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Late Bloomers at the Schrader Center

SunflowerphotoThe long awaited blooming of summer’s last flowers is here; the tall and mighty sunflower! All summer long Ms. Robin heard reports from various children from this past spring’s Preschool Days program, “Four Fingers and a Thumb”, where we learned about a plant‘s life cycle, made recycled pots and planted sunflower seeds in class. Reports included how tall their plantings were, “up to here” or “bigger than me”, often coupled with gestures to show height. Then, exciting news came in – they bloomed!

Four-year-old Allison beamed as she handed me a picture of her blooming sunflower when Preschool Days classes resumed last week. She also told me proudly that she now goes to preschool and nature preschool.  Allison has been attending Preschool Days programs at the Schrader Center with her grandmother, aunt or mother since she was just 2-years-old, and before words.

There are still openings in the Fall Preschool Days program, but look for a change in the name this winter.  Starting in January, the Preschool Days program (2- to 4-year-olds with an adult”) will be called “Roots and Shoots”.  “Roots” better reflects the often multi-generational participants (grandparents, grandchildren, parents and caregivers) in the program.  And “Shoots” captures the growth and transition of our smallest nature learners from no words to an understanding and interest in the natural world around them.

The “Budding Naturalists” program for transitional kindergartners without an adult will keep its name. Both programs will retain their high quality, interactive programming and educational outdoor components.  Check out our programs online, or call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 to register. —By Robin Lee, Education Program Coordinator

Spring Seed Sowing Topic of Public Garden Lecture Series

Pink_petuniasIt’s the time of year when gardeners are eager to get back to the soil. Wheeling Park High School’s Floriculture Instructor, Don Headley, will give a hands-on demonstration of starting seeds for the upcoming gardening season Monday, Feb. 25 at the  Ohio County Master Gardeners’ February Public Garden Lecture Series held at the Schrader Environmental Center at 7:00 pm. All lectures are free and open to the public.Tomatoseedlings

Mr. Headley will show different ways to get seeds to germinate, whether on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, and he is even experimenting with something called a “seed sock.” (No, it’s not footwear–it’s made of woven agricultural fabric.) Mr. Headley is also planning to bring various types of vegetable and flower seeds and will address the differences between hybrid and heirloom varieties, as well as explain how to time your seed-starting so your plants are ready to be transplanted into the garden at the right time and how to protect the seedlings from frost if you happen to jump the gun a bit.

220px-CabbageMr. Headley says his students already have cabbage, tomato, pepper and petunia plants popping above the soil in the greenhouse at Wheeling Park High School. He’s been teaching at WPHS for 22 years, both floriculture and auto body collision repair. He’s hinted that he may have a free gift for everyone attending the lecture–something to take home and put on a windowsill…

For more information about the Public Garden Lecture Series, please call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.

Last Trail Maintenance Day for 2012

Last volunteer Trail Maintenance Day for 2012 will be this Saturday, Dec. 15 from 10am-12pm at the Schrader Center. We’re continuing to focus on the removal of invasive exotic species, such as European Privet, and to clean up the trail for visitors. Volunteers should wear long sleeves, work pants and boots. Work gloves will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Coffee, tea and snacks will be provided. Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

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Funky Phenology

By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education —   Yesterday I got to take a hike along the falls vista trail to check its condition after the high winds and heavy rains from the recent super storm, Sandy.  Luckily we did not lose any large trees, especially considering the losses we had during July’s gale.  Despite the rainy weather and muddy trails, there are still interesting things to see along the trails of Oglebay park.  A variety of fall mushrooms have been popping as a result of the moist weather and changes in forest microclimate (particularly in the gaps formed by fallen trees).  As I came to the end of the Falls Vista Trail , and walked on the overlook to photograph the falls, I noticed one of my favorite autumn flowers the American Witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginina).

This small shrubby tree produces small spindly flowers in the fall.    They are structurally interesting with long needle shaped petals, almost non-existent sepals, and anthers that open with two Mickey Mouse-esque flaps to release the pollen.

The most interesting part of this plant’s reproductive biology though is its phenology.  Phenology is the study of timing and changes to periodic life cycle events in organisms.   American Witch-hazel differs from all other witch-hazels in that it flowers in late fall.  Competition for pollinators in the spring is likely what has driven the evolution of this novel phenology; H. virginiana is able to attract pollinators who have little other options with its meager nectar production.  After the flower has been pollenated in late autumn the pollen sits on the stigma (female flower part) until early spring when fertilization occurs.  In late spring or early summer the plant produces pods of seeds that shoot seeds several meters from the parent.  Despite the ballistic dispersal, American Witch-hazel are commonly found in dense patches in our eastern forests.

