Mushroom trails and other stories

One can hope that the moist forest has lots of different mushroom species. A few days ago I discovered mossy maze polypore (Cerrena unicolor). I am looking for Turkey tail mushroom. The algae-covered mushroom feels hairy in sections, then smooth in others. It is strongly zoned which gives it a false appearance of turkey tail. Mossy maze polypore grows on live deciduous trees or conifers.The polypore was growing on a live apple tree. Flesh has white with grayish zone separating it from a hairy cap surface. Spore print is white. I need to find colored paper for testing spores that are white. I tried getting a spore match on a white paper plate and of course I couldn’t see the print. Turkey tail grows on dead deciduous trees or in wounds. Mossy maze polypore grows throughout N. North America. Source: Field Guide to Mushroom by National Audubon Society. Not all species live on trees.

NOTE:  A few day later my eight year old great-niece Amelia and I went mushroom hunting. We found a few more species. I still am unsure of species, but want to add photos and any notations that I have that may help with identification. Along the way, we stopped at the wild butterfly habitat for me to check it out.

Amelia and Toby
Amelia and Toby

It wasn’t long before I saw Amelia kneeling down by a white cross where Toby, the dog, was buried in the butterfly habitat in the nearby woods. I was surprised to find her there quietly visiting the deceased dog whom Amelia and the family loved. To see her innocence and love for one of the Creator’s creatures was a heartrending sight. She said she wished she could pull the rocks away so she could see Toby once again. I knew how she felt. I told her my own story of wanting to dig up my dog Tia just too see her again too. I explained that we had to let our loved ones go when they walked on. It was respectful to them. Amelia understood. It wasn’t long before we were hiking on the trail once again.

Mossy maze polypore

Mossy maze polypore (Cerrena unicolor) Leathery , stalkless, grayish. Hairy, often algae-covered caps. Smoky pores. Spore print white. On deciduous trees mostly, overlapping. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mushrooms, 2004.

NOTE: More mushroom photos follow.

Mystery mushroom
Mystery mushroom
Red mushroom growing in wet forest area
Red mushroom growing in wet forest area

I finally see where the mourning dove lives. For weeks I have been watching the mourning dove in his/her favorite roost perched on the barn roof. Yesterday I saw him fly to my father’s nearby Norway spruce tree. My sister Ronnie confirmed that this is where mourning doves live. I find it interesting that the bird likes to watch the family when they are in the pool area. It is here we have garden fresh casual suppers, sitting around a umbrella covered picnic table. The cooing bird also likes to watch human activity in the front gardens. Often I am out there smelling flowers or taking photos of pollinating insects on flowers.

Gills and spore side
Gills and spore side
Grasshopper carries pollen on its feet

Yesterday I caught a green grasshopper with hollyhock pollen on his/her legs. Now I know that even a grasshopper can be a pollinator. My sister and I love old fashioned hollyhocks. Ronnie has a scattered collection of near black, maroon and pink. We both planted a brilliant dark pink hollyhock last year and new first year leaves have been spotted both in our gardens in WI and MA. I collected seeds from the plant in an alley in WI. It is by far the prettiest color I have seen.

Let’s hear it for the pollinators! Without them there wouldn’t be a bio-diverse world nor the wonderful variety of vegetables and fruits that we often take for granted. We celebrate a thanksgiving each time we remember to thank and protect pollinators.



Greetings Insectamonarca friends,

Today, Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This evening at sunset, the sun was filtering through the forest and the fragrance of woods, herbs, and flowers including scented geraniums was impregnating the air. I stood in a grassy area before the gardens by the pool and started to practice Justine Stone’s Tai chi form as I opened up to communicating with sounds of forest and happy buzzing insects. At nights I have been sleeping on the back screened patio. I love falling asleep to sounds of wind, rain and insects blessing me. A few days ago China the cat was attached by a feral  cat. She had gotten outside and has a shoulder injury. It is amazing but she and I are recuperating together. I have learned to slow down and do mindful walking to re-center my blood pressure. China is limping around on three legs. She teaches me about importance of rest. We have become fast friends.

