February 20, 2021

A Local Gem: Six Months Out

wetland

I happened upon a gem of a place in late summer 2019: a 56-acre natural area surrounded by residential property and commercial development. While I've lived near it my entire 35+ years in the Madison area, I'd never explored it. Discovering it felt like found treasure.

I posted about the Edna Taylor Conservation Park in June last year, but I'd never posted about my original (August 2019) impressions until now. As we're climbing out of a deep subzero freeze from the wobbly polar vortex, it seems fitting to project six months out from February to the warm, fertile conditions of August.

The verdant park includes wetlands, woodlands, oak savanna sections, and more. Interestingly, despite the fact that it's a sizeable property, one would hardly know it exists when traveling the perimeter...until venturing in beyond the wooded entrance and exploring the riches beyond.

Edna Taylor, a writer, teacher, and dairy farmer, owned a large portion of the property and sold it to the city of Madison to help create the conservation park. It includes six linear Indian effigy mounds and one panther-shaped mound, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. PortalWisconsin.org does a great job of describing this special place, which is free to all visitors.

Among other things, it's a great place to do butterfly surveys.

joepye monarch 1

joepye monarch 2

mating

Old, tattered monarchs and healthy, thriving, and mating monarchs on Sweet Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum) and other plants.

skipper on thistle

Silver-spotted skippers on Bull Thistles (Cirsium vulgare).

viceroy

And viceroys on fields of grasses.

shagbark hickory

There are so many reasons for any person to appreciate this special place. For me, beyond its richness with natural resources and natural beauty, its habitats and conditions are similar to those in my backyard garden: oak, maple, and shagbark hickory trees, woodland edges, rolling hills...the list goes on. So, it's a great place to take note of plants likely to thrive in my own garden.

showy tick-treefoil

Soon after traversing the land bridge between wetlands shown in the first photo on this post, one encounters an upland path that winds around beautiful woodland-edge meadows. In early August, the masses of Showy Tick-Treefoil (Desmodium canadense) were thick, bright, and dramatic.

thin-leaved sunflower

Several species of native sunflowers, including Thin-Leaved (Helianthus decapetalus), were beginning their late-summer show.

self-heal

The understated and edible Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) popped in here and there along the hiking paths.

rudbekia fulgida

Several Rudbeckia species including Orange Coneflower (R. fulgida) graced the woodland edges and open areas with their sunny faces.

monarda

One plant I was surprised to see in shade was Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). I was aware it would grow in partial shade, but I was surprised to see so much of it in heavy shade. Because of this, I added this plant to my garden; alas, the rabbits seem to like it, too.

prairie coneflower

I've always enjoyed Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), so I was happy to see it. I think my garden might be a little too shady for this one, but maybe at some point I'll add it.

compass plant

Among my favorite plants of the late summer in this part of the world are the Silphiums. This photo of a Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) recalls many happy, warm hikes.

plaque

This plaque near the entrance to the main hiking trail at the park provides a brief synopsis and tribute to Edna Taylor herself.

woodland edge

What a wonderful resource for residents and visitors to the area. But I'm certain many aren't even aware of this amazing park's existence. I look forward to many more hikes and discoveries in this special place.

26 comments:

  1. A fabulous place to look forward to. I am always amazed at the wonderful parks in your area. Your photos are superb too.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa. Yes, our parks are fabulous. Sometimes I have to pinch myself, especially when I find new ones (and visit old favorites).

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  2. Discoveries like that are joyful. Thanks for sharing the butterfly pics and all those lovely early summer flowers.

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    1. I'm looking forward to more butterfly surveys there! I haven't visited it much in spring, so I'm really looking forward to that, too. :)

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  3. I enjoyed taking this trip in the sunshine with you. It was a nice change from snow!

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    1. Oh, yes, the snow is getting old! But I'm glad we had plenty of it when the temps here were subzero for so long! Happy almost spring, Becky!

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  4. Ms. Taylor would be happy that land is still a sanctuary for birds, butterflies, and nature-loving people.

    Hope you are staying warm during the polar vortex wobble.

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    1. Yes, I believe she would. And it feels like one of those secret places full of natural wonders. Even when several people are hiking there, it still feels tucked away.

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  5. Sorry to say I missed this place during our days living in Madison. Great shots.

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    1. Thank you, Jason. When you and Judy get back to Madison, you'll have to check it out. Really special.

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  6. What a jewel! Thanks for sharing that lovely, diverse, wildlife haven.

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  7. Oh how good it feels to see green grass and blooming flowers while the wobbly polar vortex is howling outside. I am ready for spring.
    Jeannie@GetMeToTheCountry

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    1. Spring is starting to edge closer here. Still "wintry" weather, but it's so much warmer, so we are happy. :)

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  8. Hi Beth,
    This was a great post.. after weeks of cold, cold, cold weather.
    Thank you for sharing this treasure.
    Carla

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    1. Thank you, Carla. Yes, most of February was rough, wasn't it? Things are looking better this week and next week. Yay. Next time you get down to Madison, you'll have to check out this park. It's adjacent to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, which is awesome, too.

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  9. A place I've never been either. I should put it on my calendar.

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    1. Yes, I think you would really like it, Linda. Lots of native shady plant ideas. I really want to check it out in early, mid-, and late spring this year, to check for woodland ephemerals.

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  10. Butterflies are a good counter to snowy pictures I see of Texas.
    How exciting to discover a fresh new park to explore and enjoy!

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    1. Butterflies are only a dream yet here in Wisconsin. Texas will have them very soon, which will help cheer folks as they clean up after a horrible situation. I can't even imagine going days without electricity and water--except when camping years ago. And that was in the warm months. I hope they will have a beautiful spring season after all the misery.

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  11. Hello Beth....funny as my great-grandmother's name is Edna Taylor too...what a great place to be able to visit..Michelle

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    1. Ah, that's sweet! Yes, I feel very fortunate to have this and many other amazing parks and natural areas nearby. We are blessed.

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  12. Beautiful butterflies and lovely post!

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    1. Thank you, Sonia. I always look forward to butterfly season. We usually start to see them in March. Yay!

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