June 12, 2013

Do you ever throw caution to the wind?

Have you ever weighed the risks and benefits of doing something, and decided to go for it? Ever plunged headlong into an activity because you didn't want to miss out? If so, how did it turn out for you?

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Last weekend, our master naturalist class took a field trip to the Kettle Moraine State Forest, about halfway between Madison and Milwaukee, Wis. While a good portion of the property is forest, the Scuppernong River Habitat Area is also within its boundaries. The Scuppernong Prairie is owned by the Department of Natural Resources, and was designated a State Natural Area in 1952.

Natural prairies are hard to find these days. Most here in the Midwest were snatched up by our European ancestors for agricultural land, because the soil is deep, rich, mesic silt loam—perfect for growing crops. The Scuppernong River Habitat Area, through partnerships with numerous state and federal agencies, has the potential of becoming the largest low prairie east of the Mississippi River.

This unique habitat is home to many plants that need very specific growing requirements. Our group had an opportunity to hunt for these unique plants ... but there were risks:

prairie

1. Tall grasses harboring wood ticks and deer ticks, which sometimes carry Lyme disease; and

uneven

2. Uneven ground, presenting the risk of twisting an ankle.

Most of us decided the rewards outweighed the risks. Happily, the rewards were great. Here are some of the treasures we found:

blueeyed
Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium montanum)

betony
Wood Betony (Pedicularis canadensis)

phlox
Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa)

prairiedock
Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum)

indigo
Wild Indigo (Baptisia bracteata)

iris
Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor)

whitelady
White Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium candidum)

yellowlady
Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum)

prairiesmoke
Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

Was it worth the risks? Yes, but then again I didn't turn my ankle and I didn't find any ticks. If I had, would it still be worth it? Probably.

In any case, prairies are full of little treasures that you can't see unless you go into them. Walk gingerly, though ...

nest

I'm linking this post with Donna's Seasonal Celebrations meme. One of my favorite summer activities is hiking.

To join the Lessons Learned meme before it wraps up on June 21, click here to leave a comment with a link to your post. Thanks!

30 comments:

  1. So glad you took the risk, I enjoyed seeing all your finds.

    At least two of those, the blue-eyed grass and prairie phlox grow in the natural areas near me in south Texas.

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    1. Fascinating that some of these plants grow naturally in such varied climates! But I guess the common denominator is the prairie habitat, warmth, and moisture--which we both have in summer. :)

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  2. Absolutely fabulous...how lucky to see these plants in the wild especially the Lady Slipper's...now this is a celebration!

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    1. Yes, the Lady Slipper Orchids were fun to see. Also, the Prairie Smoke captivated a lot of us. They are both fascinating plants!

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  3. Very much worth the risk - your pictures of those lovely wildflowers are very nice. Thank you for taking that risk.
    I can't for the life of me think of a garden related risk but here's one I'm very pleased to have taken. I'll try not to ramble on!!
    I have a bit of a water phobia and am not the best of swimmers. So long as my feet can reach the bottom I'm generally quiet calm. A few years ago, whilst in Australia on vacation - my son came out of the water telling me about all the wonderful sights to be seen under the water. Panic immediately set in as he asked me to go snorkelling with him. A member of the family we were staying with, painstakingly encouraged and taught me how to snorkel over the next 3 hours, calming me when needed. My confidence grew and when I went out onto the reef for the first time and could see everything my son was describing to me - that risk was totally worth it. The creatures and colours I saw that day - have yet to be surpassed!! I have to say that since that event, I can and have snorkelled with confidence ever since! So yes, I was so glad I took the risk!!

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    1. Wow, good for you! I had a similar experience with my first snorkeling adventure. Same feeling of being so glad I had done it, because of the beautiful creatures and colors. Caution has its place--especially for informing us. But sometimes you just have to go for it! ;-)

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  4. Your findings are wonderful, imagine, 2 kinds of Orchids! So cute. I'm growing Phlox pilosa from seed, fortunately I did get some to sprout, very exciting, but P. divaricata didn't; but I did find a nice big plant of it in bloom at the HD clearance rack anyway.;-) Your eggs look kind of like Meadowlark eggs.

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    1. Yes, it was a great day, and fun to explore with the group. Thanks for helping to ID the eggs. I think someone may have mentioned it, but I forgot to write it down. They seemed so fragile buried down in the meadow hay.

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  5. What a wonderful park for diversity of flora and fauna. I love that cream wild indigo and the Lady Slippers! Hope you wore long pants tucked into your boots or socks to keep off the ticks!

