Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Snakes and Flowers

I journeyed out to AW Marion State Park Sunday with my friend Olivia in order to hike the 5 mile perimeter trail and to see what we could find.

Almost immediately, she jumps off to the side. Confused, I turn to her and give her a questioning look. She points down and...

Hello there! The first snake of the year! And what a tiny beauty. This is an Eastern Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis. He was very tiny, only probably a foot long or so. He just calmly froze and attempted to remain invisible. However, I had to move in for a somewhat closer shot.

Here you can see a bit more detail. Eastern Garter Snakes are one of the three types of garter snakes found in Ohio, but by far the most common. Others include the Butler's Garter Snake and the Plains Garter Snake. Eastern Garter Snakes are highly variable, but most have three light stripes on a darker background, which can range from brown like this one to black. Interestingly, in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, almost 50% of Eastern Garter Snakes can be completely black (with some white on the chin), which is something called melanism.

The woods, albeit brown and drab mostly, were beginning to come to life with some wildflowers. This was the first one we came across. This is Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis. Native to Ohio, the red juice is poisonous. However, some people have used this plant for medicinal uses like dental hygiene products, although studies suggest this may lead to oral cancer. Toxicity aside, the delicate white flowers were a beautiful and welcomed sight in the forest.

These tiny flowers are called Spring Beauties, Claytonia virginica. These are found all over Eastern North America, especially in deciduous forests, although they can be found in cities and more. It's a tiny plant, as you can see, but has a subtle beauty that many wildflowers have. We are used to flashy, large flowers that have been cultivated to be...well, large and flashy. However, wildflowers, for the most part, aren't very flashy, and most have a complexity that creates that subtle beauty wildflowers are known for. The large leaf in the back isn't part of the Spring Beauty; that's actually a waterleaf in the Hydrophyllum genus, although I'm not sure of the species (if someone can help, just comment please!)

The last one for this post (although more will be coming!). This is the gorgeous Grape Hyacinth, also known by Muscari, the name of the genus. These are popping up all over town. They aren't native; they're from Eurasia and can get a bit out of hand in areas. However, I must admit they are beautiful. They're named for the grape-like flowers that you can see.

All in all, it was a good trip for Olivia and I. She's a non-birder, but I recently found out she's interested in trying. So, this Sunday we're going to go out and try birding to see if she likes it. I'm quite excited; this might be my first friend to be serious about wanting to pick birding up. Wish her luck in her findings!

Spring seems to be here, for the most part. The trees are beginning to bud and bloom, flowers are coming up, bird migration is picking up, and more. Keep your eyes out my friends, and see what you can find!