ear for new birdsong, they both bolted to attention when a new sound split the air. The funny part? It was only my cell phone going off – which has the ringer of an Ovenbird singing. It was a hoot.

Though the days of salamander hanky-panky are behind us, evidence of their antics were abundant. Tom knew right where to look for salamanders and when he overturned a rock by the spring, sure enough, there was a long-tailed salamander.

Salamander egg mass

Down at one of the man-made vernal pools funded by OAGC, Tom and Robin gently lifted up some of the egg masses for viewing. Frog and toad masses were present as well and is a sign that spring is well underway.

The Canada goose couple were already on the nest. Tom has had to unclog the pond’s overflow as the beaver have been busy trying to plug up that leak in THEIR pond! Sadly, I must note that the center’s hawk recently passed away. It was estimated that she was over 23 years old. Plans are already underway to have another rehabilitated and unreleasable hawk move in to Wahkeena.

Baby salamanders

If you’ve never been to Wahkeena, I encourage you to take the trip to this wonderful preserve. Willed to the Ohio Historical Society by Carmen Warner, an OAGC member, Wahkeena has long been a destination for the organization’s members. Entrance fee to OAGC members is FREE. All others are $5/car.

We have babies!

Decorah, Iowa bald eagle nest cam

Surely the bald eagle nest cam in Decorah, Iowa has captured everyone’s attention. With three mouths to feed the parents are kept very busy. The nest cam show nature’s basic instinct: survival. The babies are being fed anything from rabbit, crow, muskrat, fish and who knows what else. Yumm! The baby down will be replaced with darker, medium-grey second down when they reach about 9-11 days of age. Juvenile feathers will start to appear when they eagles are around 24 days of age.

Well, I must be off. I’m taking my worms on the road for a Master Gardener program on vermicomposting tomorrow in Newark, OH. Later!

Is it spring yet?

Not quite yet. Some might say, “But I’ve seen Robins! Aren’t they the harbringers (…where did that word come from?) of spring?” Well, maybe some time in the past but certainly not these days. American Robins are pretty much year-round residents in Ohio now.

“It smells like spring.”  Well, a 60 degree day should smell great, but what I’ve also caught a wiff of was the striped skunk. They are one of the earliest mating mammals in Ohio mating February-April. However, they aren’t the only creatures who have love on their mind. A pair of coyotes was seen mating in a residential backyard in Centerville last week. And the Great Horned Owls laid their eggs back in January. Love is in the air to be sure!

Not to be outdone by the animal kingdom, one of the earliest plants blooming in Ohio is the Skunk Cabbage. Looking neither like a skunk or a cabbage Symplocarpus foetidus is a member of the Arum plant family. Sending up a brownish-purple and green spathe-like blooms that smell like, well, something not very nice. Just take a look at the species name: where do you think we get the word foetid from? Stinky!

Tom Shisler, friend of OAGC and site manager of the Wahkeena Nature Preserve south of Lancaster OH, sent this photo today of the skunkies in bloom. In late spring bright green, huge, cabbage-like leaves will spring up next to these odd blooms. If you are out and about in the wetlands or marshy areas you just might spot one of these true signs of spring. Remember: OAGC members get free entrance in to Wahkeena. Be sure to contact Tom to schedule your garden club field trip to visit this valuable natural resource site.

Midwest Native Plant Conference (Bergamo Center, Beavercreek OH) July 8-10, 2011

The Dayton area is very fortunate to again host the Midwest Native Plant Society’s Conference. The society, whose interest is in fostering and educating those interested in native plants and their habitats, has scheduled learned speakers from around the county. Registration opens March 1. Sponsored in part by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Wild Ones©.