sna poems #101: honey creek

honey creek sna is a widely varying area along honey creek, with different soil types, bottoms, boggy areas, forest, rock escarpments and uplands. the dnr site claims over 500 plant species living in the area. the site was originally protected by the wisconsin society for ornithology, and many bird species nest here. go birds (or, as chaucer would have called them, brids).

i took a leisurely stroll up the creek in the southern section, walking up what’s known as “borns hollow.” (i’m a sucker for any area called a “hollow.”) a lovely creek community with springs and seeps, forbs and grasses hanging all over the banks. oh, and cows and cranes coolly noting my approach and retreat.

my first spot of lobelia this year, and first id of spotted lady’s thumb (heart’s-ease), a kind of knotweed.


here islands sit calm

below roots

honey creek flows by


thick grass mats giving—

bovine eyes

as feet near streambed

c. (a psalm)

hollow flowers

clapping hands

to shouts of joy


Homage to the Milwaukee River in New Issue of riverbed review

i commute by bike to marquette university from my place in milwaukee’s east village pretty much daily. on my route, passing by the milwaukee river is always a highlight—a moment to see her beauty and reflect in heraclitean fashion on time and change etc., as cliche as it might seem. i also see how much damage we do to her, and how we’ve changed her features.

the tension between these two states is sometimes just too much, and one day i pulled over to look and smell and make a short poem about the ambivalence of the milwaukee’s flowing thru downtown. happily, the good folks at riverbed review published it in their new issue a couple days ago. you can read it here, and do check out the other good work in the issue too!

here’s a shot of the north branch further north where we haven’t bothered her as much…

sna poems,series supplementum #23: quivet marsh

quivet marsh is a saltwater marsh located along sesuit creek as the creek flows to sesuit harbor and thence to cape cod bay. we’re here visiting family, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know this land i’ve visited off and on my whole life in a more intimate way too.

pitch pines and oaks, phragmites and marsh muck, salt air and snags. found a nice stand of ghost pipes and a first id’s of pinkweed and summersweet.

my first time in a salt marsh and well worth the stop. a shout out to my sister in law for doing the early recon on sesuit creek and the marsh!


salt air

black muck

lattice work


ghost pipes underneath

the cedars

clouds above the marsh

state natural area poems #100: ward/schwartz decatur woods

a century of state natural area poems! i’ll admit: it felt good to hit this number. and i find it somewhat hard to believe—that’s a lot of visits in a year and a half, even for my determined self.

thanks to everyone who has hiked with me so far—family and friends—to all the creatures i’ve met on these jaunts, and to the all the private and public owners of these lands for tending them and making them available to the public.

oh, also, it recently came to my attention that a wisconsin high school newspaper article about the sna poems did come out a few months ago. it was fun to talk with a very local paper (in stoughton) about the vision and process of what i’m doing here, and i think emma did a fine job writing the piece up. you can check it out here.

the ward/schwartz decatur woods is another site along the sugar river, this a remnant southern dry-mesic wood with large red and white oaks. the understory has many spring ephemerals and is rich in other plants. the woods was one of the sites where baseline data for the burgeoning field of ecology was established in wisconsin by john curtis in the 40s and 50s.

a hard climb up the ridge after four other sites visited that morning, but satisfying to come out onto the edge of the wood at the crest and pause for a moment before a more leisurely walk back down.

first id-in-the-field of bittersweet nightshade—it volunteers in my backyard, but it’s different somehow seeing it out there. credit for a couple of these photos go to my dad who climbed the ridge with me.


logs crumble with footfall

upslope and downslope

movement over land


a hooved pair graze

on the sun-soaked ridge

crow overhead

if you made it this far: thanks for reading/looking. this project was not intended to go on this long, but i’ve learned enough about the natural history of wisconsin and enough folks have liked and responded to this project that it feels worth continuing. my gratitude goes out to you for stopping by.

sna poems #99: albany sand prairie and oak savanna

the albany sand prairie and oak savanna has an unplowed sand prairie, accompanying oak barrens and oak opening, a dry-mesic prairie, and an oak wood along the sugar river.

a very pleasant walk. first id’s of grass pink, hedge parsley, and american germander. also a species of primrose i haven’t seen before.


a monarch’s proboscis

curls into bergamot:

blossom and insect


life finite

and inexhaustible

in the oak savanna


the air is heavy with water

flowers and frogs thick

on the sand prairie ground

sna poems #98: muralt bluff prairie

i’m digging these prairies set on hills out west of me in wisconsin.

muralt bluff prairie lies along a curving ridge in the contact area between wisconsin’s glaciated and drifltess areas. there are fantastic displays of wildflowers from spring till fall, with several rare species represented.

it was a slick climb up (courtesy of the rain earlier in the morning), but the dense stands of wild bergamot and tall bell flower along the muddy wooded trail made up for the effort. the prairie itself and the view of woods and rolling farmland from the ridgetop were fabulous.

first id’s of grey-headed cone flower and prairie rosinweed!


coneflower and thimbleweed,

crane rattle—

bergamot kingdom


this rounded crown

between two lands

bees on the wing

if you made it this far: you are here.

sna poems #97: browntown oak forest

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.


me and this hickory

outcropping here

on sandstone slabs


coral fungus

glows on log:

a shimmering bouquet


rough and rounded spawn

of oak, walnut, hickory

jewel the forest floor

then over to baumgartner’s in monroe for serious cheese sandwiches…

New Poem in St. Katherine Review

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!

sna poems, series anthropocenum #11: washington park, milwaukee

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

columbine still blooming

great blue heron taking a break from wading

joe pye weed

monkey flower, arresting and unassuming

wood sorrel

if you made it this far, it looks like these were cicada parts…

sna poems #96: york prairie

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!


mullein blooming

rough and heavy

to the touch


prairie valley sings

with yellow throat song—

shocks of stalk and sepal


below leaf and stem

under rain and sky

bedrock glimpses prairie