Ben Johnson,and his wife Karen, were hard at work while Pati and I vacationed up North. They added 12 more steps to complete the erosion control on the path down to the Indian Spring from signpost #6 and they installed a very stylish bench near the Hotel Spring.
I whacked some buckthorn sprouts and seedlings with my brush cutter on Tuesday and ran into Dr. Dan Carter from the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. He was documenting rare plants and waiting for the rest of his team to arrive to complete the demarcation of the wetlands for the Wisconsin DOT. I know, “Say it ain’t so Joe!”, but WisDOT is in the initial planning stage of some changes deemed necessary to make Hwy 67 safer. Please plan on attending the public meeting, which WisDOT will be scheduling for later this Fall, and help us make sure they don’t mess with The Springs.
Dan has a keen eye and he spotted the sixth known occurrence of Pipsissewa (Chimaphila Umbellata) in the area: “It is more rare in the region than any other plant I am aware of at The Springs…” (photo courtesy of Dan Carter)
I want to give a belated thank you to Scuppernong Springs Super Friend, Anne Moretti for informing me that there is a difference between Buckthorn and Chokecherry!
Last year when I was cutting in The Buckthorn Tunnel, Anne noticed that I was oblivious to the distinction and she gently pointed it out. Well, I’m a little slow when it comes to confronting my own ignor-ance and I finally “did the grammar” and now I know the difference. I’m going to let 100 Chokecherries blossom!
I had a crazy busy week and didn’t get much work done at The Springs, but Pati and I did enjoy a wonderful late afternoon at Ottawa Lake yesterday, and we caught the sunset from the Indian Campground.
I love to landscape the landscape at the Scuppernong Springs. This distinguished tract of land deserves our love and attention for the sake of its beauty. So please, come out and help me dig a little spotted knapweed from the sand prairie!
Here is a great image from Landscape Photographer Byron S. Becker: “The photograph was taken in the spring of 2008 along Suppernong River near sundown. The camera was a 4×5 with a 90mm lens, using TriX 320 film and the exposure was 2 minutes; the developer was Pyronal.”
Below is an example of Kristen Westlake’s Fine Art Photography. You can see more of her images of The Springs, and all of her other outstanding work, here.
I had a wonderful week of beautiful weather for landscape gardening at The Springs! Last Monday, June 9th, I tried something new, per the advice of Jared Urban, and burned the first-year garlic mustard off the cut-off trail with my blow torch. Below is where the cut-off trail joins the main trail at signpost #13.
I got the worst patches and now the trail is officially “burned in” as Don Dane would say. I spent the afternoon digging spotted knapweed from the sand prairie and was glad to have Ben Johnson’s help with this seemingly Sisyphean task. We focused on cleaning up the lupine patches.
On Friday, June 13, I was joined by Dan Carter, Senior Biologist with The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). Dan was continuing SEWRPC’s ongoing effort to document the vegetation at The Springs and invited me to come along.
SEWRPC has divided The Springs into 4 areas for their vegetation surveys:
The first three areas listed above are located in the blue circle on the right below and the fourth is in the larger blue circle to the left. Click the links above to view SEWRPC’s preliminary vegetation surveys.
As we walked through Buckthorn Alley on our way to the hotel spring, Dan and I stopped frequently to make notes and take pictures. Dan recently completed his PhD in Biology at Kansas State University and he has a wealth of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Here are just a few of plants he identified.
We visited the Ottawa Lake Fen State Natural Area and Dan showed me two new springs that I had never seen before. They emerge from the east side of the wetlands and you can find them by walking across the fen from campsite #334 towards the north until you come across their outflow channels.
Of course, there were lots of interesting plants here too.
Thanks Dan, for showing me around the place I love!
I spent the afternoon pulling and digging spotted knapweed on the sand prairie. There is a bumper crop of this noxious invader!
A soothing sunset at Ottawa Lake.
A “Honey” moon at the Lapham Peak Tower.
I had the pleasure of spending yesterday, June 14, at my favorite spot again.
The Indian Spring is being quickly overrun by quack grass and water cress so I spent the morning pulling these invasive plants. Before…
… and after.
Then I moved up the hill to the sand prairie and continued pulling and digging spotted knapweed. It’s going to take years to get rid of this stuff unless I get a whole lot of help.
Speaking of which, my good friend Carl Baumann, who has been harvesting black locust on the south end of the trail, split all of the logs in my woodpile setting the stage for some cozy fires at My Shangri-La. Thanks Carl!
And Andy Buchta noticed the freshly cut buckthorn by the main entrance on Hwy ZZ and he has commenced to piling. Thanks Andy!
