Tom's Blog

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Labor Day field trip: Now a Pleasant Valley Conservancy tradition

Kathie and I have been leading a Labor Day (1st Monday in September) field trip at Pleasant Valley Conservancy since at least 2002, possibly a year earlier. (I have sign-up lists going back to 2002.) Labor Day seemed to me then, and still does, an ideal time for a trip. Everyone is off work, the prairie grasses are in full bloom, and there are lots of great forbs in bloom.

The attendance that we have been getting seems to agree with me. In 2002 we had 15 attendees, and the number has been increasing ever since. Last year (2016) we had 35 and this year 45, which is the largest we have ever had.

I'm not really bragging about this. It just seems to me that a chance to see a restored oak savanna is something a lot of people are interested in. I'm just happy that Kathie and I are still able to lead this trip. (Although the last few years I have been leading from a Kawasaki Mule.)

Since this has been a wet summer, it is not surprising that the prairie grasses are really lush. The Indian grass and little bluestem on the South Slope were at their peak, and it was a joy to watch them blowing in the wind. Some people don't like a prairie dominated by warm-season grasses. I made the point that in mid-July the South Slope is a forbs-rich prairie, and forbs and prairie grasses get along very well together. See this link for a discussion of this point.

We generally get a few demon botanists on this trip, and this year was no exception. Scott Weber and Muffy Barrett, Chris Noll, and Raymond Roberts were all finding things that Kathie and I did not know we had. The prize this year was northern slender ladies' tresses (Spiranthes lacera), found by Raymond right off the trail. (At PVC last year, a week after Labor Day, Scott had found Spiranthes ovalis, another rarity.) These tiny orchids like disturbed grown, and most of our vegetation is too lush for successful habitation.

Labor Day 2005 trip pausing at the Far Overlook.
The large walnut visible in this photo has been removed and the prairie here is flourishingl

Part of the 2017 field trip group. This year we started and ended at the cabin.


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