This post was written by our Land Stewardship crew. Look for weekly posts from them throughout the summer, in addition to the posts from Cam Mannino!
On Thursday the stewardship crew helped host the grand opening of the new playground and safety paths at Gallagher Creek Park, which is on Silverbell Road just east of Adams.
In July 2018 parks staff, our contractor, and volunteers from the community gathered for a workday to install the playground. This year, the stewardship crew will be planting an interactive children’s garden around the newly constructed playground, using plants native to this area.
Before they start planting next week, the crew has been prepping the site by placing logs to border of the garden and adding stepping stones to encourage children to explore the planting. Stay tuned for updates on this project!
As runners and bikers sail along beside you on the Paint Creek Trail, perhaps you, like me, wonder if they notice all the beauty around them. But sometimes a walker misses glorious sites as well. This week and last, Oakland Township Stewardship Manager Ben VanderWeide alerted me to two beautiful wildflowers that I would have missed! Both were gracing lesser known areas of our park system, areas full of life and a surprising variety of native wildflowers. I thought I should share them with other walkers, runners and bikers who might have missed them, too.
The Wet Prairie (Paint Creek Trail): Michigan Lilies and More
A “wet prairie” sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Prairies are always sunny, but the soil can range from wet to very dry. Sometimes, in the flood plain of a stream, or other area with a shallow water table, special fire-adapted wildflowers and grasses find a footing. Conditions are perfect at this spot on the trail. The original channel of Paint Creek and its floodplain cross this 10 acre parcel on the west side of the trail. Last fall, we published a blog of the autumn flowers that bloomed here last year. And in June, we showed the stunning native Yellow Ladyslipper orchids (Cypripedium parviflorum) hidden in the grass. Now look at this summer bloom!
How’s that for a spectacular native plant! The Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) might remind you of the non-native Orange Day-Lily (Hemerocallis fulva) or what we used to call “Roadside Lilies.” But this is a much fancier, native lily. They don’t last long in hot weather – and deer frequently eat the buds before they bloom, which prevents them re-seeding. So we’re lucky to have them this year! Take a look as you hike or bike near the prairie.
Other native wildflowers are blooming on the Wet Prairie now too. Of course, orange Butterfly Milkweed(Asclepias tuberosa) dots the area. Here’s Ben’s photo from last summer.
Native Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphorafruticosa) tilts its blossoms to the sun near the trail, too.
The lavender blooms of native Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense) are drying in the heat but the Joe Pye (Eutrochium maculatum), a native wildflower that likes moist feet and sunlight, is just getting ready to go!
Insects swoop from plant to plant in the Wet Prairie searching for either food or shade. Here a female Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) pauses on a bare twig.
A modest brown butterfly paused for a moment on some dried flower heads. I think it’s a Columbine Duskywing(Erynnis lucilius), but it may be another Duskywing. I love its striped antennae.
Native False Sunflowers (Heliopsis helianthoides) shine golden in the shade beneath the trees just south of the Wet Prairie.
The prescribed burns and removal of invasive shrubs have given the native Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) lots of room just at the edge of the tree canopy south of the Wet Prairie.
That Other Wildflower Surprise – Gallagher Creek Park
Ben notified me too about another native that’s blooming right now at the little 15 acre park at the corner of Silverbell and Adams Road. So I hurried over to see it, of course, and wow! So many native flowers, so much birdsong, a frog, dragonflies, butterflies – all kinds of life is emerging in that small park at the headwaters of Gallagher Creek! I plan to dedicate a piece to it very soon. But this week I wanted to share this elegant spike of white blossoms called Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) because its blooms only last a couple of weeks. So if you want to see it, hurry over to Gallagher Creek Park, too. The flowers are just to the west of the parking lot, swaying gracefully in the tall grass.
It’s wonderful to have friends who share their discoveries with you. Thank you, Dr. Ben! I hope some of you readers will use the comment section when you make discoveries in our township parks. The more eyes we have looking, the more beauty we’ll discover in the meadows, prairies and forests when we’re “Out and About in Oakland!
