The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Feb 8 2020 Becky Emerson Carlberg The 134th annual Groundhog Day took place last Sunday at Gobber's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  In falling snow, the groundhog handlers showed the groundhog cane which allowed them to understand groundhogese.  They unlocked Phil's tree stump, knocked three times on the door to wake him, […]

The Shawnee News-Star Weekender Feb 8 2020

Worker Ants shoveling snow

Becky Emerson Carlberg

The 134th annual Groundhog Day took place lastSunday at Gobber's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  In falling snow, the groundhog handlersshowed the groundhog cane which allowed them to understand groundhogese.  They unlocked Phil's tree stump, knockedthree times on the door to wake him, and pulled a blinking groundhog out intothe snowy air while brushing warm grass bedding from his thick luxuriouscoat.  Phil was placed on the top of thestump.  Can only imagine what Phil wasthinking! Two scrolls lay in front of him. With help, he 'chose' one.  Thescroll declared he did not see his shadow. Prepare for an early spring.

Will and Wiley, 14-year-old grizzly bears living at the OKCzoo, have impersonated groundhogs for over a decade.  This year, as usual, they dug their den,lined it with sticks, grass and leaves and had settled in for the winter. OnFebruary 2nd boxes of fruits and veggies were placed by the entranceto entice them to come out.  Itworked.  They lumbered out of their cozyquarters looking for food and cast sharp shadows in the sunlight.  If the brothers overslept and had notsurfaced, their black bear cousins, Maynard and Woody, had offered to begroundhogs.  The shadow knows.  We here in Oklahoma have six more weeks of winter. 

Saturday (Feb 1st) the Oklahoma Native Plant Society (ONPS) held their Indoor Outing for 2020 in the Tulsa Garden Center.  Over 100 people showed up on this warm sunny day.

The Tulsa garden center

Have you heard of 'Color Oklahoma?' Color Oklahoma is aproject of ONPS.  Native wildflower seedsare purchased and spread along highways and turnpikes.  Included are Indian paintbrush and beardtongue (Penstemon) that flower in spring, milkweeds and prairieconeflowers late spring, tickseed (Coreopsis) and rosinweed for summer,gayfeather (Liatris) and aster late summer and fall.  There is a grant program to help communitiesparticipate. A state license plate with the yellow-tipped red Gaillardiapulchella  available for $35.  The state donates $20 to Color Oklahoma foreach plate.

Color Oklahoma has entered into a new partnership withOklahoma State Parks.  Demonstrationgardens have been established in ten parks. Funding comes from sales of the Gaillardia license plates.  Emphasis is on attracting pollinator species,which help the Monarch, and education of park visitors and volunteers aboutnative wildflowers. 

'Lucky Springs' is a natural spring to the east of Peggs, OK, included in the original Cherokee land grant. Lynn Michael, volunteer plant taxonomist, has spent much time there. The source, Spring Creek, is 34 miles long and flows from Delaware County into Ft. Gibson Lake.  Typically, Ozark streams are narrow and flow in valleys bordered by steep bluffs.  The watershed encompasses 17,000 acres.

Woodland park in Tulsa

Follow the dirt road lined with wild plants to LuckySprings.   The old school burned in 2006,but remnants of a longhouse and cabin still exist.  An old pipe pours spring water.  Pollution has crept in, with chicken housesand gravel companies in the area tapping into tributaries.

Lynn's talk was of ephemerals and spring blooms.  Ephemerals are plants that grow, bloom, setseed and die in a short specific period of time.  Elusive ephemerals are early bloomers, oftenappearing before trees leaf out.  Theyplay an important role in ecosystems. White Trout lilies quickly come and go and it's tricky situation tocatch them in bloom. Beaked Trout lilies must have two leaves before theybloom.   Dutchman's breeches withfeathery fern-like bluish-green foliage produce delicate pink flowers.  The Blood root plant produces a large whitedaisy amidst thick scalloped leaves.  Theseed pods form elaiosomes, fleshy protuberances that contain fats andproteins.  The food gifts for ants arecarried back to the colony who eat the good stuff while planting the seeds. Astrong relationship exists between plant and ant.