My sister, Ann Veronica Ryall-Hohos, nickname Ronnie, has been creating a botanical paradise on 40 acres of protected watershed area in rural MA hills, near Fitchburg,  MA, during her lifetime. The old homestead dates from 1820s. The house is Colonial with shaker cedar and a hoop roof.  I had no idea of how extensive her plant knowledge ancestral connections would take her in creating a magnificent natural biodiversity environment. While Ronnie was busy co-creating her natural heaven at home, I was out in the world with my side of the shared plant knowledge DNA sharing my life’s work with the world, documenting field guides for butterflies and other pollinators and prairie restoration and other pollinators. I have come full circle and I am once again home after a life time  of travel and environmental education commitment. Two of my books are published My Name is Butterfly and Monarch Butterfly Coloring Book. The children’s environmental education books are available on Amazon.

I don’t have the life expectancy to complete in-depth documentation of my sister’s tremendous contribution to wild landscaping. I will do regular meditation and medicinal walks among the plants and record observations of native plants, vegetable gardens, berry and grape, herbal medicinal and culinary discoveries here. At the same time, I will record new insect pollinators including the monarch butterfly and bird discoveries. I always love a natural world mystery and I wasn’t disappointed today. This morning, I walked down the hilly driveway to build my leg muscles. I am recovering from a degenerative health breakdown of my immune system. It is complicated. On the positive side I can handle what is coming my way knowing  that I am not on dialysis or suffering with cancer at this time in my life. Anything other than these two categories I am grateful to say that Grace is guiding me in acceptance of impending health issues and end of life quality of life issues and independence.

There is enough time to share about the hoary vervain, fireweed,wild and domestic grapes, common mullein, four -leaf clover, heal all, and wild bergamot, lambs quarter, false indigo and possibly Culver’s root that I witnessed this morning. I saw a new species of moth. Two pink tinged moths with vanella body and white fringe around outside back wings. They were sleeping in an evening primrose flower.  Of course I need to verify the species. I don’t have my WI field guides with me and will fill in details that I find through the Internet and hopefully a visit to the library, as time permits.

UPDATE: The small and delicate pink moth is a primrose moth (Schinia florida). This was a new moth species discovery for me. I am thrilled. How appropriate. There they were sleeping in a evening primrose flower, so sweet.

I also witnessed two new small bird species, one with a yellow head the other with a yellow breast. No, they are not American finches (wild canary). Again, I am thrilled to already doing my field work here and discovering new species of plant, bird or insect. I am sure there will be wonderous surprises along the way.  I also gathered Lambs quarter and a broccoli leaf and added the greens to an organic garden fresh tomato sandwich for lunch.  Want to lower your cholesterol? Instead of using egg rich mayonnaise, try adding a spoonful of room temperature Chobani Greek yogurt. This yogurt has natural probiotics and a mix of live cultures that keep the good flora working in the digestive system. It is absolutely critical to add living culture yogurt to the diet if one is on antibiotics and other medications. I arrived in MA with a Lyme’s disease. I was bite in WI but it didn’t register because I didn’t have the classic symptoms of aching joints. Having fibromyalgia can at times camoflage symptoms. I am on antibiotics for 21 days.

I gathered wild bergamot and common mullein which are respiratory herbs. I drink a tea of these herbs for COPD. I added heal all, a general tonic and four-leaf clover which is rich in vitamin B. This was my morning medicinal tea. This evening I am making a medicinal tea of cedar leaf, a healing herb for body, mind and spirit, centering and balance. This is a well known herb used by Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa plant people of the Great Lakes region of WI. I am adding a few leaves of energizing peppermint to this mix. I found out that I need catnip a sedative or chamomoile for evenings, not an energizer, otherwise I can’t fall asleep. Since this writing, I have found Solomon’s seal which I have been looking for in WI. I am so thankful that the plants are here to greet me. It feels like old friends are welcoming me home. Early morning between 4 am and 7 am, the barred owl comes calling. I do not hear a return salutation so perhaps the owl is alone  at this time.

