Sunday afternoon (April 11, 2010) was a glorious day for our scheduled monthly Byron Shutz Nature Trail guided nature hikes. It 's hard to believe that our March hike was cancelled due to 8" of snow! Participant Linda K. Williams took all the images for this blog.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and Toadshade Trilliums (Trillium sessile) were in full bloom in the oak-hickory woodland at the beginning of the trail.
The Byron Shutz Nature Trail at Powell Gardens traverses 3-1/4 miles through the back country of Powell Gardens. Here participants hike through the native prairie remnants we have been reclaiming from overgrowth by trees and brush with help from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Wild Plums (Prunus americana) were in bloom in sparkling white and accompanying sweet fragrance.
The wet season made frogs one of the highlights of the hike! Linda Williams had a good eye for locating Gray Treefrogs cryptically hiding in small trees. There are two species of Gray Treefrog at Powell Gardens but you can only tell them apart if they call or do a blood test!
This Blanchard's Cricket Frog is full grown and less than two inches long! Cricket frogs were everywhere along the trail and we even heard their call which sounds like you tapping two pebbles together.
The stunning Tiger Beetle is as beautiful as any in the rain forests! It is a beneficial predatory beetle we are glad to have around. A good reminder to come see Dave Roger's Big Bugs sculptures at Powell Gardens this summer.
This Harvester is our only carnivorous butterfly as its caterpillars feed on woolly aphids! Another great beneficial insect. Most of the spring butterflies are small and for some reason butterflies are slow to emerge this year and we saw only one Black Swallowtail. Swallowtails came out in full force on Tuesday (April 13) so we were just two days too early. Zebra Swallowtails are readily seen now in the Heartland Harvest Garden as we have their host plant pawpaw in bloom.
This weird growth on the redcedar trees is the Cedar-Apple rust. This rust's alternate host are apple trees but we don't let that bother us. We plant rust resistant apple and crabapple cultivars!
The flowers of the Prairie-Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) were also in bloom on the native prairie remnants. This wildflower is a very important early nectar source for bees on the prairie. It is NOT a plum but rather a species related to peas -- the inflated pods are edible and quite delicious! This wildflower has creamy flowers in most of Missouri but beautiful purple flowers in western-most Missouri. It was another wildflower first described to Europeans by Lewis & Clark (though of course, Native Americans knew the plant well).