Footnote: My sources for information are as follows: Ritland, D. B., & Brower, L. P. (1991); Stokes Nature Guides: A Guide to Bird Behavior Volumes 1-3, Allaboutbirds.org, the website of the Cornell Ornithology Lab at Cornell University; Wikipedia; http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org; Herbarium of the University of Michigan at michiganflora.net; various Michigan Field Guides by Stan Tekiela; Butterflies of Michigan Field Guide by Jaret C. Daniels; University of Wisconsin's Bug Lady at www4.uwm.edu/fieldstation/naturalhistory/bugoftheweek/ for insect info; http://www.migrationresearch.org/mbo/id/rbgr.html for migration info; invaluable wildflower identification from local expert, Maryann Whitman; experienced birder Ruth Glass, bird walk leader at Stoney Creek Metro Park for bird identification; Birds of North America Online; Audubon.org; Nature in Winter by Donald Stokes, Trees in My Forest by Bernd Heinrich, Winter World by Bernd Heinrich, Savannah River Ecology Lab (Univ of Georgia); Tortoise Trust website www.tortoisetrust.org; An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds by Jonathan Silvertown; The Ecology of Plants by Gurevitch, Scheiner and Fox; other sites as cited in the text.
Last Friday we conducted a prescribed burn at Gallagher Creek Park. Located near the headwaters of Gallagher Creek, this park protects our important water resources in our township. Notably, Gallagher Creek is home to a remnant population of native brook trout. In addition to stimulating the native plant communities at this park, the prescribed burn was part of our Phragmites control program (along with appropriate Michigan DEQ approved chemical control). We hope that managing for healthy native plant communities in the wetlands around the creek will help keep Gallagher Creek itself healthy.
Surveys of the brook trout have been done by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR, formerly DNRE) in 1990, 1998, and 2010. The Southeast Michigan DNR Fisheries Newsletter from January 2011 provides this summary of what we know about the brook trout in Gallagher Creek:
Gallagher Creek is a small, coldwater stream originating just south of the Bald Mountain Recreation Area in central portion of eastern Oakland County. It flows in a northeasterly direction and empties into Paint Creek at Orion Road in the Village of Goodison. The creek flows through private land; there is no public access. This stream is home to one of the few remaining self-sustaining brook trout populations in southern Michigan. There were concerns that habitat quality had degraded due to sediment and nutrient inputs from erosion and runoff associated with development in the watershed. A survey in 1998 indicated that runoff from construction sites in the area was responsible for depositing sediment in the gravel riffles and natural pools formerly present in the stream. Previous surveys of this stream in 1990 and 1998 produced brook trout densities of 300 trout per mile. In 1992, mottled sculpin were trapped and transferred from Johnson Creek in Wayne County to Paint Creek as a prey item for trout. The sculpin had managed to expand their populations into the lower stretches of Gallagher Creek by 1998. This survey was conducted to evaluate the status of brook trout in Gallagher Creek. We captured a total of 7 brook trout from 6 to 7 inches and 1 brown trout at 3 inches. The brook trout density found in this survey was about 50 per mile, down from 300 per mile in 1990 and 1998. This decline in abundance is likely due to siltation of the stream from the development along the creek. Mottled sculpin have expanded their range even further upstream from 1998. We also captured blacknose dace during the survey. The presence of these two species indicates that the water quality is still good, but the heavy siltation is hampering the brook trout’s ability to reproduce.
Does our natural heritage, a special population of brook trout in this case, need to be sacrificed for the sake development? Or can we be smart with our development, designing systems that protect the stream by filtering runoff to capture silt and other pollutants?
Be part of the solution! Install a rain garden with native plants to capture the runoff from your roof and driveway before it enters our wetlands and streams. Plant a native plant buffer next to the wetland or stream that runs through your property. We have very special natural features in our township, and we all need to pitch in so that future generations can enjoy more than just stories about “the way it used to be.”
Two volunteer opportunities are scheduled for the next few weeks. First, we will have a volunteer workday this Saturday at Gallagher Creek Park. See details below. Second, we’re busy collecting collecting seeds and need your help!
Join stewardship staff to collect native plant seeds! These opportunities will be during normal business hours Monday to Friday. Exact timing will depend on your availability and staff availability. If you’d like to help, contact Ben VanderWeide to schedule a time (click here to see contact information). We collect seeds in many of the high quality natural areas, so you’ll probably get to see some new places in our parks!
When: Saturday, October 11, 2014, 9 am – noon. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be cancelled.
Who: Anyone! This event is free, with no experience necessary. We’ll train you to do the work.
Why: Why not? We will be remove non-native invasive shrubs and preparing an area for planting native plants. Come out on Saturday to enjoy beautiful areas and hang out with great people! And food after we finish working!
What: Bring water and gloves, and wear closed-toed shoes and long pants. We’ll have extra gloves if you can’t bring your own.
We’ll provide water and light snacks. You will need to sign a release form before we begin working. Families are encouraged to attend! All minors will need permission from a parent or guardian to participate, and minors under 14 will need to have a parent or guardian present. We will have lots of fun, so plan to come and share this opportunity with others! The schedule of upcoming workdays can be found at the Volunteer Calendar.