Be well Insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Hummingbirds and Annual Meeting

October 21 – The environmental film Hummingbirds by Nature was shown at Terraceview Living Center. Film crews used special cameras to capture 500 images a second.  These wondrous tiny birds are the only bird species that can hover, fly backwards and fly vertical. I have seen male hummingbirds perch near a nectar source in order to defend their territory. The film showed one species of hummingbird that was trained by a flower. In the tropics, intoxicating datura flowers grow and only the sword bill hummingbird with its extra long bill can pollinate the flower. The movie literally shows the tiny bird as magic in the air. Hummingbirds are the smallest warm bodied creatures on the planet. They are fast and their wings can beat up to 200 times every second.

After the event I stopped by City Hall to chat with Mayor Sally Peterson. She donated the 2010 donor fee for Terraceview in memory of her mother Angeline (Angie) Klopp. It just so happened that October 21 was her mother’s birthday. Mayor Peterson said, “My mother loved hummingbirds.” It was a good feeling to know that the first film to celebrate the fall had an intention beyond simply showing a film.

October 22 – Happy Tonics, Inc. held its Annual Meeting at Lakeview Bar and Restaurant. Officers and board are currently exploring long term plans and goals for the nonprofit and the Restored Remnant Tallgrass Prairie. The purpose is to insure that both the public charity and habitat are secure into the future. The Monarch Butterfly Habitat, two blocks north of downtown Shell Lake, is on the long range Comprehensive Plan for Shell Lake.

Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to improve Route 63 near the habitat which in turn will naturally become a Pollinating Corridor. This improvement could benefit the Highway Bettering the Economy and Environmental Act (Highway BEE Act), Bill H.R. 2381. Happy Tonics is involved with Pollinator Partnership which says, “The bill promotes conservation practices on 17 million acres of highway rights-of-ways (ROWs) by encouraging reduced mowing and native plantings that provide improved habitat for pollinators, ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.”

Another consideration for Happy Tonics is the state owned DNR land on the south side of Shell Lake. In years to come the City plans to upgrade the woodland trails. This would allow more opportunities for the public to visit the Wild Butterfly Habitat that is maintained by the nonprofit on the south side of Shell Lake.

Migrating bluebirds
Eastern bluebird

This afternoon I woke up out of a sound sleep and by chance looked out at the birdbath. I was delighted to see one male bluebird and five females. Each in turn took a soak to dust off their wings. It must be a happy day because the little cheerful bird is called the bluebird of happiness.

Enjoy a beautiful bird on a warm and sunny fall day.

Image was available on Google images with property:

According to SandyTSeibert’s article titled “Bluebirds Migrate to Find Better Weather and Better Resources”: “Eastern bluebirds do not simply shift southward. In some of the warmer areas of the country, many are year-round residents. Often, the birds from Canada and the northern U.S. will leapfrog over areas with many resident birds in order to avoid competition for food. These birds will travel as far as Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and the southern portions of Alabama, Georgia and Texas. Source:

Probable Tornado High Winds and Rains Smash into Minong, Wisconsin, July 1, 2011

Minong sky
Continuing story. Latest updates are below at bottem of this post.
Ju;y 2, 2011 Storm saga: The temperature was about 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the valley yesterday. Late afternoon I went outside and felt a few rain drops falling. I raised my eyes and arms up to the sky and silently said, “Thank you.” The vegetable gardens needed rain. It was too hot and I knew the rain barrel was near empty. I would be grateful for rain and lower temperature. Midwesterners in Northwest Wisconsin are not used to torturous heat. Besides, I have Lymn’s disease again and not supposed to be out in the sun for the next 21 days while on antibiotics. Instead of working I decided to walk down the street.

I can’t help it. I am an Earthy woman who loves and lives within the elements. My passion is gardening and butterflies. I am more at home outside than in and have always been this way since childhood. When it started to rain more consistently, I turned around and headed home.