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    1. Yes, great place--and not too far from you, Jason! I wore long pants, sox, and hiking boots, but I didn't tuck my pants into my boots. I did wear two types of insect repellent, however.

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  6. Thanks for sharing your visit, and no risk to me at all! You saw some wonderful wildflowers. The prairie smoke is fantastic, and how exciting it must have been to find that nest of eggs! I have seen something like Blue-Eyed Grass in my own garden. It's a long way from Alabama to the prairie, but it looks exactly the same. Perhaps a cousin?

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    1. The virtual tour without the risks--almost as fun as the real thing. ;-) I just checked the USDA Plants Database and it lists 42 species of Blue-Eyed grass native in the U.S.! (Perhaps there are more?) Some of them look very similar. The one we saw on our hike looks just like the one listed in my wildflowers of Wisconsin book.

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  7. What fabulous finds! My favorite are the lady slippers! They are gorgeous! And the nest with eggs...very cool! The ticks have been terrible this year again!

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    1. Yes, it's fun to find such treasures on a simple hike. I found out from one of the other naturalists that the nest holds Cowbird and Sparrow eggs (hard to see from the angle of the photo).

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  8. Looks like you had a good day. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yes, it was a great day--perfect weather, perfect company, lots of learning, and simple pleasures and treasures. :)

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  9. Lovely. I hope to grow some prairie dock of my own someday. Love those big leaves!

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    1. The foliage is really striking because of its size! The yellow flowers are pretty, too, but I think they bloom in late summer.

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  10. Well worth the trip, what amazing shots...and that birds nest..sigh.

    Jen

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    1. Thanks! Yes, it was great. I overstated the risks a little bit, but it's good to think about before venturing into tall grass and uneven terrain. ;-)

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  11. This is why nature is so amazing, it always brings g¡fantastic surprises. I love the Prairie Smoke so airy and make a wonderful image.

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    1. I agree totally, Lula! The Prairie Smoke had a bunch of us entranced. There were two patches--red flowers and white flowers. My photos of the white flowers didn't turn out well.

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  12. Lovely photos, and thanks for taking the risk, sometimes risky events turn out all right in the end :-)
    I suppose I take risks often, I am doing things in my garden my orthopaedic surgeon has strictly forbidden me to do, but if I was going to play safe every day I would have to spend my life on the sofa and what kind of life is that? I try my best to be as safe as I can, but my body isn’t always playing ball and I end up paying for it. No one to blame for that, and I feel it’s a price worth paying – most of the time :-)

    I loved your Lady's Slipper photo, I so want one for my garden but they are very expensive over here. What happened to the other photo? Did it get swallowed by Fickr?

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    1. Hey Helene: I can't even imagine having to be that careful, but I'm so happy that you can garden--boy, do you ever garden! No, sitting on the sofa all day would be a drag. It's bad enough spending hours at a computer for work. Thanks for alerting me to the Lady's Slipper message. I don't know what the glitch was all about. It should be back and accessible now.

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  13. You had many fine finds, especially the bird nest. Ticks are such a common problem out in the fields, I often find them and send them back to there hunting grounds. I was especially bad when I took my too very furry dogs along.

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    1. I'm sure you probably encounter more ticks if you have a dog. We spend a good amount of time in the woods here and elsewhere on the weekends, but I know dogs tend to pick them up even more. And I usually try to avoid tall grasses. :)

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  14. omg, those lady slipper's are GORGEOUS!! Definitely worth the risk. and the bird nest
    is precious too. I bought a blue-eyed grass for my garden the other year (I think it's the same one?) but it didn't make it for some reason. I love how delicate the blooms are.
    Great field trip. Hope you enjoyed these beautiful benefits without picking up any ticks!

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    1. Aren't the LS Orchids pretty? Apparently, there are up to 200 species of Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grass)! It was a great field trip!

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  15. I'm not usually a risk-taker, but this would have been a time I would have thrown caution to the wind! Well, I probably would have brought along insect repellent and worn sturdy shoes:) I have always wanted to visit a natural prairie; I've been to a few small restored areas, but to see the land as it was hundreds of years ago would be a thrill. It's amazing to see some of these wildflowers growing and thriving without human attention; I had to buy a start of Prairie Smoke and I'm not even sure it's going to make it here.

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    1. Yes, I guess I was being a little tongue-in-cheek about the "risks," yet they did give me a bit of a pause. ;-) Apparently, the Scuppernong Prairie is partially restored--they're attempting to reclaim areas around the park, which is nifty!

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