Jack and Jill - Where the Wild Things Are

It is the time of year when the woods is full of Jacks. They are hard to spot at first, blending in with the other greens of the forest floor. But after you spot one, then you will soon see others all around. The three leaves that shade them look like the trilliums that also bloom now, but there, on a separate stem is the Jack in the Pulpit. Arisaema triphyllum. I have seen them all my life and scarcely give them a second glance when looking for Columbine and Wild Geranium. So when one caught my attention the other day, you know it was something special.

I had seen a couple stems of something earlier in the week and had marked them as being unknown, and to watch to see what they turned into. I was now on a different piece of Camphill Land. Following a deer trail on the edge of swampy area, I was entranced by the sheer number of ferns, scanning the ground for unfurled fiddleheads. And there it was. A Jack in the Pulpit over 2 feet tall. The stem was over 3/4 inches across. A giant Jack!

This led me to research when I got home and I found out several interesting things. 

1. There is only one species of Jack in the pulpit in Minnesota.

2. There are male and female Jack in the Pulpits.

3. The same plant grows each year from a root and either becomes a male or a female for reasons not all together clear at this point.

4. It can change from one to the other over the years.

5. The extra large Jack in the pulpits are actually females..I would call them Jill in the pulpit!

6. Most of the Large ones also have two sets of three leaves instead of one set.

So lurking out there in the woods are monsterous Jill in the pulpits, along with May Flowers, Columbine, and Wild Geranium. The mosquitos have also shown up. But who cares when there are Giant Jacks to see!

Where the Wild Things Are - Osprey, Robins Egg, and Willow

Spring is now in full force, greens bursting out, too far now to go back. The sweet scent of plums fills the air, the soft buzz of bees finally returns. The birds are vying for my attention as I walk, calling from ground and tree. The orioles are back, the robins already hatching out their broods. Sedge wrens call from the willows. The willows are just starting to leaf out. Did you know that there are fifteen possible species of willows found in Todd County? It will be interesting to see how many make their home at Camphill, besides the pussy willow!

The world continues to amaze me with it's never ending abundance of opportunities to learn. So many things that I have never seen (or noticed) before. Blue Cohosh is blooming and I didn't even know such a plant existed until the other day.

Sometimes you come upon something so amazing that you know it is something that will stay with you for a long time. I had that happen on one of my walks the other day. I was delicately balanced on a hummock in the tamarack swamp when I heard a noise. A loud snapping of a dry branch breaking. Now I see the back end of deer disappearing into the woods all the time, but I looked up anyway, because flowers don't go anywhere when I look away. There was no deer, but an osprey flying away with branch in talon. It had broken off a branch from a dying tree top and was taking it to it's nest as building material! Surely a once in a lifetime sight! After marveling that I was blessed with such a sight, I turned back to the flowers and heard another crack! The osprey was back! Another stick for the nest. It must be close by, for it had only been minutes since it had flown off. I continued on my way, not wanting to disrupt the process, heart full and thankful for the opportunity I have.

New species seen include the Sessil leaved Bellwort, Little leaved Buttercup,  Great water Dock, and the Rose twisted stalk.

Where the Wild Things Are - The Secret of the Trees

It all begins deep in the ground. Before anything appears above the ground, things have to happen in the damp,chilled earth. From roots and seeds, life slowly pushes up toward the sun. Many plants are now sending up leaflets, bits of green poking up through the debris of last fall. Rosettes of leaves sprawl out. Some are easily recognized as thistle and dandelion. Furry mullien leaves have survived the winter. But many plants send out rosettes of leaves that are nothing like what the plants "mature" leaves will look like. As I walk through the woods, I note these mysteries and wait. If I had just gone to the woods when the plants were up and blooming, I would miss these changes. I would not see nature revealed leaf by leaf. I would only get part of the story. So I walk and watch, and wait. 

The trees are slowly starting to bud out. The forest is harder to see into as a green haze develops. If you look, you will see the aspen. Here a group of aspens, all showing spring green, while next to them, another group without a bud. It is one of two times of a year when you can tell a secret that the trees have hidden from you. They are not single trees, just growing by on another. They are connected. Under ground. Root by root. Each group is a single organism, blooming and growing in unison. The next group will not time their lives the same, blooming sooner or later, loosing leaves at different times. As you see where each tree lies in relationship to it's neighbors, you will see which is connected to which. You can see the hidden boundries of each tree. You can also see it in the fall when the leaves change color. 