I observed clouds coming from the south. They could be viewed at the top of the Minong hills and looked like an impenetrable wall. I puzzled why were the clouds so low to the ground? I didn’t feel alarmed in that moment simply curious. I did not know that something significant was about to happen. I walked inside the house and began to watch a Netflix movie in the living room. While spread out on a sleeping bag, all of a sudden the electricity went off. Loud groaning and tearing sounds mixed with high wind pitch. The sounds were beyond any beyond anything I had ever heard. I got up and walked to the only space on the main floor that doesn’t have windows.

There I waited in a darkened hallway. I felt and heard the bones of my aged redwood home creaking and moaning and knew that the structure was being tested. The high winds roared down the chimney. I could hear the wind in the attic above me. At the same time, some knowledge more ancient than I made me realize that I was protected by a healing blanket around me. I was not afraid. I felt secure in this thought. With my bare feet firmly placed on the floor I felt connected to earth. I reached for the water pendent necklace hanging from a nail in the hallway and felt the water totem would protect me now. I grabbed the necklace and put it on. I held onto it and knew matter how forceful the rain and wind were, I would be safe.

My Facebook friend Worth Cooley Prost had given me a glass pennant neckland as a gift. She creates glass water jewelry. Worth is immersed in ceremony before and throughout the creative process. Her Earthly role is honoring and loving water especially oceans. I have not met Worth yet. I know her through mutual water work. I am a council guide for the Sisterhood of the Planetary Water Rites headquartered in California. Women carry the responsibility of honoring the gift of water. It is a woman’s role to protect water. The Sisterhood was formed to embrace water and to teach others to be grateful for the gift. Water is not a commodity that can be bought, sold or traded. It is a gift. Women share the role so that we can protect fresh water for present and future generations.

Notes: Thoughts on losing pine trees and birch. Bonding with an adult monarch as I lightly held my hand out and she walked on my fingers to reach nectar. Precious moment. A few weeks ago, I saw a mother monarch lay eggs on milkweed in this colony. The property maintenance people mowed over it a few days later. I hadn’t protected it quite fast enough. I did see that some of the milkweed continued to grow and quickly, low fencing was bought. This time by golly, I was going to fence the colony off. Today I witnessed the first monarch caterpillar to survive in this very patch of milkweed. Last year, July 4, 2010, I lost my husband to cancer.

Uprooted 60 year old or older red pine trees.
Uprooted 60 year old or older red pine trees.This year July 1, 2011, all the old red pine trees were uprooted along the southern property line. These trees had beautiful straight trucks worthy of being milled for pine furniture or paneled walls. I counted trees rings the best I could. They were visible up to 54 circles which in turn indicate the age of a tree. I know a retired logger. He was here today with his wife. She was just checking on me when I started to explore this idea. I will get the age confirmed. I hope to save the wood for some worthy purpose. I do not want the trees dishonored and simply treated as non living. I would like to preserve them. Hopefully this is economically feasible. They could make beautiful knotty pine furniture, walls, and door and window frames for “Up north cabin furniture and room decor.” After the insurance people come, I hope I will be able to have a local mill help me. This is my highest intention. Now it will be a matter of financial possibilities. One step at a time. What I already knew about tree migration and I had noticed condition of the hardwood trees. I was already thinking the landscape would change once the trees started to die off because of climate change. Where will the robins sleep now? I hear one instead of a chorus that took refuge in the pine trees to sleep before the storm. What happened to the little wren family in the bird house? Did the mother make it out with the babies? Were they ready to fly? My neighbor told me birds know about incoming storms and they take refuge long before it hits. I did hear a chorus of wrens in the back property in the deep canapy of standing small trees and near the toppled trees near the bird house. Was this the wren family I was hearing? It is all quiet in the birdhouse now. I hope they made it to safety. I did see one young robin who was swept away by the wind. The little bird was laying in the motel’s driveway. Poor dear.July 4 - Late afternoon I could hear the winds blowing through the still standing red pine trees across the street. I started to cry - no more will I hear the sweet music of the pines on my own little 1/2 acre heaven. I will miss these trees and their music. These trees made a certain sound in winter when the winds would howl through the wind tunnel on the south side of my house. What will replace this familiar sound?Janice Organ helping with storm clean up.

