“This is one of the nicest oak savannahs in the kettles!”, that’s what Jared Urban, with the State Natural Areas Program (SNA), said as we toured The Springs and the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA last Thursday. After 3+ years of steady effort to rehabilitate The Springs, you can imagine how delightful it was to share the results with DNR Conservation Biologists Nate Fayram, Sharon Fandel and Jared Urban.
We marveled at all of the high quality native plants that have emerged in the Buckthorn Alley since we opened it up last winter. We could have spent hours identifying plants just on this stretch of the trail alone. I made some notes and, in an effort to solidify my learning experience, I want to share a few of the plants we found and encourage you to look for them the next time you walk the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail.
Culver’s Root Veronicastrum virginicum Snapdragon family (Scrophulariaceae)
Only a few of the plants identified were flowering and it takes a keen eye to recognize species solely on leaves and stems.
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus
Artemisia absinthium (absinthium, absinthe wormwood, wormwood, common wormwood, green ginger or grand wormwood)
We’ve barely scratched the surface of “biotic inventory” at The Springs. It was a pleasure to experience the enthusiasm Nate, Jared and Sharon bring to their jobs as DNR Conservation Biologists, especially when Nate discovered the Yellow Lady’s Slipper. We were at the Ottawa Lake Fen and happened to run into Don Dane and Mike, who were doing a little maintenance on the trail that leads to the back country sites #334 and #335 and Don’s eyes lit up when Nate showed him the pictures. “Don’t tell anybody where they are!”, he cautioned.
One of the things we were discussing was the need to create a burn unit that includes the Ottawa Lake Fen SNA and Don explained that he had in fact been using a forestry mower this past winter to put in a fire break on the west side of the lake extending north to the dog trial grounds. The terrain is really rough and bisected with old drainage ditches from the days when they tried to mud farm the area. I think the SNA team is inspired to create a burn unit in this area. In the meantime, I’ll continue to cut buckthorn along the east shore of Ottawa Lake all the way up to and around the fen.
Yesterday, I continued cutting the buckthorn just east of the parking lot on Hwy ZZ to connect with an opening in the brush we created last winter. I think one more day will do it!
And after 5 tanks of gas in the chainsaw…
Ben Johnson took the afternoon off from his day job and pulled white clover near the old hotel site. I joined him when I finished cutting and then we headed up to the sand prairie to pull garlic mustard, which is rapidly going to seed.
It was a beautiful day and Ben and I took a walk around the trails scoping out where we could get material to fill in behind the bio-logs that the fisheries team installed last winter. We considered hauling the buckthorn that I’ve been cutting by the parking lot but then realized that the aspen we girdled along the river would make the perfect fill. We are meeting Fisheries Biologist Ben Heussner and a group of volunteers at The Springs this Saturday to work on that project. I’ll be out there tomorrow cutting down the dead aspen and getting it ready.
See you at The Springs!