The shade loving American Wild Ginger has small ground levelmaroon blooms often under fallen leaves. Easy to miss.  Flies are attractedto the flowers to help with pollination. The ginger is a substitute host plant for pipevine swallowtails.  Native orchids may come up, bloom and go in 3days.  Along with the ubiquitous OhioSpiderwort with blue blooms is found the Ozark Spiderwort in pink which growsonly here. 

'Redbud Valley Nature Preserve' is located in RogersCounty northeast Tulsa. Connie Murray, volunteer naturalist, explained that theentire park is 200 acres, but this area has great biodiversity (variety ofliving organisms in a region) beginning at the genetic level which leads tonumbers of species that create community diversity.  The state of Oklahoma has 2659 species ofvascular plants.  Redbud Valley has 439species. The 1.25 mile preserve trail includes several different ecosystems.

The valley is cut out of Bird Creek bordered by limestone bluffs. The limestone overlays eroded sandstone, leaving imposing overhanging shelves of limestone.  Leftover from the inland sea of the Gulf of Mexico, intermittent waters formed pockets in the rocks where Columbines sprout and shells and Crinoid fossils remain embedded. 

American holly cloaked in snow

Walk along the east-facing slope, gentle with richsoil.  This is as far west as the sugarmaple naturally grows, with the exception of a remnant population stranded inCaddo County, OK!  See rusty blackhaw andblack hickory. 

The north-facing slope is cool with deep rich soil.  Post oak, Chinquapin oak, Dutchman's breechesand Jack-in-the-pulpit grow here.

Next is the flood plain with slow evaporation, moderatecoolness and very deep soil.  Bur oaksand sycamores thrive in this area.

The upland Cross Timbers forest has thin soil over sandstoneand supports post oak, blackjack, black hickory, persimmon and rough-leafdogwood with Mexican plums lurking at the edges. 

The prairie woodland has thin soil but over limestone andexperiences high evaporation rates.  Heregrow chittamwood, redbuds, and the 'Big Four' grasses (big and little bluestem,Indian and switch). The prairies of tall, mixed and short grasses used toextend south to north through the central US. 

Redbuds pop up everywhere, thus the name. Preserve theseunique environments.  One person can makea difference. Each of you can be that person.

'The J. T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve',presented by Sue and Dale Amstutz, encompasses 17,000 acres in the CooksonHills overlooking the Illinois River. Spring-fed creeks flow through V-shapedvalleys between sharp slopes as oak-hickory forests transition to savannas andprairies.  Loads of wildflowers. 

The final talk was about the 'Gathering Place in Tulsa'with Stacie Martin (Director of Horticulture) and Chris Gabbard (certifiedarborist).  Sixteen acres of wildflowersin the middle of Tulsa! The two focused on native plants, wildflowers, thetrees saved, trees planted and what it takes to keep the gardens in greatshape.

Wednesday Feb 19th is the date.   Mark your calendars to attend the sweet Multi-County Master Gardener presentation given by Dr. Kim (honey bee advocate at Gardening with the Experts in January).   Info, ideas and tips for setting up honey bee hives in the spring.   Everyone is welcome.   Starts at 10:30 am.   Pottawatomie County Extension Center, 14001 Acme Road, Shawnee OK.

Find the cardinals!

Will and Wiley may be onto something.  The snow that fell around my house onWednesday was wet and wild.  The whiteblanket has a way of transforming the landscape into a winter wonderland.  Reality hit as the thermometer plummeted thatnight, converting melted snow into ice. The red wing blackbird EIS team (eatingand ice skating) got in some extra practice for the Beijing Winter Olympics comingin 2022.  The early bird gets theworm.  Sorry. I was thinking about therobin WWE team (winter worm eating).