July 5 – My friend Janice Organ contacted me via Facebook  asking if she could help. Janice came today from Shell Lake. Both of us worked all morning to rake the back property and to pick up limbs and twigs. I feel so much better knowing that at least the open lawn areas are cleared of debris.

Janice Organ helps with storm clean up.
Janice Organ helps with storm clean up.

We had some transforming conversation too. Janice was able to see a mother robin teaching her fledgling to fly and also to pick juneberries ripening on a tree. It was thrilling to internalize the message. We all must learn to trust ourselves and fly. The old world order is becoming obsolete with deteriorating natural resources, diminishing world fresh water supply and humans being disconnected to the very natural world that supports life. What is needed now is to learn about sustainability of the changing environment and to find ourselves within the natural world order.

“Evidence of significant patterns of change over the past 10,000 years confirms that substantial ecosystem changes can occur as a result of changes in climate. Presuming future changes occur to the same extent as past changes, tribes that trace their ancestry to the wooded regions will slowly become overtaken by grasslands. Such that the entire nature of place for many Native peoples is likely to change.” Source: Climate Change Impacts on the United States. Chapter 12 – Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change by Schuyler Houser, Verna Teller, Michael MacCracken, Robert Goughs, and Patrick Spears.

The city crews came today to cut and remove some of the street laden fallen trees. I am grateful to them and the new Board members who are making sure that village residents are helped with the cleanup. It is massive. Did I tell you about Hoppy (sp) who works for electric company? He made sure after being three days without electricity that my neighbors across the street were given higher priority because my friend Henrietta needed oxygen. My roof and electric pipe on the roof are damaged so Hoppy made sure I had a temporary wire hookup so I too would have electricity now. What wonderful people who you can count on where there is a natural disaster.

July 6, 2011 – Grandmother Tonya Whitedeer recently published portions of this article in the July issue of the Sisterhood of the Planetary Water Rites Newsletter. She said, “Mary Ellen called me the morning after this act devastation…at first I was amazed at her bravery and calmness…but then I realized that she understands the prophecies and knows that we are in the midst of them now…these are the changes that are preparing for a New Earth to be reborn. If we stand in our Trust as Mary Ellen did and stand also upon and within her sacred space of Truth…we can all be survivors and teachers for our Mother Earth…AHO…. Grandmother Whitedeer

Morning Reflections

Wren house 2011 with occupant wren family.

June 24, 2011 – After five days of rain, I was excited to get outside and see my gardens this morning. I am grateful for the rain. Surely it is helping to replenish the water table in Northwest Wisconsin. I walked over to one garden and heard a lot a chirping from a bird house. The parent birds have been flying in and out of the bird house for weeks.  Now I hear a lot of chirping from the little ones. I can’t imagine the size of the babies when I see how small the wren is.

Will be back later with National Bee Count totals. We were able to post on Facebook and received responses from MO, MN, WI and Nova Scotia so far.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Bird blown on the winds of time

Today in Minong, Wisconsin, USA, the winds blew approximately 40 mph. It was enough to snatch a baby bird from its nest and hurl the small bird down in my back yard. From where the bird was carried is a mystery. I saw the baby bird on the lawn from my window and went out to investigate. The fledgling got scared and tried to fly. The bird could only make minute flights close to the ground. I kept my eye on the bird throughout the day.

Early this afternoon I went out and saw that the baby was not moving. The bird opened and blinked its eyes and I knew that it lived; however, I also knew that it could not fly now. Perhaps it suffered some internal injury. I sang the baby bird an honor song. Then I found a live worm and carried it to the bird on a straw strand. I thought the bird might be hungry and thirsty. At this point I also brought a small lid filled with water to tempt the bird.

baby bird
Farewell baby bird

  By 4 p.m. the baby bird had died. I bent down and kissed its tiny head the color of fall leaves. It felt warm. The body was black with tinges of blue and green.  The color could only be seen from a close position.  The bird with closed eyes blew over and I noticed one foot curled and the other straight. I dug a hole and gently placed the small bird in along with sacred tobacco that was used in earlier morning ceremony prayers.

I thought about the mother. She would never know what happened to her baby bird and my heart wept.