Violets continue to bloom, Canada Anemone have popped up and the ferns have begun to unfurl. Little brown birds, given a second look, reveal Palm Warblers have arrived, leading the way for spring migrants. No time to blink on the walks these days, as the world changes minute by minute.

Where the Wild Things Are... butterflies, butterbutts and ferns by Ann Luloff

I was escorted on my walk by a flock of yellow-rumped warblers, commonly known as "butterbutts". One of the first warblers to return, their sheer numbers can be overwhelming, popping out of the bushes and hanging on the branches. Never still, always searching for insects, they can distract one from the other sights at hand. Persistence pays off as I spot one orange crowned warbler in their midst. Not as exciting as they sound, their orange crown is almost never visible and they are known for being the plainest warbler. Other things flying were butterflies, too quick to ID, also in search of a meal.

Back to the ground and foliage, I found myself in a sea of bloodroots. quick to bloom and quick to fade. Hidden among them, a couple of Dog Violets! Pale compared to later bloomers, still a sight for winter worn eyes. 

While checking for ferns, I spotted a couple of Devil's Urns. The Latin name is Urnula craterium. These leather like urn shaped fungi are some of the first to pop out in the spring. They form on downed deciduous wood. 

Big things catch my eyes too. A birch with a diameter of 19.1 inches and a Willow with a 29.6 diameter, both are in the running for largest on the land. 

So much to see, and it is all just starting!

Where the Wild Things Are - Owl, by Ann Luloff

Sometimes when I walk, I am looking for certain things. My eyes may scan the forest floor, looking for ephemerals. Sometimes my eyes are darting from brush to tree to ground, trying to see whatever is calling through the spring woods. At times I just stand still and look. I may notice small bits of green that I could of walked right on past. The flight of a bird off to the side is noticed and noted. Sounds of frogs calling now fill the air, bird calls in the distance come into focus. 

It is the surprises that make every walk a joy. A new plant, the first sighting of a bird for the season. I never know what is out there. As I walked in the wetlands behind the marl pits, I found the marsh marigolds just starting to come out. Not far away was a tree that I failed to recognize. Evergreen and needled, it is obviously a conifer, but which one? It was short and wide, not the conical shape one expects. It didn't match the simple tree book I carry with me. Photographs taken, mental notes about details, it was a mystery for later research. 

After a climb up into the oak forest, the sound of frogs drew me over the top of a hill to discover a small woodland pond. A delightful sight, with no cattails or Reed Canary Grass around it. There in the water, I saw another plant I didn't recognize. Again, photos and notes, ready for later. Then I saw it. An owl flying quietly into the woods. 

It landed on a branch not far away and I slowly moved through the trees until I could get a better look. A Barred Owl! You hear them more often than you see them. "Who, who cooks for you?" is their persistent question. A bit of patience and I had a photo of the elusive bird, not National Geographic quality, but good enough to confirm the ID. 

The rest of the walk was less eventful, but soul filling. The tree appears to be a Common Juniper which isn't reported in Todd County (a really underreported county), and the plant? Turns out to be Pennsylvania Bittercress! Always an adventure!

Where the Wild Things Are... by Ann Luloff

So what is it I am seeing out there, in the still frozen woods? In a single word....trees. Before all the other vegetation fills in, it is a perfect time to really see the trees. Figuring out what kind they are works for those that have dropped their leaves on the forest floor under them. The oaks are the easiest. Northern pin oak, white oak, red oak, and burr oak are common throughout the village. Ironwood and tamarack, the perpetual Eastern Red Cedar.

There are 35 species of trees that are native to Todd County. These would be trees that would have been here when the first European settlers arrived. I am currently at 15 species, with the rest waiting for leaves to pop out for positive identification.

As I go through the woods, looking at trees, one of the things I do is measure the diameter. Different types of trees grow at different rates, and end up at very different sizes. I am looking for the largest of each species in the Village. There are some "big" trees out there! Ironwood is supposed to grow to 12" in diameter, and I have found one that is 14.5"! I found a Pin Oak that is at it's upper size at 18". There are tamaracks by the marl ponds that are approaching top size, and I would love to get a slice of a trunk (of an already dead tree) to count the rings. I wonder if they are actually very old, or just fast growing. It will be interesting to see what the biggest tree in the village ends up being!

The first green growing vegetation observed by me in the woods is Motherwort (leonurus cardiaca). A member of the mint family, it is valued by herbalists. Unfortunately, it is an invasive species, escaped from gardens. Just how wide spread it is, is yet to be seen.

With warmer temps, spring will creep through the forests and field, new things sprouting up all over. Green is coming!