All posts by Heather Herndon

Pitcher Perfect

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Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician
Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician

The nutrient-poor conditions of bogs and fens present a challenging environment for plant growth, so some plants have evolved mechanisms to obtain extra nutrients in interesting ways. The three special plants found in these habitats in Michigan are pitcher plants, bladderworts, and sundews. Carnivorous plants have always been a favorite of mine because of their ability to live in extreme environments and thrive by eating insects! It is also really fun to watch slow motion videos of flies being captured by the infamous Venus flytrap!

Pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) can be found in bogs or fens all over the great state of Michigan, including the bog at Cranberry Lake Park. The highly modified leaves are curved into a pitcher-like shape, thus giving the unique carnivorous plant its name!

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The Pitcher Plant has quite a unique flower!

Pitcher plants in particular attract insects with their brightly colored, highly modified “pitcher” leaves that mimic flowers. Insects crawl down into the leaf and get trapped! Downward pointing hairs and a waxy coating on the inside of leaf prevent the insect from escaping, and enzymes produced by bacteria in the liquid at the bottom on the leaf digest the insect. A “pitcher” perfect ending for the plant, but not so much for the insect!

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Can you see the fine white hairs on the inside of the leaves?

Have you found a carnivorous plant while walking through a fen or bog in your area? If you have, comment below! We would love to see your photos and hear about your experiences with cool carnivorous plants!

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Plant information was gathered from Michigan DNR and NOHLC websites.

Photo Monitoring: Only time can tell

Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician
Blog post by Heather Herndon, Natural Areas Stewardship Technician

Whether it be over hours, days, or even years, we observe change over time in a variety of ways. Observations can be made in a changing landscape, how fast our kids grow up, the expansion of a town’s business district, etc. There may be old photos of a building when it was first built in the 1800s which we compare to how the same building may look today.  In my own experience, a photo has been taken on my first day of school in the same spot every year by my mother. She now has the photos in an album showing how much I have grown up since the first day of kindergarten to the first day of college. I have found that over the years my favorite color to wear all of those years has been pink… and the funny thing is, it still is today! Ha! In what ways have you seen or documented changes over time?

Recently, the Stewardship Crew has been busy conducting point photo monitoring in the parks around Oakland Township. Photo monitoring is using photos (just like my first day of school photos!) to document the changes of a specific area in our parks over time. We may want to see how our work is reducing the abundance of invasive Phragmites, or see how which a patch of autumn olive is expanding.

The materials needed to do these observations are pretty simple and easy for anyone to acquire: a camera with a tripod, a zebra board as a scale to measure growth, GPS or map with the locations of the photo points, a compass to face the correct direction, notebook to record information, and a identification card for the site being photographed. Expense for these materials is relatively low, making repeat photography a favorable monitoring tool for land managers. Some of the materials can be seen in the photos below.

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Setting up the camera and meter board for a photo

 

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Keeping all the data organized in a binder is helpful
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The equipment set up at one of our fantastic township parks!

Photo monitoring is a great tool to show the changes in a landscape over time – how different management strategies change an area, how fast invasive species can take over, or a prescribed burn affects the plant community. Check out some of the photos from our parks over the years!

Bear Creek Nature Park – Interpretive Node

Wow, the autumn olive and trees are filling in quickly! Better stick that on the list of things to do.

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 O’Connor Nature Park – Phragmites patch

We treated the Phragmites in 2014 and 2015. Looking a lot better!

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Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie

Official photo monitoring began in 2011. The photos before 2011 were taken at approximately the same location as the photo monitoring point.

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Photos should be taken in the same place at specific intervals, whether it be once each season, once a year in summer, or once every five years, etc. Over time the changes in vegetation can be observed and assessed by land managers to help inform future management goals or changes in management practices. Only time can tell what changes in an area or what will stay the same.

This is a great activity for local residents interested in volunteering with Oakland Township Parks and Recreation to participate in. It is a great way to see the parks in a different light, go to places in the parks you may not have seen before, and maybe learn something new about the native flora and fauna! If you are interested in volunteering with us, comment below or call the Parks and Recreation office at 248-651-7810.

Photo Monitoring information for this post was used from the US Forest Service online guide to photo point monitoring.

Orange you glad it’s fall!

Summer and early fall in Oakland Township mean plenty of wildflowers popping up all through the parks. My personal favorite is Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)! When walking through the parks in July it is easy to spot: bright orange clumps of flowers pop up above the grasses and sedges of prairies. I found some great specimens in grassy areas along the Paint Creek Trail. Keep an eye out for their fluffy seeds this fall!

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A Butterfly Milkweed seed pod splitting to show mature seeds. -Picture by Heather Herndon

Continue reading Orange you glad it’s fall!

The new kid on the block

I’d like to welcome Heather Herndon to the Natural Areas Notebook as a contributor! Heather joined the natural areas stewardship crew this summer and has been doing great work  restoring our natural areas. She really enjoys the helping others learn about nature. I’m looking forward to Heather’s blog posts!


My name is Heather Herndon and I am the new Stewardship Technician for Oakland Township Parks and Recreation! I am originally from New Mexico and received my degree in Wildlife Science at New Mexico State University in May 2016. I have always enjoyed working in the great outdoors and learning all that I can from nature. Moving to Michigan has been so great – it is such a beautiful state!

We have lots of stewardship projects year-round. I am currently working with Ben, the Natural Areas Stewardship Manager, to control the invasive Phragmites in the parks in the township. In the future I hope to do more stewardship outreach work and work with Dinosaur Hill and other nature centers in the area teaching kids in our Township parks.

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Enjoying the fishing in Northern Colorado