Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Road Trip!

 Last week the naturalist staff at work decided to take a road trip yesterday to a nearby nature center - we wanted to check out a place none of us had visited before.  This place is called Whitehouse Nature Center and is part of Albion College over in Albion, MI.  Although it is part of the college, it is open to the public, and apparently it is a well-kept secret.  Places like this need to not be secrets!

We arrived around 3 PM and it was a glorious day!

They have a number of trails thru some varying habitats - lots to explore!

The back deck of the nature center looks out over the Kalamazoo River - how delightful!

There were some, shall we say "interesting," exhibits inside.  I do hope they know that 'possums don't really hang by their tails!

We were all impressed by the newly planted rain garden out front.  More people need to do rain gardens!

The first wildflowers to catch our eyes were blooming right at the head of the trail:  Dutchman's breeches.  These relatives of bleeding hearts are one of my favorites.

A short distance on was a nice patch of wild ginger.  No flowers yet, alas, but it was a very robust colony.

We all loved this bridge.  It was later, as we recrossed the bridge at the end of our visit, that I recalled that I had paddled under this very bridge last summer on one of the Kalamazoo River paddles I did with GREAT!

This trip could've been a tribute to my friend Jackie, for so many of the plants we saw reminded me of her and the trips we took.  This violet, for example - she'd know which one it was in an instant.  I still haven't committed any of the violets to memory.

Wood anemone was also in bloom.

I haven't taken out my winter weeds or pod books yet to ID this vine.  Must do so.

The mayapples were coming up in huge quantities!  None had flowers yet, although I did see a few buds.  Soon.  I don't think the ones I planted at home survived - if this is the stage they should be in by now, mine are history. 

Trees were also in bloom all over, like this box elder.  Maple flowers are among my favorites.

Look, Jackie!  A black tupelo!  How could I not think of you when we saw these trees?!?!

Just this weekend the redbuds came into bloom.  Their bright purple-pink flowers are just not something I expect to see in the woods - they should be on an ornamental shrub in someone's lawn!

They have a small patch of land that they are working on developing as a sample of native prairie.  This burn must've been fairly recent for we could still smell the scent of burned vegetation.

And right behind the burn is their small native woodland wildflower garden, with a lovely stone-lined path that winds around the beds.

 The bloodroot wasn't in bloom here, although it is blooming profusely at work right now.

Twinleaf was sporting a pair of lovely white flowers.

And who can't help but admire the blue-green flowers of blue cohosh?

The forest floor was carpeted with trout lily leaves, and we even saw a fair number of flowers.  Sadly, the trout lilies at work get eaten by the hungry deer hoard before they get to open.

A toad hopped nearby, but paused in its journey long enough for us to snap a couple photos.

These flowering sedges are another plant that bring Jackie to mind.  I'm not sure which sedge they are, though.

We came across a patch of young cherry trees that had brilliant pink galls on their leaves.  HM...I'm going to have to get my gall book out, too.  Ah, the growing season - time to dust off the field guides and start schlepping them into the field again.

The false rue anemone threw me for a loop - had to do a bit more searching in my field guide to get an ID (I thought at first it was the real deal:  rue anemone).

Another plant that gave me pause, but it turns out I got it right, was the cut-leaved toothwort.  It was definitely a day for four-petaled white flowers.

We only saw this one small group of spring beauties, but they remain true to their name.

Skunk cabbage is almost a dominant understory plant along many parts of the property here.

This stretch of the woods, though, was blanketed with another four-petaled white flower that none of us knew.

It took some sleuthing this afternoon but I think I've identified it as spring cress.

As you can see, we were now in a very damp wonder the skunk cabbage was growing so happily!

We encountered several crayfish castles along this section of trail.  Sadly a couple got smooshed as our boots slipped in the mud.

It was 6:00 by the time we rolled back into the parking lot at work, but what a great trip and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  Not only did we get to visit a really nice nature center, but we saw lots of spring wildflowers and listened to many birds singing their spring songs.  Saw my first swallows of the season, and one of my coworkers thinks he heard his first warbler of the season.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll post the video I shot - stay tuned.


  1. Oh, I sure would have loved coming along on this walk with you -- so many lovely flowers, some I would know, others not. I certainly can't tell violets at a glance: I usually have to study their leaves and stalks and private parts to tell one from another. But thanks for thinking of me. I miss you every time I go out.

  2. Come check out the Kalamazoo Nature Center. It is one of my favorite places to hike and hangout. In May (though I'm not sure about this year's blooming season), besides the usual woodland blooms we get the Blue-eyed Mary wildflowers. Apparently, folks come from all over to see them.

    1. Jill-O: We had a staff trip out to K'zoo last summer. Great place - love the giant tree inside with the birds and the glass water drops! Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do the trails. I'm planning to visit again, maybe this summer.

  3. Wow, everything so advanced! Beautiful place.

  4. You have piqued my interest. What is a rain garden?

    1. Rain gardens are gardens planted to handle rain water. They are often in a low area, near a storm drain, or along the patch of grass between sidewalks and the road. They get all the water that is draining off lawns (or driveways), and keep it from going into roads and storm drains. They are usually planted with water-loving plants, although I have also seen some that have little pools as part of the design (most don't though). The goal of rain gardens is to reduce the water load in storm drains during precipitation events.

  5. Miss your ADK nature-posts a lot Ellen. Happy Spring !

    1. Thanks! I miss doing them...and I just don't have time here to do real nature posts here. I'm too busy doing "real work." BUT! I will be having a piece in an upcoming Adirondack Life magazine - keep your eyes peeled!