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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The high school wetland

A few years ago, to the dismay of some citizens, the high school established a small area that was planted with wild prairie seeds. Today the prairie has grown up and there are trails through it. (The cross country coach has tried to route the cross country course through it to make the course a bit more interesting--most runners found the old course very boring. And now the old course does not work because a new softball field sits on the old route.) The most distinctive feature of the area is a windmill, which turns in the wind but no longer pumps water because a storm broke a linkage.
If you enjoy wild flowers, late summer is a good time to take a stroll through this area. I found a lot of partridge peas. I recognized them because of a nature walk I took at the Fisher Oak Preserve.
I had to get out my field guide to wildflowers to help me with most of the other things I found. I think these are purple coneflowers. They may be more common in gardens than in the wild.
And these seem to be yellow coneflowers, sometimes called gray-headed coneflowers or droopy coneflowers. It is also widely grown in flower gardens.
I only saw one compass plant, a tall sunflower-like plant that was just getting ready to bloom. The leaves that resemble bracken ferns make it easy to identify. I have seen some along area country roads. It is somewhat similar to prairie dock, which is common along Matheson Street, but seems to be absent in the high school prairie.
There are several other yellow, daisy-like flowers blooming. I am not sure what the one below is. It might be tall coreoposis. The white flowers are wild carrot or Queen Anne's lace, an invasive species that they probably do not want in their area.
There were quite a few of the yellow flowers shown below blooming in the prairie area, but even more of them east of the football field in the ditch. I think they are common evening primrose, but they may be a closely related species instead. The whole flower is the same shade of yellow, which makes them hard to photograph up close.
Also growing near the ditch was a bit of jimsonweed. I know this one because when I had gardens out at St. Joe's, it was a common weed that I struggled to control. When they sprout, they look like sprouting tomatoes. The plants grow fast and get big. The seeds are poisonous, but in small doses are hallucinogenic. News reports of kids dying or being admitted to hospitals for trying to use them for a cheap high are not uncommon in the fall.
If you see any mistakes in my identifications, or have more information on these plants, feel free to use the comments.

Rensselaer has a number of areas that are park substitutes, places that are open to the public and have some kind of recreational use. Examples include the court house lawn, Weston Cemetery, the reflecting pond at St. Joseph's, and the playgrounds at Monnett and VanRensselaer. This little bit of wilderness is another that is probably not well known or appreciated.


Desert Survivor said...

That looks neat! Nice array of flowers.

Anonymous said...

I think this is worth a trip to visit. Thank you for the reminder that it is there.