Bluebell Blooms Bring Back Spring

When I see Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), I know that, despite the calendar date, Spring has truly arrived!

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Delicate new blooms

Ephemeral spring beauty

Look down. Don’t miss it!

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Forest March in February

The truck rumbled and rattled and crackled along the gravel road back to the park office;  I was sitting in the bed, relaxing in the open air.  The cool air  and the speed of the truck felt brisk, though it was fortunately offset by the pleasant warmth and radiance of the sunny day.  The truck and its passengers were all given shadowy, temporary stripes as we drove through acres and acres of beautiful Missouri forest.  The forest seemed to march with pride alongside us.  The still-green pines and cedars were attempting to outshow the leafless deciduans.  Only a few brown and brittle leaves still bravely clung to their oak and hickory homes.  But the eye cannot miss the occasional grand oak, burly and rugged.  Those grand trees seemed to command their offspring and their companions: oaks, hickories, hackberries, honey locusts, persimmons, walnuts…  From our truck bed, all of the trees seemed to be marching.  The trees closest to the road marched swiftly, while the trees several yards from the road trudged at a moderate pace.  The tree ranks closer to the horizon seemed only to saunter across the countryside.  All, however, were marching under the sky flag of blue, white, and light.

This grand and relaxing procession ended one of my first service outings with the Sierra Club EMG at Hawn State Park.  I had joined friends and strangers to help remove some old fencing.  Like many parks in the area, most of the land at Hawn State Park has been purchased from or donated by private landowners.  For one reason or another, old cattle-fields were left to the advances of the forest and many forgotten fences were overtaken.  The wildlife that returns with the forest, however, has to deal with the hazards of barbed wire and the possibility of injury when crossing half-buried, brittle fence.  Thus, our group set out to tear down some of these old fences and open up the back country.

I must admit, I feared the cold would make me slow and useless.  However, I quickly warmed up through activity and sunny exposure. March.  We slowly followed the rusty, dilapidated fence line.  Snip.  We snipped a section of fence.  Pull.  We pulled the fence and flattened any messes.  Fold.  We folded the metal wire fence into neat stacks.  Flag.  Finally, we flagged the fence for finding later;  pulling all of the fence bales from the forest would be another day’s work.  Indeed, I found myself helpful during this outing.

This part of Missouri reminds me of the Black Hills in SD.

This part of Missouri reminds me of the Black Hills (This Photo taken near Sylvan Lake, SD).  Didn’t take any photos this time on the outing.

This is what I need.  This is what anyone stuck in the city, stuck in the office, stuck in suburbia, needs; some sun and some nature to offset the constant exposure to man-made constructs and rat races.  Go outside!! “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”  ~John Muir

Desaturated Prairie

Here’s the last photo from my visit to Shaw Nature Reserve last weekend.

Another prairie plant I’m unfamiliar with.  I suppose that makes it easier for me to mess with the saturation/contrast of the original then…

The original.

Let me know if you’re familiar with this plant species, genus, or family.

More Prairie, More Fall Color

One more photo from our trail walk at Shaw Nature Reserve on Prairie Day.

I almost NEVER edit my photos beyond the occasional crop and resize.  The first photo, however, I thought Looked pretty good.  Here are both.

Equalized

 

Well, almost fall.

Fall Bloomer in the Prairie

This was also in the prairie at Shaw Nature Reserve along with the Gentian (See previous entry).  It appears to be Slender False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia), formerly known as Gerardia tenuifolia.  It is a beautiful native, late-season annual.

Prairie Gentian

Today was Prairie Day at Shaw Nature Reserve.  I learned how to use an atlatl, saw many cool exhibits, ate a bison burger, and took a walk through the prairie with the camera.   While the brutal drought is still evident throughout the region, the recent rains seem to be aiding in the fall bloom season.  Anywho, I took a few photos.  Here is just one for now.

I’m fairly sure this is Prairie or Downy Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta).  These beautiful perennials, at less than 2 feet tall, could be easily missed in a full prairie, were it not for the vibrant blue-purple flowers.  And yes, it’s native.  And yes, it’s drought resistant.  Why not try something like this in your sunny flower garden?  Grow Native!