This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A walk in the woods

On Saturday, July 25, Kevin Tungesvick Vice President of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) led a tour at the Fisher Oaks Savanna Preserve to highlight prairie restoration efforts. A group of about a dozen people showed up, most from the Indianapolis area. The walk started from the parking area near the old house on the last sand dune. To the south the black-soil prairie stretched as far as the eye could see, most planted in corn and soybeans. The tour leader said it is rare that land this fertile is restored to prairie. Usually restorations are of disturbed land that has poor soil.

We walked back into the woods, past the places we were burning brush last spring. There were a lot of pokeweed, sassafras shoots, and blackberry canes along this part of the trail, but no blackberry fruit. The area had been burned, destroying the second-year blackberry canes that would be bearing fruit this year. The purpose of the burning and the destruction of cherry, mulberry, and sassafras trees was to restore an oak savanna habitat, one that would let red-headed woodpeckers thrive. It is interesting that without fire, both prairie and oak savanna, and pretty much all of Jasper County if cultivation stopped, would rather quickly become dense woods. The Indians used fire to manage habitat for food long before European settlers arrived, so the early settlers did not see a landscape that would have existed without man's interference.
We walked through the woods to a small bit of restored prairie north of the house. Along the border of the woods and the prairie the blackberries did have fruit, and it was tasty. Next year there should be a lot of blackberries along this trail.
In terms of being able to identify plants, I was out of my league in this group. It was not just the leader who knew a lot, but most of the participants also knew a lot. They kept tossing the Latin names for plants back and forth, discussing which species of the genus it was. I still am trying to learn the easy plants, like the Rattle Snake Master, a native prairie plant that is sometimes grown in flower gardens.
There was big patch of partridge peas near the woods. This was not one of the plants that they had restored, but had crept in from the woods and they were happy to see it. It is a native prairie plant that is an important food source for quail.
We went back to the parking area to get ready for an excursion into the wet and muddy prairie area south of the house. The field was full of flowers, but unfortunately, I had another commitment for the day, so I left and missed this part of the walk.
Driving along I-65, I noticed that there were a lot of wind turbines north west of Brookston. Checking the Internet, that project is the Meadow Lake Wind Farm. It will ultimately have about 600 towers, though only 121 are being installed in the first phase of the project. To the west of I-65 I could see two other wind farms. My guess is that they were the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm and the Hoosier Wind Project. I think the Benton County Wind Farm near Earl Park is too far west to be visible from I-65.

If I got down in the wind corridor more often, I would be posting frequently about the wind farms--it is a big story for the region. (Tip to the Rensselaer Republican--you should do more on this topic.) However, my limited travel does not often take me that way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wish I had attended the "walk".