Pawpaws on the Rise In Oglebay Park

By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education–In the late summer and early fall, during the brief moments when our educators are not teaching one of our various programs, some of the Schrader Center Staff can be found prowling our trails in search of the large green leaves of a Pawpaw patch. Those foul smelling leaves are a surefire guide to the custard-like fruit that many Central Appalachian residents associate with this time of year.

The American Pawpaw (Asmina triloba) population in the Park has been on the rise, with the large clonal clumps growing and new clumps appearing annually.  The trees’ success is due in a large part to their shade tolerance, but according to Greg Park, Director of Nature Interpretation, deer seem to also leave the trees’ foliage alone. A little bit of research revealed that plants such as the Pawpaw in the family Annonaceae (the Custard Apple Family), produce a toxic chemical known as acetogenins in their foliage and bark. These acetogenins stop crucial parts of our cellular machinery from producing energy, and thus deter almost all animal herbivory.

Interestingly, one insect, the Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly, takes advantage of the acetogenins.  The butterfly lays its eggs on the plant, which is consumed by the hatched larvae.  The acetogenins are then stored in the butterflies’ bodies throughout their life, making them unpalatable to avian predators (birds!)

If you have time, come out to the Park and hunt down a Pawpaw patch of your own, but remember that there is a mandatory 10% fruit tax on all pawpaws found in the park  (payable to the office of Environmental Education, of course!)

Nature Journaling: Fun and Functional!

I remember reading a few years ago about a girl who sent out 100 gifts. She eagerly did an experiment in which she took the time to send out 100 notebooks to see if anyone would be to reply. She included an informative explanation of her intent and proceeded to give others the gift of sharing their stories. Out of the 100 notebooks that were sent out, she received three in return. Those three responders excitedly told her where they found the notebook, why they responded and how happy they were to do so.

This story intrigued and inspired me. Personally, I have kept all of my journals from childhood as a reminder of not only my thoughts, feelings, and perspective during that particular part of my life, but because journaling is personally valuable to anyone that partakes. It’s therapeutic, it’s stress-relieving, it’s informative, and yes – it’s educational! Nature journaling can teach you not only about yourself, but how much of a life-force that nature can be and all the ways in you can connect.

Nature journaling is a creative way to combine many educational elements efficiently. It compliments science, the languages, math and art. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently provides a Kindergarten – 6th Grade curriculum that allows students to participate in a field activity, record their data and discoveries, and share and reflect upon their results.

John Muir, the inspiration for and first president of the Sierra Club wrote in his journals about nature. Muir’s journals provided plenty of recorded experience, of which 10 books and over 200 articles were published. The journal was Henry David Thoreau’s tool and technique for writing. His journal, 14 printed volumes, detailed descriptions of the plants and animals he encountered every day. The Sierra Club, successful writers and the Smithsonian salute this activity, and so does the Schrader Center—kids have come here to journal for years!

One of the many summer activities the Schrader Center supplies for our guests is our “nature backpacks”. Each backpack is pre-filled with specific items based on the backpack’s purpose. There is a backpack for the pond with crates to catch critters, one for the butterfly garden with nets to see how many butterflies you can snag, and more!  The common thread through all of the backpacks is that each one contains a journal for hikers to record conclusions about what they captured and for us to listen to what they learned about nature and themselves.

  • On June 27, 2009, Oglebay Lodge visitors “caught multiple Cabbage Whites, two silver-bordered Fritillary, one painted lady, one silver spotted skipper, and three bumblebees (accidentally)!”
  • On September 22, 2009, on what they entitled the “Family Expedition,” Mama, Beatrice, Agnes, Myles and Lucy saw “no signs of turtles or frogs” around the pond, but did see “a nut in the water” and “dragonflies.” They also collected “yucky leaves” in their net.
  • On July 4, 2010, Kelly, Stacy, Jordan and Tyler “caught lots of tadpoles and two mini blue gills.  We saw three deer and heard the bullfrog taunting us. We also saw several bass.”
  • On June 11, 2010 a family from Woodstuck, GA – Lucas, 4, with Mommy and Grandma – “caught one female Cabbage White.  It was hard to catch!”
  • On July 17, 2011, Lydia and Alex saw “a waterfall that cascaded over a cave, with a deer’s footprints in the dirt.”

