Dunn Woods Memories

Dunn Woods, Natural Heart of IU

August 21, 2017
by mitch
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Cardinal Flower wilting

This has been a very dry spell for Indiana, as July is the wettest month of the year, but it generally comes in some big storms, which we just have not had yet. So the earth is very dry, and as a result, this solitary cardinal flower in the northeast quadrant of the woods has started to wilt.

Cardinal flower wilted

Cardinal flower wilted

May 16, 2016
by mitch
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Daisy Fleabane

Erigeron philadelphicus, aka Daisy fleabane, Philadelphia fleabane, or common fleabane, is native to North America and is commonly found along roadsides, in fields, and in open forest like Dunn Woods. It is a member of the aster family, is easy to spot as it is has multiple flower heads, and it is often a foot to two feet tall with colorful pink-white flowers with hundreds of florets surrounding a bright yellow center. The name comes from the folk belief that the dried plant would repel fleas.

Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus

Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron philadelphicus

May 5, 2016
by mitch
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Ephemerals are gone-Butterweed is here

Even though the weather has been cool this week, all the ephemerals have bloomed and are now gone. The cutleaf toothwort leaves have turned yellow and the later blooming may apple flowers have dropped their sepals, exposing the tiny fertilized fruits to grow larger over the next month. The spring beauties seemed to keep blooming longer than any other flowers. The white trout lilies lasted longer than the yellows, but they were both done within two weeks. The salt and pepper came and went early, and the larkspur disappeared. The dicentra (squirrel corn) specimens I found disappeared in just a couple of days.

Addendum:
A few days after posting this I walked through the woods, and found the the Prairie Trillium was still blooming, so it seems it is the longest lasting ephemeral. The trout lilies have gone and their leaves are turning yellow.

Prairie Trillium

Prairie Trillium in early May

Butterweed, a member of the aster family, is the dominant non-emphemeral spring flower in the woods at this time, and I expect it to keep blooming through May, then it will disappear. Butterweed seems to prefer the southern half of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, but it is moving north with the effects of global warming.

Butterweed, Packera glabella

Butterweed, Packera glabella

Butterweed, Packera glabella

Butterweed, Packera glabella

April 22, 2016
by mitch
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Squirrel Corn in Dunn Woods!

I found two squirrel corn individuals in the woods today, growing in the densely packed White Trout Lilies. The other dicentras we have around here is Dutchman’s Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria, and to my experience, they are rarer, or perhaps better hidden from me! There is a strong colony of mixed dicentra at Griffy Nature Preserve, growing on a northwest facing ridgeside.

Squirrel corn, Dicentra canadensis growing in white fawn lilies

Squirrel corn, Dicentra canadensis

Squirrel corn, Dicentra canadensis

Squirrel corn, Dicentra canadensis growing in white fawn lilies

Dutchmans Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria

Dutchmans Breeches, Dicentra cucullaria in Griffy Nature Perserve

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 18, 2016
by mitch
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English Bluebells in Dunn Woods

Hailing from the western edge of Europe from Britain and Ireland all the way to Spain, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, the common European bluebell is well loved whereever it blooms, but it is not native to the U.s.A. There are a bunch planted along the path to north of Dunn Woods, and years ago they escaped into the the woods (in Europe they are considered to be be a sign of old growth wood when they are found wild in a forest).

So I was thinking that as we are willing to cut native plants down in the woods (Poke and May Apple), and to remove the invasive and destructive euonymous, perhaps we should remove some of the English bluebells. I had this thought just as I noticed just last week that they were starting to bloom.

English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta

So on my way downtown on Sunday morning, I was surprised and pleased to find that someone had read my mind, and done a lot of the work in removing the plants on the east end of the woods! Well done IU Office of Sustainability, along with the removal of the euonymous, a great step forward. Now if we can keep from hurting the native plants and creating sterile mud strips along the paths holes, things be going well.