Melanie’s brow furrowed focusing energy from her third eye as she studied the weather beaten old sign she found in a closet at the DNR maintenance shop. It was done in the style of the signs at the Scuppernong Springs that she replaced last year with her volunteer trail crew and it read: The Ruby Spring. “Hmmmm…” she thought, “I’ll bet The Buckthorn Man knows where The Ruby Spring is.”
There are stories behind each of the springs you’ll find along the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail and I invite you to share yours on our new Facebook Page. You may have grown up with The Springs like Pete Nielsen or Steve Brasch, or you’ve been coming for a long time, like John and Sue, or Dick and Shirley, or Terry and Lisa. Share your favorite memories and pictures of The Springs on our Facebook timeline.
“Ruby Spring”, “Ruby Spring”, I thought “…is this in the Land of OZ?” Melanie and I made a date to meet with Ron Kurowski, at the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association‘s annual meeting, to learn the story of this spring. The amphitheater at Forest Headquarters was alive with many excited faces and voices when I arrived.
Don Reed, Chief Biologist with the SEWRPC, making opening remarks.
Ron Kurowski and Paul Sandgren, Superintendent of the Kettle Moraine State Forest — Southern Unit drawing lucky numbers.
Matt Zine, a conservation biologist and longtime leader of the State Natural Areas crew in southern Wisconsin, took us for a walk down memory lane, or rather, through an oak savannah landscape, as he explained what God and Man have wrought to put us in the state we are today, and why it is important to understand and take action. Thanks for the great presentation Matt!
It was a pleasure to meet Dan Carter, a member of SEWRC’s environmental planning staff after Matt’s presentation. Ben Johnson joined us and that led to the parking lot, where Dan identified the seed/spore heads of a fern that Ben and Karen found in the wet prairie just west of the Indian Spring. Just then, DNR trail boss, Don Dane, arrived to take me into the inner sanctum of the maintenance facilities to pick up two huge seed bags: one with a dry mesic prairie mix, and the other with a wet prairie mix. Thanks again to Don Dane and Amanda Prange for organizing and leading the seed gathering volunteer workdays!
After Don left, Ben and I wondered if we needed to wet the seed or mix it with anything prior to sowing. I couldn’t reach Don, who was already engaged on a project with the Ice Age Trail Alliance, so we headed back to the amphitheater to get some expert advice. I invited Melanie to join us and we found Ron busy in a back office. He explained that we could just sow the seed as is, and we talked about lightly raking afterwards, and then Ron shared the secret of The Ruby Spring.
After THE PONDS OF THE SCUPPERNONG were drained in the early nineties, the DNR began the slow process of rehabilitating the Scuppernong River stream bed, which had been submerged under 3-5 feet of water for over 100 years and was thus thoroughly silted in with marl. It was quickly apparent that they needed to name the springs to facilitate planning, meeting and, bringing them to life in the mind’s eye.
In the middle of the valley left when the upper pond was drained, they found the largest complex of springs on the property. A red algae made its home there giving the waters a distinct ruby color, hence the name: The Ruby Spring. As the restoration work progressed and the environment changed, the red algae disappeared and the bubbling spring pools located at the end of the observation deck took on an emerald hue, and were rechristened The Emerald Springs. The names evoke ruby slippers and emerald cities for me.
Ben and I headed straight for the sand prairie, aka, the Indian Campground, and began sowing the dry mesic prairie seed at the intersection of the main trail with the spur trail that leads down to the Indian Spring. This is an area where we dug out a lot of spotted knapweed last year and the soil is bare.
The plant below has heretofore escaped my identification skills. I suspected it was an invasive plant, but which one? Ben suggested we send a picture to Dan Carter.
Dan responded quickly that it was motherwort and advised us not to worry too much about it because it will give way to native plants as we introduce them or they re-emerge. It’s not fair to characterize this plant as a weed, which, according to Ralph Waldo Emerson, is: “A plant whose virtues have never been discovered”, given its long history of use as an herb.
We had enough seed to cover a huge area of the sand prairie and it will be exciting to watch the results develop.
After our labors were done, we went for a walk intending to explore the trail south along the marl pit. Along the way we met Jill Bedford, who works with the Tall Pines Conservancy, and switched gears to give her the grand tour of The Springs. Jill is involved in writing grants to conserve and restore land and it was exciting to hear of all the developments in her world. We got up to the sand prairie just in time to watch the sunset.
My weekend at The Springs was only half over and I returned on Sunday to sow the wet prairie seeds in the many, many burn rings left from our work in the Buckthorn Alley and the Cut-off Trail.
After the last seeds were sown, I returned to the cabin at Ottawa Lake, where Dick Jenks and I cut buckthorn last week, to “mop up” with my brush cutter.
I tried using a little sponge to daub poison on the little buckthorn stubs and it worked pretty well; a lot less waste than if I would have used a sprayer. The view from the deck is really nice.