How could you go wrong spending a weekend during the peak of spring activity with some of Ohio's most knowledgeable and passionate naturalists, birders, botanists, lepidopterists, entomologists etc. guiding you through the endless flora and fauna of these areas? You can't! So check your calendars and circle the weekend of May 3-5 for Flora-Quest! This annual event takes place in the lodge and conference center deep in Shawnee state forest where you will be immersed in the diversity and history of the area by those who know it best! I highly encourage you to peruse the Flora-Quest website for more information on events, trips, accommodations, guides, speakers etc. Yours truly is a guide again this year and will be teamed up with well-renowned nature photographer Ian Adams for an experience in nature through the view of a camera lens.
There are plenty of other trips to choose from with out-of-this-world guides! I know many of them personally and can guarantee an unforgettable time. There are no wrong choices and each quest offers a unique experience with plenty of highlights and surprises. Be sure to register soon though, as the more popular quests fill up quick. I have attended this event two years running now and could not be more excited for my third installment; especially since being asked back as a trip leader! A two-part blog post on last year's Flora-Quest can be found by clicking this link here for part one and here for part two.
To cap off this advertisement for what will surely be the most fun weekend you'll have this spring, here are some photographs that I think best capture what wildflowers, critters, and sights potentially await you at Flora-Quest 2013. I hope you will check this event out further and give attending some serious thought! I promise a great time, rain or shine! The wildflowers, warblers, and smiles will hardly be in short supply!
|Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)|
Each edition of Flora-Quest has a plant species that acts as that year's sponsor. Event organizers Cheryl Harner and Paula Harper asked me to help come up with the plant species (preferably a woody one this time around) that would grace the promotional card of the event this year. I decided on the rare and intriguing fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) as the best one for the job. It's a chance to showcase a relatively unknown species of tree that I found absolutely stunning for the brief moments it's in full flower. Fingers crossed it will be making its prime appearance during early May this year!
If the plant lovers are the primary draw to Flora-Quest, then the birders are a close second. With Shawnee and the Edge of Appalachia at your doorstep you will not be disappointed in the diversity of returning migrants showing off their breeding plumage.
|Rose Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum)|
As you slowly drive down the roads in Shawnee state forest with your groups you would be hard pressed not to notice the magnificent displays of the rose azaleas (Rhododendron prinophyllum) out your windows. You will hardly be the only creature interested in their aroma and beauty; these shrubs are constantly abuzz with bees and other pollinating insects.
|Large Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium pubescens)|
The real attraction and excitement that surrounds Flora-Quest for many is the promise of orchids. Just about everyone will get the chance to lay their eyes on some of the lady's slippers, such as the large yellows featured above. Several other orchids await those who come along for the ride!
|Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)|
It's not just all plants! You will have many chances to see a whole slew of critters that call the forests and prairies home. Frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, salamanders...you just never know what will hop, jump, or slither past your group!
If you love wildflowers then you're sure to love the "wildflowers" of the sky. The warblers are one of the biggest draws for Flora-Quest and the list is long on what you may see. Cerulean, worm-eating, prairie (shown above), Kentucky, and hooded warblers are just a handful of the ones that may get checked off your list.
|Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)|
Those on trips into rich, mesic woods may luck into seeing one of the most beautiful of spring's wildflowers, the columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). They look like they belong in some exotic garden of places far away but instead call Ohio home.
|Wherry's Pink Catchfly (Silene caroliniana var. wherryi)|
Another striking wildflower that some groups may luck into seeing is the charming wild pink or Wherry's catchfly (Silene caroliniana var. wherryi). This is normally a staple for a group or two's Flora-Quest experience but with the warming temperatures and faster springs it had already flowered and set to seed by the time of early May last year.
|Southern Two-lined Salamander (Eurycea cirrigera)|
Groups that explore and wade the cool, trickling streams in the shaded depths of Shawnee are sure to find these little guys by the handfuls. Southern two-lined salamanders are very common under logs and rocks in small, slow-moving streams throughout southern Ohio. I love the ticklish feel as they move across your hand.
|Group of tiger swallowtails puddling|
Butterfly admirers will not be disappointed either as the diversity in this area does not fall short in the insect order of Lepidoptera. Regardless of what quest you're on you are sure to bump into some of these guys in one form or another.
|Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)|
Last but not least is the common and lovely flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) that is always putting on an amazing show come Flora-Quest. It's just not spring in Ohio without their showy white bracts gracing the blue skies and greening trees.
Honestly the best thing about Flora-Quest is the friends, camaraderie, and memories made over the weekend. I am looking forward to reuniting with old friends and meeting news faces! If you attend and we have not met personally before please introduce yourself! I hope to see you all there! :)