Squirrel in backyard is unintentially helping winter birds

This the second time I have seen a gray squirrel find his way around my squirrel trap feeder. A few day ago I caught him on the feeder and I tapped loudly on a window and he scattered off. Unfortunately, I scared two pigeons that were also feeding on dropped bird seeds exposed on frozen ground. We only have about a dozen pigeons in Minong, a  village of  521 people.  I have often wondered where they came from. Minong is  located in a valley in Northwest Wisconsin.

The squirrel was at it again this morning. No, I don’t really know if the squirrel was male; but I think of squirrels as male because they are such aggressive feeders. This morning when I saw the new snow fall, I knew that the birds would not be able to feed on the  now buried seed. This is where the squirrel came into play. By digging into the snow, he was able to expose seed and also able to feast on a nice breakfast himself.  

Without realizing it before, I now see the winter squirrel in a symbiotic relationship with winter birds. He gives a little and helps a lot when there is snow on bird seed. The birds are now able to land on the seed tray that the squirrel prepared for them.

Foxes Visit my Backyard in Minong, WI

Tonight two foxes came into my backyard. They both blended into the tree shadows and at first I didn’t know they were foxes until I saw their long tails. Late afternoon I had put out stale bread and dried fruit. It appears fox like these kind of treats. The treats were meant for tomorrow morning and the bird.

I wouldn’t take anything for the joy of having wild animals on my 1/2 acre property.

Be happy insectamonarca friends where ever you are.

Monitoring Native Species at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden July 2010

This is a work in progress. We opened the Visitors Center/Store on August 5 and July got away from me with all the preparations to move into the new location.

 JULY 2010

 July 4 – On the way home from Minong, I stopped at the Native Wildflower and Butterfly Garden. Picked up the trash throughout the ½ acre habitat. 


  One of our display fabric butterflies was taken. Found a cooler pack in area three. Saw something or someone trampled down the native grasses. The anise hyssop was trampled and the beloved only purple prairie clover was trampled.  Don’t know who or what did the damage.

 Next year we will need to supervise the habitat during the holiday weekend. I couldn’t be there this year because my husband passed away in Minong, Wisconsin.  He walked on between 1 and 3 a.m. on July 4 and I was with him. He died peacefully in his sleep after diagnosis of terminal cancer on February 3, 2010, the day after his 65th birthday.  My dearest, my own.

 July 6 – A little rain today.

 July 7 – Rode bike to habitat at 7:30 a.m. It is going to be muggy.  I brought sacred tobacco with me to put down tobacco at Dorothy DeJong, Will DeJong (husband), Lyn (friend of the Earth), and BonnieJo Snell’s memory bench. I took photos of grasses for identification and saw a sweet sparrow singing on the Stop Sign.  Then I scared up a monarch who I think was a fluttering female.  I think she may have deposited an egg on a milkweed plant in area two near the entrance side.  Then I scared up a yellow sulpher in area two.  Both of them were camouflaged and resting in the tall grasses. I saw two sparrows feeding at the bird feeder. 

Who are you?
Who are you?

   Then I saw this jewel of a bug in area two. I have no idea what it is.  It had orange and beige colors and looked like a butterfly larva but it flew when I got too close. It too was resting in the tall grasses on the underside of a grassblade.  Very interesting. NOTE: January 17, 2011, I am happy to say I found the ID on this insect. It is an Ailanthus Webworm Moth. Its habitat is the meadow. It does rest on grasses as we can see in photo. There is only one generation a year according to National Audobon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders.

 A little rain at 7 p.m. and I am loving how it gently falls to make the Green Nation thrive.

 Glen Moberg, Wisconsin Public Radio, stated that a wet June eased drought conditions. The article was reported in the Washburn County Register on p.4.  Moberg said, “June rain has also helped many parched northern lakes that are fed by streams and tributaries.” He went on to say, “Heavy rains eased the effects of an eight-year drought on parched reservoirs and lakes.”

 Happy Tonics staff and volunteers can attest that the rains have made the habitat florish with native grasses and forbes.  Wildflowers are budding out all over and it is a special delight after the long wait of three years.

