Dunn Woods Memories

Dunn Woods, Natural Heart of IU

May 30, 2018
by mitch
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Squirrel cooling

This guy might be the great-grandchild of the first squirrel I saw cooling himself on a path in Dunn Woods in 90 degree weather. They flatten out their chests, bellies, and groins on the shaded bricks, which conducts the “coolth” from the concrete and dirt half a foot below.

June 22, 2016
by mitch
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Black staining polypore, Meripilus giganteus

Meripilus giganteus is a white rot polypore that is fruiting around an old beech stump near the observatory, annually in June. They are mildly sour, but edible when young, as are these specimens. It take a while, the they do stain black after being handled. They cause a white rot (meaning they eat the lignans in the tree), perhaps that have something to do with their staining behavior?

Meripilus giganteus

Meripilus giganteus, black staining polypore

Meripilus giganteus

Meripilus giganteus, black staining polypore

Meripilus giganteus

Meripilus giganteus, just starting to show black staining

April 18, 2016
by mitch
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Poke in the mud

Below is a picture of “May Apple Corner”, right in the middle of the woods. For years this has been a prolific growing area for May Apples, and I have harvested at least one each year from here.

But last year, 2015, someone complained about the poke plants, that the berries stained their clothes. They had grown up in the sunny spots that appeared after the big winds hit the woods in 2011. This brought down a lot of trees, and thus a lot of sunlight into the woods. Poke was one of the first plants to show up in disturbed areas, and they grew in profusion in certain areas in the woods. They are native plants, and part of the cycle of succession in regrowth of damaged areas, and can grow 8-10 feet tall. They are useful as a spring green (though toxic when older), and the berries provide a natural red/purple stain/dye that can be mordanted with vinegar. It is this property that caused the complaint that someone had had their clothes stained by the berries while walking along the paths.

May Apples in mud

May Apples in mud


Unforby the grounds crew was to cut a 6 foot swath along the paths, and all the detritus was removed, leaving nothing but exposed earth along the paths. They did not select just the poke and take it out by hand, but rather used a machine to remove all the living plants.

This mud pit may be redeemed by the May Apple rhizomes, but there was nothing else blooming there in early sprint. I think the machines compacted the soil and any seed blown in could not germinate. There are several of these barren strips along the main paths, we shall see if the plants can re-establish now. I think it would have been better had they left a layer of leaves to stem the erosion. You can see the compacted earth on either side of the path in the picture below, no plants, no dead leaves, nothing is there. I would estimate that about 5% of the woodland has been damaged, and I hope that this year’s poke eradication is handled much more carefully (or not all!)

English Bluebells on path

English Bluebells on path, mud on each side of the path.

May Apple-Podophyllum peltatum

May Apple-Podophyllum peltatum

April 4, 2016
by mitch
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Smoking Hot Rant

{rant} WTF is with folks who toss their filtered cigarette butts in the woods? There is a dirt path into the woods near the Well House, and it cuts diagonally to one of the brick paths, and about halfway through is a limestone marker from 1883, probably to mark the planting of a tree there. So this is the spot someone, or several someones come to smoke. Now this is America, I think people should be able to consume whatever grows out if the ground, it is our goddess given natural right. But to trash the forest as part of the ritual, I just don’t get it. Every time I walk through the woods, I find trash and remove it, water bottles, sandwich wraps, coffee cups, plastic whatevers, I pick them up as I have never seen the grounds crew picking up there. But cigarette butts, with all the DNA, bacteria, germs!? I can’t get myself to do it without gloves. Why do these smokers think they have special rights in the world? Because I am addicted, I can do what i want? I just don’t get it. If you have to throw your butts on the ground, try unfiltered cigs, they will degrade after a short period, but these filters last for years. Anyone know who is doing this? Can you ask them to stop? {/end rant}

Cigarette butts in Dunn Woods

Cigarette butts in Dunn Woods

February 23, 2016
by mitch
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Cool Hand Luke was here!

Apparently Cool Hand Luke is still with us, at least in spirit, as two parking meter heads appeared in the woods this week? What was he thinking? Doesn’t he remember what happened las time?

IMG_9841

September 24, 2015
by mitch
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Turtle Crossing

The eastern box turtle is often seen crossing roadways in southern Indiana, especially after a big rain. They are forest creatures, and I have found them in Griffy Woods, and in the forests around Monroe Lake. But for some reason I was surprised to find this guy crossing the path in Dunn Woods, and I wonder how he/she got there in the first place, right in the middle of Bloomington!