The best page, though, was on August 24, 2009 and it proclaimed, “Today my daughters, ages six and three, and I had a fun and educational day communing with nature…the best part was watching the joy on their little faces, and watching the glorious insects go free to be captured another day.”  Signed, “Truly Yours, Nature Lover.”

To start off our summer 2012 season, Amy, Ben and Emma Wade and Chloe and Wyatt Toland arrived for an adventure on the trails at Oglebay. They took a backpack for bugs and one for butterflies. Upon their return, they not only provided hand-drawn replications of what they found along with shared their stories, they also provided us with action pictures.  Come enjoy our nature backpacks, one of many daily activities this summer at the Schrader Center!

By Sara Fincham, Customer Service Representative at the Schrader Center

Spring Blooms Abound on Oglebay’s Trails

Yellow Violet

By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education  — These flowers were seen in flower or fruit along the trails of Oglebay Park on April 20.  A recent hike proved that many are still in bloom, if not further along than they were 2 weeks ago! Come hike the trails at Oglebay and experience the beauty of spring as it blooms.

Blue Violet

Two-leafed Miterwort (Mitella diphyllum) — This plant is named after a clerical hat– miter, also called bishops cap because the flowers are similar in shape.  Falls Vista Trail.

Sweet White Violet

Blue Violet (Viola sororia) — This small purple flower is very common along the trails.  Most violets produce two types of flower; one that is open for sexual reproduction and one that never opens, called a   cleistogamous flower, that self fertilizes.  All trails.

Round-leafed Violet (Viola rotundifolia) — This plant is similar to the blue violet except for its rounded leaves.  All trails.

Northern White Violet (Viola canadensis) — A beautiful white violet that is slightly less common than its congeners on our trails.  Falls ravine trail and Hardwood Ridge Trail.

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) — A large plant that causes birth defects in mammals, the blue cohosh generally escapes browsing from the deer.  This genus is only found in Eastern US and Asia.  Hardwood Ridge trail.

Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) — Similar leaf arrangement to the blue cohosh but with acute leaf apicies. Hardwood Ridge trail.

Bear Corn

Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) — This long-blooming spring wildflower has five fused petals that form a tube and spread at the apex of the flower.  This shape is called salverform.  All trails.

Blue Cohosh

 Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) — One of the earliest and showiest spring wildflowers, the Large flowered trillium ranges from white to (the more uncommon) deep red.  the white form blushes pink with age. (hardwood ridge trail–uncommon on trails)

Bear Corn (Conopholis americana) — This plant is a saprophyte, and is non-photosynthetic.  It parasitizes the roots of trees, particularly beech and oak.  This plant gets its name from its extrememe laxative properties, which bear take advantage of after their winter hybernation! All trails.

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) —This large-leafed blue flowered plant is easily recognized by its large round-elliptical leaves growing in clumps throughout our woods.  Hardwood Ridge trail.

Virginia Bluebells

 Giant Chickweed (Stellaria pubera) — Though this plant is called the giant chickweed the flowers are rarely larger than 12mm across.  All trails–very common.

Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) — See our earlier blog post for some interesting ecological stories about the spring beauty; this plant is almost done flowering!   All trails.

Golden Ragwort

Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) — This aster is common along roadsides and along our trails. All trails.

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) —  An interesting inflorescence called a spadix surrounded by a leafy spathe.  This flower is a perennial that stores starches in an underground root, and produces anthers (male parts) when small, and carpels (female parts) when it becomes larger. All trails.

Jack in the Pulpit

Spotted/ Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) —  This showy spring wildflower is fairly common in the park.  All trails.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) — This wildflower gets its name from the shape of its perennial rootstock.  The root is marked along its length with scars from previous years flowering stems, and when cut in cross section is said to resemble letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  Falls Vista trail.

Large Flowered Trillium

Bracken Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) — This plant will be in fruit almost all summer, and though the bright red aggregate fruit (that resembles a strawberry) is not palatable, birds have been observed picking and eating the fruit.  All trails.

Creeping Buttercup (I)– Ranunculus repens

Garlic Mustard (I)– Alliaria petiolata

Common Chickweed (I)– Stellaria media