 Grasses as viewed on July 7:

 Ray Schulenberg’s quick and easy way to tell some of the grasses when not in floweror seed:

 It it’s flat and smooth, its little bluestem.
If it’s flat and fuzzy, it’s big bluestem.
If it’s round and smooth, it’s switchgrass.
If it’s round and fuzzy, it’s Indiangrass.

Source: Wasowski. S. 2002. Gardening with Prairie Plants: University of Minnesota Press, p. 119.

Roots of grasses and forbs arrange themselves in layers so that every speck of soil is used for moisture and nutrients. Tallgrass species grow deep roots.  J.E. Weaver researched native grasses and found that long-lived tallgrass praire can have roots from 5 to 23 feet deep.  Damian Vraniak also says that the prairie rose can have 20 foot deep roots and that this little prairie charmer can survive in drought.  Prairie roots have been found to have Mycorrhizal fungi and help the plants update minerals, water and nutrients.  The fungi help the plant resist disease, improve soil structure and recycle organic matter. It has also been found according to Sally Wasowski that it is bacteria in legume root nodules (clovers) that have nitrogen-fixing properties.

I have noticed bare patches of sandy soil in the habitat.  This is called the sod layer that sits above the roots and is also known as the ground layer.  This soil is actually well-developed sod that lets rain soak in and allows almost no runoff.  This is true and I have seen no erosion in the habitat even though it is mostly sand.

I have seen some ground covers in the habitat.  There is a plantain and some moss that develop as “mat-formers” according to Weaver. I have seen some understory sedges coming into some areas of the habitat.

Insects make the prairie their home.  We have so many different species of insects and I am only learning how much I don’t know about many of them.  Take for example the jewel bug I discovered a few days ago.  We see dragonflies and they are wonderful at eating mosquitoes and other insects.  I have never been troubled by mosquitoes at the habitat.  We have many sparrows in the habitat and they also eat bugs besides the grass and flower seeds. I suspect they also enjoy small insects. 

We may want to put down some top mulch to keep weeds out and keep moisture in.  Perhaps later in the fall when it cools down we will reseed the prairie with native seed from the nearby Shoreline Restoration Project garden.     

Dropseed ISporobolus heterolepis) also called prairie dropseed. Seed head varies from pinkish brown to grayish blackish. The grassy tufts are attractive and weep. 

USES: Tiny, roundish seeds are fragrant and tasty. Kiowa’s parched the tiny grains and ground them into flour. They practically fall off the plant when ripe. I tasted them raw and thought they were tasty but too small for gathering.  Important food source for birds.  It is sand dropseed if it has dense tuft of white hair at the base of the leaf blade and leading down the sheath.  Yes the habitat has this also. Also a Native American food.

  I noticed Four o’clock flowers have been chewed off with a straight cut.  I suspect deer because they are too tall for rabbits.  The photo is of the flower head after the pink bell-shaped flower has fallen off.  The flowers are formed into a cluster.  I only saw it flower after late afternoon hence its name Four o’clock.

Native four-o-clock
Native four-o-clock

Four o-clock (Mirabilis nyctaginea)

USES:  Brew of roots used for internal parasites. In the West, American Indians used a closely related species for inducement of visions.

Prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa) Often visited by hummingbirds and occasionally eaten by deer.  Many of the phlox species have a sticky substance on their upper stems TRY THIS to protect them from insects that do not serve as pollinators.

Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) Known as pleurisy root, butterfly weed.  Asclepias comes from the Greek god of healing and medicine.

Hoary vervain  (Verbana stricta) Birds enjoy the seed over the winter months.

Purple prairie clover (Petalostemum purpureum) Soil is improved because the prairie clovers add nitrogen. 

 USES:  In Ireland and Scotland the seeds were ground into flour for bread making.  The leaves from a tea were applied to a wound. The root was chewed by the Ponca and a tea from the plant was made by the Oglala.

 Cottonweed (Froelichia floridana) I think I have seen this in habitat.  White flowers not much of a show.  Amaranth family.

 Prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) Also known as western sage, western mugwork, white sage and wormwood and sagebrush. 

