anyone who’s kept up here will know cudahy woods a bit already, but suffice to say: cudahy woods is a 40-acre parcel of land in milwaukee county that somehow escaped the axe and plow. it’s a beech-maple forest with an unnamed stream running thru, and airplanes skirting by nigh-constantly from mitchell int’l airport.
it’s also where i first started this project and started learning about spring ephemerals, so it has a special place in my heart. so this is kind of an “anniversary post,” and i already found two new flowers i hadn’t identified last spring!
young prairie is a sizable remnant wet-mesic prairie in the southern kettle moraine area, though it was pretty dry given our general lack of rain the last while in this part of wisconsin.
dthis early, there was little flashy growth to call our attention, but seeing the very beginnings of this year’s prairie grass was a subtle excitement. just the muffled crunch of last year’s vegetation and an open-air walk were enough to make the early trip worthwhile.
this trip also marked our last sna in walworth county!
kettle moraine oak opening is very much what it sounds like, though there’s plenty of oak woods too. another sna in the interlobate moraine area between two fingers of the last glaciation (the lake michigan lobe and green bay lobe), the rolling and tumbling topography between steep ridges and kettle holes is always a delight to meander thru. maintaining the oak opening and small prairies on the knobs takes some doing, and we visited (it looks like) a week or two after a prescribed burn. the smell was fertile.
saw our first round-lobed liverwort too—the hairs on the scape don’t come across in the photos, but they were thick with white hairs, and heavy-laden with pollen.
the seven bridges trail in grant park in south milwaukee winds thru woods and ravines leading down to a stone-strewn beach on lake michigan. the first spring ephemerals are showing their blooms now, though they weren’t open yet. a very wet and grey day, perfect for spring woods and water. new life!
bonus: i learned on this trip that “lannon stone” is a kind of dolomite limestone quarried from the 1830s in lannon, wisconsin in waukesha county (featured under the tiny succulents and moss in the photo above). i grew up around the block from “the lannon stone motel” in janesville, and my dad lived there for a bit when he first moved to wisconsin from new york. i had never even wondered what the motel’s name meant—familiarity breeds a lack of curiosity, i suppose. that little spot on racine st. in janesville feels richer in my mind today.
three bridges park in milwaukee, wisconsin is a great little prairie on reclaimed land in what was once a wild rice marsh and then a rail-yard. it stretches 24 acres along the menomonee river, and is a welcome oasis in the city.
seminary woods, on the property of st. francis de sales seminary in st. francis, wisconsin (sometimes called “the salesianum”), is a relatively undisturbed 68-acre beech-maple mesic forest, with a cemetery and grotto beneath the canopy. it’s a last remnant of the kind of woods that used to line lake michigan, and some massive trees live here, especially beeches. there are a number of bottoms regularly filled with water, and deer stream runs thru-out before emptying into lake michigan. the spring ephemeral display is apparently very impressive, so i’ll be back again pretty soon. the deeper areas have a very distinct, close smell, especially in high summer.
i’m particularly interested in these woods as bernard durward—first professor of english at the seminary and one of wisconsin’s earliest poets, whose poems i’m currently editing with a colleague—must have walked here. the potawatomi deeded the land to franciscan sisters back in 1833, who sold it to the (arch)diocese of milwaukee for a seminary in 1855.
lulu lake is almost 1,200 acres of preserve in the southern kettle moraine, with a kettle lake fed by the mukwonago river and nestled in the lowlands of glacial desposits, fenlands, sedge meadow, shrub carr, and a bog, and with oak openings and prairie in the uplands. rare fish, mussels, and plants are protected here, though that was difficult to see in this early stage of the spring thaw. but we did see evidence of the non-native plant removal that is helping keep the oak openings thriving. the diversity of this area deserves another visit when warmer weather has arrived for sure.
thanks to the wisconsin chapter of the nature conservancy and the wisconsin dnr for tending this land too!
pickerel lake fen is, well, a lake and a fen. the calcareous fen is large, seeping out of a glacial ridge, and is one of the most biologically diverse fens in s.e. wisconsin. the lake is still frozen but the edge is thawing to reveal all sorts of small life if the eye will rest long enough to see. the uplands are turning back to prairie after being farmed, and good tall oaks in their openings dot the fen-edge. several plants are protected here.
thanks to the wisconsin chapter of the nature conservancy for tending this land.
beulah bog is a series of four kettles at the southern end of kettle moraine, which itself was formed by the frictional forces of the green bay lobe and lake michigan lobe of the laurentide ice sheet grinding and sliding past one another over thousands of years in the last ice age.
there are floating mud flats, quaking sedge and sphagnum mats, a tamarack wood, and open water. several species of insectivorous plants live here too, though we didn’t see any this early. shoots were on the make, however, and i think we saw the early stirrings of calla lily and poison ivy. lots of oak debris along the slope descending to the bog-moat that circles the tamaracks. the first hike not on snow in a couple months, which was refreshing.
snapper prairie is another remnant prairie that formerly stretched for 2,500 acres in the floodplain of the crawfish river (a tributary of the rock). it floods at times due to the clayey nature of the soil, and there are plants more common to fens present like riddell’s goldenrod, valerian, and an orchid. but of course none of them are out yet.
there’s something very strange about visiting prairies in the middle of winter, when they’re snowfields with desiccated plants poking up out of the white here and there. you know there’s so much life lying hidden and silent beneath that snow just waiting, and the wind blows steadily. it’s difficult to imagine how brilliant the grasses and flowers will look and smell in just a few months. but it’s also good to know this place at a quieter time that is just as much a part of its life cycle(s) as the full bloom of high summer.