July 28, 2015
by mitch
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History of Conservation of Dunn Woods

Dunn Woods has a long history as the center, the heart of Indiana University, ever since it was aquired in in 1883.

“I hope our alumni will always insist upon the retention of our precious islands of green and serenity — our most important physical asset, transcending even classrooms, libraries, and laboratories in their ability to inspire students to dream long dreams of future usefulness and achievement — dreams that are an important and essential part of undergraduate college experience.”

– Herman B Wells, 1962

“I am glad to hear of the general brightness of the prospects of the institution. … the location is certainly better among those great maples. I hope that you will let none be cut down, except when their removal is absolutely necessary.” David Starr Jordan

Here are some links to deeper info on the history of Dunn Woods:

Indiana University’s Woodland Campus (2012)-LALH

Bloomington Urban Woodlands Project-Office of Sustainability

100 trees planted in Dunns Woods-IDS

Recently there has been a shift in policy concerning Dunn Woods, a more activist approach has been taken, and a lot of work (not all needed in my opinion) has gone on. A lot of the invasive euonymus has been removed (this is good), but so have a lot of the fallen branches, trees, and flowering plants that are native (this is bad). Our well-trained grounds crew has done a wonderful job working on our campus, it is beautiful, but they are not sensitive to the natural ecosystem contained in Dunn Woods.

Here are some pics of the crew not only removing fallen logs, but also compacting soil and scaring the be-jesus out of the local wildlife.

Driving a tractor/bushog into the woods and compacting the soil was perhaps not the best approach to clearing out fallen limbs in this sinkhole

Driving a tractor/bushog into the woods and compacting the soil was perhaps not the best approach to clearing out fallen limbs in this sinkhole

Tractor tracks compact the soil and hurt the underlying mycelial network

Tractor tracks compact the soil and hurt the underlying mycelial network

This cherry picker is not in the woods to pick cherries!

This cherry picker is not in the woods to pick cherries!

July 28, 2015
by mitch
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Metal Monstors in Dunn Woods

Recently there has been a shift in policy concerning Dunn Woods, a more activist approach has been taken, and a lot of work (not all needed in my opinion) has gone on. A lot of the invasive euonymus has been removed (this is good), but so have a lot of the fallen branches, trees, and flowering plants that are native (this is bad). Our well-trained grounds crew has done a wonderful job working on our campus, it is beautiful, but they are not sensitive to the natural ecosystem contained in Dunn Woods.

Here are some pics of the crew not only removing fallen logs, but also compacting soil and scaring the be-jesus out of the local wildlife.

Vehicles of destruction in Dunn Woods

Vehicles of destruction in Dunn Woods

This cherry picker is not in the woods to pick cherries!

This cherry picker is not in the woods to pick cherries!

Driving a tractor/bushog into the woods and compacting the soil was perhaps not the best approach to clearing out fallen limbs in this sinkhole

Driving a tractor/bushog into the woods and compacting the soil was perhaps not the best approach to clearing out fallen limbs in this sinkhole

Tractor tracks compact the soil and hurt the underlying mycelial network

Tractor tracks compact the soil and hurt the underlying mycelial network

April 11, 2015
by mitch
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About those Sweet Gum gumballs…

I found a large grouping of gum ball pods in the woods in April 2015. It looked unnatural in the forest, so I questioned whether the grounds crews were allowed to dump organic waste in Dunn Woods. I got the response that of course they do not dump material in the woods. So I questioned this pile of sweet gum balls (Liquidambar styraciflua) that I found in the woods, and was told that they must have been blown there by a strong wind. So I am not a sceptical person by nature, but this seemed to be coloring way outside the lines.

Anyone who has tried raking them up knows how difficult they are to move, even with a lot of effort, their little hooks grab everything. It would seem their hope for dispersal of the pods is through hooking onto a mammal’s fur, not by flying through the air, especially as a group. The seeds inside are tiny, and are dispersed by the wind, but not the pods. Look around town at the plantings of gum ball trees, the pods are all right there underneath the trees. I suspect someone collected this grouping from the trees in front of Poplars Garage, and threw them into the forest rather than take them to a compost pile So I call bull**** on the wind theory. But at least now they know someone is watching and caring what happens in the woods, and I hope that will keep this from happening again.

Gum Ball Pods-Liquidambar styraciflua

Gum Ball Pods-Liquidambar styraciflua

2015-04-08 14.16.56

Gum Ball Pods-Liquidambar styraciflua

Sweet Gum Tree in People's Park, the closest tree to Dunn Woods

Sweet Gum Tree in People’s Park, the closest tree to Dunn Woods, the pods have been raked around the trunk, they did not fly in the wind.