 USES:  Purification bath will restore a person. Used for ceremonies and medicine.  Before a funeral the pioneers burned in a fire before the steps to provide incense. I burn in my outside wood fire and smudge with it.  

 Yellow coneflower (Patibida pinnata)

 July 13, 2010 Brennen Mahur volunteered today and pulled flowering spotted knapweed before it spread its seed.  Each flower head contains approximately 20,000 seeds.  Can you imagine how serious this problem is with this invasive species?  I did see that succession is nicely working on a native plant that isn’t very showy.  It acts more like an annual and I don’t know its name. For the last two years (2008-2009) it was pretty intense in the start of area three.  In 2010 it is being replaced by milkweed, prairie clover and native grasses.  Jim Reimer, US Fish and Wildlife Service told me this would happen and he was right.  Jim sure knows his native plants.

 I did notice where deer had slept in the high native grasses again.  It is quite exciting to think of them hiding among the tall grasses.  I saw two monarchs in area one.  I came to the habitat about 8 a.m. and both of them were sleeping in the grasses.  I scared them up. I worked on pulling wood chips away from the native shrubs and replaced this with wood shaved mulch.  I also cut away the tall grasses around the shrubs so they would have room to grow without competition.  I noticed the Three Sisters Gardens is growing tall and nicely.  Our hidden squash behind the compost pile is growing nicely too. 

 July 14 –  A tornado touched down about six miles from Shell Lake. The sky turned black and the lightening roared.  It was near flood conditions when I returned from Spooner and decided to park my van on high ground. We were told to go to the lobby and residents sat around listening to the sirens and warnings on TV. What does this have to do with writing about monitoring?  Well, it is said that storms can become more severe in climate change. Was today any indication?  I wonder if the prairie grasses were beat down?

 There are two books I highly recommend for the Midwest gardener who may want to put in a prairie instead of paying high water bills for landscaping.  Gardening with Prairie Plants by Sally Wasowski and Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie The Upper Midwest by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa.  I don’t have enough money at present to buy the books for our library so I am borrowing them from the public library.  I have used both books to help me learn how to identify native grasses and to pick up tidbits in how plants are used as food and medicine.

 July 15 – Drove the car to the habitat to check on the native tall grasses to see if they were still standing tall after yesterday’s 60 miles an hour winds.  The grasses and corn were still standing.  Just proves that tall grasses, and corn is a grass, can withstand high winds.  Grasses have a year round appeal. They are a refuge to wildlife in winter. They provide low cover for ground-frequenting birds such as sparrows.  Then in spring dried grasses and plumes are used to build bird nests.

 July 17 – Met Bob Hasman and Joan Quenan at habitat. Joan worked on weeding the wood chip path in area two (towards end and near Lyn’s memory bench).  She says, “By September I may have it weeded.” Bob and I agree it is even getting too hot at 8 a.m. We decided to start at 7 a.m. We have placed an ad in paper for volunteers to help at habitat. Still it is the out of town people who help maintain the habitat. Why we can’t interest volunteer local citizens is beyond me.  I am grateful though for two youth who come from Shell Lake High School to help.

 I am seeing the prettiest grass heads now that have a purple or rich brown color.  The stems appear with some purple in them I believe.  At first I thought they were tall blue stem but the seed heads appear like a fountain on tall stems.  Another mystery to be solved. It started raining around 3 p.m. and through the night. Torrents for awhile.

 July 19 – Beautiful sunny morning at 60 degrees.

 July 24 – For the past week I have been focused on learning to identify native grasses. Well, Urika!  I have identified Switchgrass now. The early stages show white stiff hairs between the grass joints and it looks like a V. Then the smooth stem grows and when the purple flower head comes out at the tip, you can notice a purple vein before the purple grass blooms. It is quite unique and pretty to see this magnificent prairie grass. Switchgrass appears to be making colonies in the habitat.  My sister is here visiting and my niece left today to return to Massachusetts. We had a fundraiser bike ride around the lake sponsored by Vitality Village. Erica, my niece was able to meet some of the riders.