English Bluebells on path

English Bluebells on path

April 4, 2016
by mitch
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May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum

May Apple, Podophyllum peltatum, aka American Mandrake and Ground Lemon, is common in the woodlands of southern Indiana, and is well represented in Dunn Woods. Last week they were just starting to poke their heads up, but this week they have fully popped out their full leaves. May apples typically have one or two large leaves. The two leaf versions produce flowers and eventually (in June) a fruit. They grow in colonies from a single rhizome, or rootstock. As an alternate name (American Mandrake) suggests, the plants are toxic, containing podophyllotoxin, which is used topically to remove warts, and has shown some promise as an anti-cancer and anti-viral agent, but don’t try this at home!

They produce a smooth lemon sized fruit that is edible in small quantities when fully ripe (they turn from green to yellow when ready). Some folks have a bad reaction to them, but I found them delicious, they are sweet/sour, and have the consistency of grapes. But they are very are to find when ripe, it seem the mammals in the woods get to them just as they turn yellow, it is a bit like trying to find a ripe paw paw, the animals know where and when to pick, and don’t leave much for humans!

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

April 4, 2016
by mitch
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White Trout Lilies

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

Dunn Woods has a large colony of Erythronium albidum, the White Trout Lily, which is rarer than its cousin the yellow trout lily, Erythronium americanum. The white lilies appeared just after April Fool’s day, and are still going strong on April 12. A few yellows have appeared, but the main body of them is still dormant. Both are spring ephemerals, and come out a bit later than the early birds like Harpinger of Spring, Cutleaf Toothwort, and Spring Beauty, all of which have been in bloom for a while. Today I found that the white version blooms fully before the yellow variety. A couple of yellows are out in some sunny spots, but the whole colony of white trout lilies is blooming now. Some folks use the term Fawn Lilies for either type, as it is the leaves that remind one of the mottled skin of brown trout, or a young fawn.

This colony is growing en masse on both sides the path highlighted here. It seems they were planted sometime in the 50’s, in an attempt to bring some native plants back into the woods. They certainly seem to enjoy growing together in a homogenous swatch. Underground the elongated bulbs can be dug (not in Dunn Woods!) and cooked like any root vegetable, or dried and ground into flour. The bulbs are small compared to potatoes, but with with hundreds/square foot, they are an abundant forest crop.

The yellow version is sometimes called dogtooth violet, but this seems to me to be a poor name for it as it is not related to the violet family, even though it appears at the same time of year. But the violets last long into the summer, while the Erythroniums are true ephemerals and will stop blooming in a few weeks. So take a walk through the southeast quadrant of the woods, and you will see these beautiful spring ephemerals.

Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum colony in Dunn Woods

White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum colony in Dunn Woods


Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum

Yellow Trout Lily, Erythronium americanum

March 23, 2016
by mitch
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Signs of Spring 2016

Here are a few pictures of renewed life going on in Dunn Woods during this early spring.

Spring Beauty-Claytonia virginica

Spring Beauty – Claytonia virginica

Purple Spring Beauty

Purple Spring Beauty – Claytonia virginica

Harpinger of Spring, akd Salt and Pepper - Erigenia bulbosa

Harpinger of Spring, aka Salt and Pepper – Erigenia bulbosa

Cutleaf Toothwort - Cardamine concatenata

Cutleaf Toothwort – Cardamine concatenata

Cutleaf Toothwort - Cardamine concatenata

Cutleaf Toothwort – Cardamine concatenata

May Apple-Podophyllum peltatum

May Apple-Podophyllum peltatum

Wild Mint - Mentha arvensis

Wild Mint – Mentha arvensis

Magnolia in Dunn Woods

Magnolia grows as an understory tree in Dunn Woods

February 23, 2016
by mitch
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First spring ephemerals in Dunn Woods, 2016

IMG_9843

The first spring wildflowers poked up their heads in Dunn Woods during the week of February 22. There are several bunches of snow drops, aka Galanthus, often the first wild flowers to appear this year. I will be finding salt and pepper (harbinger of spring, Erigenia bulbosa) in the deeper woods soon! Below is a link to Kay Yatskievych‘s Flower Finder for Indiana Spring Wildflowers, the single best resource I have found for indenitying Indiana’s emphemerals. Happy hunting!

Spring wildflowers Indiana