Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jasper-Pulaski INPAWS trip

For the plant lover, here in Indianapolis we have a great native plant group called INPAWS, short for Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society. (As a side note, my former boss from Spence Restoration Nursey, Kevin Tungesvick, is the vice-pres. I learned a lot about plants while working under Kevin, and I appreciate him putting up with the constant stream of questions I badgered him with :)) Recently, on Sept. 6th, they had a field trip to Jasper-Pulaski, way up in northwest Indiana. The trip was led by two great botanists, Roger Hedge and Mike Homoya. Jasper-Pulaski is well known for the sandhill crane migrations that occur in late fall. But few know that it is, also, a botanical heaven.

I was invited to the pre-trip scouting the day prior. Wow! Both days we saw some amazing things. I was able to see many life plants, ones I have never seen before. Many of the plants were rare to Indiana and only found in limited locations. Plus, I was in great company with some of the best botanists and naturalists around! See Jim McCormac's post for a pic of the crew and better photos of the plants. He has a set of awesome macrolenses for his camera and can take some great photos with those.
One plant we encountered was Horned Beaksedge, Rhynchospora macrostachya. The name beaksedge is in reference to the seeds that look like little beaks. Each seed was elongate, almost spine-like. I am sure these seeds could easily get stuck in an animals fur or feathers to be carried off to another pond or wetland.

My personal favorite, Little Floating Bladderwort, Utricularia radiata. I did a post a while back on bladderworts. These are carnivorous plants with a yellow flower that feed on small crustaceans and insects. The business end floats in the water with small bladders that capture the prey. I like how this plant looks similar to a starfish.

A plant I was super-psyched to see was Bog Yellow-eyed Grass, Xyris difformis. I had a list of plants we might see, and the week before the trip I looked them up so I would recognize some of them. I really wanted to see this one. A minute yellow flower on a slender stem. Of course, none of my pictures turned out. But here is a website that has a great picture of this lovely little plant.

Another beauty we encountered had gorgeous flowers and equally interesting seedheads. Virginia Meadow-beauty, Rhexia virginica, has fuschia blossoms contrasted with bright yellow anthers. The seedheads, also called calyces, look like tiny urns. Jim McCormac remarked that elves might drink from them. I didn't check his breath to see if he had taken a nip himself! :)

I don't have room to post all the many plants we encountered. I probably easily viewed forty or more life plants in the two days we were there, plus saw many others I have only seen on few occasions. This place is a real jewel and I hope you all take a trip to see such a diverse biological gem.

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