Here is a guest blog from Ron Kurowski, retired DNR naturalist.
This is a photo of forked aster (state threatened plant),
which is found in only one location at the Scuppernong Springs at present. It is found on the east side of the sand dune in the more open woods, towards the bottom of the slope (left of the boardwalk).
It appeared suddenly after several controlled burns. At times I have seen over 100 plants blooming in this general location. There is also a colony blooming at Paradise Springs, so I would suspect that it likes wet soils.
Lesser fringed gentian (state threatened plant). The yellow flower is from
shrubby cinquefoil that is common to fens.
You will also find the larger gentian growing here too, probably reaching its peak, sometime around the middle of September. (ed. note, the picture was taken along the Marl Pit)
This picture shows the large marl pit at its south end.
I have never seen the water level in the marl pits so low. The plant community to the left of the marl pit is part fen and sedge meadow. The fen is just starting to show its beautiful flowers, so people who walk along the marl pit in the next
couple of weeks will see several fen flowers including grass-of-Parnassus,
nodding lady’s tresses orchid, small fringed gentian (state threatened) Ohio
goldenrod, marsh thistle, and gerardia. Fens are springy wet grass lands
that very alkaline and the rich marl (calcium carbonate) soils make this a
very special site.
(ed. note Thanks Ron! Regarding Purple Loosestrife and Tracy Hame’s recommendation that we introduce the Loosestrife Beetle, Ron explained that the DNR has been doing this for many years in this area. I am following up with him on this to see if we should step up this effort. The Purple Loosestrife appears to be getting the upper hand.)
There is no need to introduce more beetles for now. There are large
concentrations throughout the SRHA and they are really keeping the purple
loosestrife in check. This is a bad time to look for them usually they are
more pronounced in June and July. A good place to see how numerous they are
is west of the intersection of Hwy N and Wilton Road during the months of
June and July. That area was a sea of purple loosestrife but in some years a
persons won’t find a single purple loosestrife.
I just wanted to elaborate a little more on the purple loosestrife beetles.
The area west of the intersection of Hwy N and Wilton Road had extensive
amounts of purple loosestrife ( the worst spot in the SRHA), maybe as much
as 40 acres of just solid purple loosestrife. Today that loosestrife
population has been reduced considerably. In some years a person can’t find
a single plant in blossom! We began raising the beetles on site in 12′ x 12′
cages sometime around 2002. At the peak of the introduction we had two
cages and placed them throughout the SRHA. It was a very successful
introduction and we stopped raising them around 2008. They now reproduce
naturally and are spreading on their own. Due to the large populations of
beetles that exist in the SRHA it has been used by biologists for collecting
loosestrife beetles to be used in other reintroductions.
I enjoy walking along the large marl pit, in spring I enjoy finding the sunning Garter and Northern Water snakes, and in summer i just enjoy the view of the surroundings, and lately a Blue Heron in that area, but noticed every summer it gets really thick with almost no path to walk. I always have the fear of disturbing a bee or wasp nest hidden. Is there any plans on clearing out a bit of a more defined trail along there?