browntown oak forest is a southern dry and dry-mesic forest situated on a st. peter sandstone ridge in the driftless area. the variable topography and soil types nurture a diversity of plant communities. one part of the slope has sandstone outcrops.
the trails (such as we could find) were going feral, which restricted our movement into the forest somewhat, but a jaunt down the ridge to the sandstone was freeing.
first id’s of tall bellflower, st. john’s wort, and knapweed; also first coral fungus spotted since i started these.
The first State Natural Area I visited here in Milwaukee County, Cudahy Woods, is a 40-acre plot that never got logged or developed and so is old growth in the middle of Wisconsin’s most urbanized county. It’s a delightful place and close to my heart because it’s where I started the project of teaching myself about Wisconsin’s flora and natural history.
And today I’m delighted to share that St. Katherine Review has graciously published one of my poems about this old-growth treasure. You can read it here, and do check out other work on their site—it doesn’t disappoint!
washington park was formed on the city’s west side back in the 1890s, and it’s still a gem. right in the middle of the urban landscape and bordered on one side by highway 175, it’s a fine mix of rolling park, open pond, and small wetland, with some gorgeous old trees and an art-deco ampitheatre. the city is celebrating the bucks’ championship win today w/ a parade, so we had to stay north of downtown, and glad we did.
a few great blue herons were flying about, and first id’s of cardinal flower and monkey flower! also, the spotted touch-me-nots are back.
thanks to my daughter for suggesting the walk, thanks to the urban ecology center for tending the site and providing programming in the park, and a couple photos here are credited to my wife.
cardinals and saffrons trumpet
a lance living and angled
the festive city surrounds
cardinal flower more impressive in person even than i had expected
spotted touch-me-not with insect friend
great blue heron taking a break from wading
monkey flower, arresting and unassuming
if you made it this far, it looks like these were cicada parts…
on to green county! my dad and brother were along for the trip this time, and we did a day-long tour of the county with five sna’s.
green county is in the driftless area, the part of wisconsin (and neighboring minnesota and iowa) that was not smoothed and altered by the wisconsin glaciation, as the rest of the state was. different terrain but still southern wisconsin.
our first stop was york prairie, which contains remnant tallgrass prairie, a multitude of native plants, and rare and threatened plants. the sandy soil and rocky terrain were a new experience in prairie for me, and a light shower gave the walk a different energy part-way thru. first id of hoary vervain and golden alexanders!
logan creek sna lies on the northern side of clark lake and is dominated by a northern wet-mesic forest. a small prairie buffers the parking lot from the woods.
we had a fun time running thru the beeches and hemlocks, cedars and birches. critters mammalian, amphibian, and reptilian darting off the path ahead of us left and right. one of the board walks was out, and we were losing daylight, so we weren’t able to see the lake, but hopefully we’ll be back some day.
it was a hot one. i visited whitefish bay dunes—what the wdnr calls “the largest and most significant Great Lakes dunescape in Wisconsin”—when it was in the mid-90s. tough going but very focused, and not many other folks on the trails. the dunes range from open beach right on the lake to heavy forest a couple dunes back.
i took the northern trail to “old baldy” (the highest dune in wisconsin at 93 ft above lake level), which came out of northern mesic forest into open glades of juniper and fern, not to mention all sorts of small, ground-hugging plants i hadn’t the slightest clue on. very unique habitat inhabited by very unique flora. after climbing up baldy i took the southern trail back, which lulls thru a forest of balsam fir, white cedar, and birch on the backside of the fore dune—very fragrant and pleasant despite the heat, especially along the hollows.
(by the way, i love that the wdnr uses the word “dunescape.”)
I’ve come back from vacation to find my translation of a Latin poem on St. Benedict in the latest print issue of Spirit & Life, the magazine that the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration publish every couple months.
It’s a middle-length poem by a monk named Mark of Monte Cassino, and it’s the earliest attestation we have of St. Benedict’s existence—in plenty of time for his feast day on July 11th. The Latin is set in elegiac couplets, and I’ve translated them into alternating 12-syllable and 10-syllable lines modeled on French syllabic lines.
So, if you’re interested in arcane Benedictine texts (as you know I am), have a read here and a listen below if you like! Also: you can sign up for a free subscription to the magazine here.
there are five remnant prairies left of the formerly massive empire prairie, which covered around 50,000 acres in wisconsin’s columbia and dane counties. the westport drumlin site is remarkable for the dramatic relief of the drumlin (a whale-shaped hill shaped by a glacier) caused by the surrounding corn-filled fields. also of particular note is the presence of an oak opening on one side, a fairly rare ecosystem these days. the rock outcroppings along parts of the drumlin indicate the glacier may not have sculpted this drumlin as extensively as normal.
it was a very wet and very satisfying walk. we turned back once due to lightning, but then the rain let up and we changed course once again. after a walk along the bottom of the drumlin and into the oak opening (rain sounding great on the leaves), i trekked up to the ridge and had a look about the lowlands surrounding. a graceful time. also, first conscious encounters with leadplant, thimbleweed, and flowering spurge. the soundscape is flush with raindrops.
thanks to the wdnr and groundswell conservancy for protecting this site.
first off—thanks to everyone who keeps tuning in for these, and any new readers here for the first time. it’s fun knowing some folks out there enjoy seeing what i’m finding on the land. (or what’s finding me.)
but yes: cherokee marsh is a portion of a larger wetland complex in the four lakes region of wisconsin. the northern portion (which we visited) is a fen, tho’ it has lots of flora characteristic of other kinds of wetlands. presumably in part b/c it’s got a railroad track running thru it…
we had a good walk—lots of spiderwort, mullein, grasses, cattails, white campion, water, redwing blackbirds, sky. also, crushed baraboo quartzite underfoot as the railroad bed.
have a view and a read below, and listen to the found-sound-scape immediately below, courtesy once again of my brother. (lots of chittering birdsong, and that crunching you hear is homo sapiens footfall on crushed baraboo quartzite.)
devil’s lake oak forest is a southern dry-mesic forest of red oak and red maple, with some older open-grown white oaks. all situated on terminal moraine that had likely blocked the gorge thru which the wisconsin river used to run and which now is the home of devil’s lake. the forest is flanked by devil’s lake access roads, which was different for a sna, but i’m glad it’s protected.
this was when the day started getting really hot, though the part of the forest that butts up against east bluff and the grottos trail was mercifully cool. the biggest discovery of the walk was american cancer-root (or bear cone), a chlorophyl-less plant that is parasitic on oak roots. very cool.
i’ll once again link to my brother’s “sna soundscape” from the last post (east bluff), as a couple of the field-recorded sounds were from this forest as well. (by the by, funny story: the long title of the audio track comes from the thwarted third hike of the day we attempted. the road into the last sna was closed, so we walked in, but then we saw that there were a large number of caterpillars hanging down from the canopy on silk threads, secreting some kind of white, frothy substance and clearly doing something important for their life cycles. we abruptly abandoned the hike after the realization that they were, in fact, all around us, though we had initially stopped because we saw only a few. it was strange.)