sna poems #85: jefferson tamarack swamp

jefferson tamarack swamp holds the largest forested wetland in jefferson county. tamarack stands, sedge meadow, areas covered with sphagnum (not the spots i visited on my briefer walk), some uplands that are drier (where i walked). the dnr page for this sna notes that there is a large effigy mound on an oak island, but i was not able to search it out this time—one of the best reasons to come back!

got to share my visit with deer and cranes, as well as “weed” species underfoot that i had a particular affection for all of a sudden. they’re just creatures trying to survive too. 🙂


campion and culms

for four-footed ruminants

over hills, under sun


in the sedges

they’re stately—

but the bounding colt!


dandelion and clover

are forbs as well

bearing the image of God

sna poems #79: crooked lake wetlands

crooked lake is a seepage lake surrounded by a diverse wetland complex all about (including open bogs, my favorite aside from fens…), forest, cedar lake, and other unnamed lakes—all settled amidst the interlobate morainal hills of the northern kettle moraine. crooked lake’s outlet forms a tributary of the east branch of the milwaukee river, which flows right down the hill from my place in milwaukee on its way out to lake michigan.

fantastic walk with perfect spring weather under glorious skies, and many spring ephemerals—some emerging, some at full tilt, and others already on their way out for the year. saw our first stand of bellwort, which i’ve been looking for since last march, so it was a sheer delight to lay in the soil and spend some time with them.

this was the last state natural area to explore in sheboygan county. good to have another county covered, but, as we say in wisconsin: forward!


liverwort dying back

on each and every hillside

the lake only from afar


streakt & frilling threeness

skirts trunk & frogcall

mayapple waiting to bloom


legging it past kettle bog

and eureka! you’ve found me—bellwort

riding above the muck

since i haven’t stated this here in a while: this “state natural area poems” project began last year when lockdown happened in wisconsin, in order to have something to do with my kids as well as to keep us grounded in our local and regional habitats.

it started with the idea of visiting a state natural area (the preserves with the highest protections in wisconsin), going for a walk, taking a picture, and writing a three-liner about whatever we encountered there. and the original area was milwaukee county and adjacent counties. it’s now mushroomed into the main series and two sub-series, way more counties, and usually many more than one photo and one poem per site. the natural world just gives too much for such meager making!

i’ll keep going until we run out of sites to visit (not likely) or breath leaves the body.

peace to you and yours.

state natural area poems #16: sander’s park a, b, & c


elms tower the swale

and feathered honey understory

stop listen see

jack in the pulpit down
zigzag goldenrod



thick-cut rivers of bark

spleenworts humbling below

root yourself in the made

agarics doing what they do best



zygomorphic spikes

of great blue lobelia

crowding our hasty retreat

great blue lobelia
woodland sunflower fading


sanders park state natural area is set within a park and ringed ’round by exculpating road(!). two different kinds of forest grow on swells and swale, an ancient terrace of lake michigan. an intermittent stream flows thru the whole; lots of wildflower and fern species.

thanks to racine county parks for keeping this patch of earth.

state natural area poems #15: muskego park hardwoods a, b, & c


waxy white sentinels

urge the leaf-litter

bowed and tremendous


turkey tail splaying for the world to see

gill-bearers make life from death

the deep wet black of rot


jack-in-the-pulpit lobed rubies

frogs in the rain-filled tracks

under-story going to sleep

Muskego Park Hardwoods is an old-growth southern dry-mesic forest in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Some past grazing has brought in new species of wildflowers, and a healthy blend of different hardwoods stand strong. Thanks to Waukesha County for preserving this old-growth community!

state natural area poems, supplementum #11: urban ecology center-riverside a, b, & c


a foot in boggy fossils

and cousins thrive together

your eyes a slippery flame



you play the possum joey

on slick bare trunk

an image for when you’re grown

polypores pushing their margins


mud on your boots and leggings

you sniff out gold-decked trails

and lead me to new crossings

river’s edge
birds-foot trefoil

the urban ecology center has three absolutely fantastic sites in milwaukee. check them out whenever you’re in the city.

this is a trio of “found living poems” for my kids, one for each.

state natural area poems #12: rock river prairie

the rock calls us home

evening primrosing with open arms

waves and waves of petal

evening primrose

field bindweed

(Some evening primrose and field bindweed growing in the prairie and its edge.)

Rock River Prairie SNA is a dry prairie above the Rock River b/t Janesville and Beloit. Lots of grasses and flowers, though woody species are encroaching. Still great for a walk, and several first IDs on flowers. Thanks to the Wisconsin DNR for tending this plot of earth.