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Nature Notes continued 



Meadowhawk

An immature Meadowhawk (Sympetrum sp.) perching on nettles. Look at the eyes–see how they’re touching at just a small point in the middle? That’s the way to start to figure out what species this is. The vein pattern in their wings is as individual as fingerprints.

The forest comes in layers. The spreading branches of the dominant trees, such as this bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) form the canopy; smaller trees, like these ironwoods (Ostrya virginiana) make up the understory; shrubs fill in the lower areas in the shrub layer; plants that don't form wood make up the herb layer; and the most important part - the forest floor, where all the nutrients from the fallen leaves are recycled. This layering can be called stratification.


Forest layers

Tamarack

A conifer that loses its needles?! That's right, it's the tamarack (Larix laricina). Tamaracks grow in boggy areas where the soil is fairly acidic. The wood resists rot so it was used for pilings in the water for bridges and railroads. In October the needles turn 'smoky gold' before they fall off.

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) with just a few of its beautiful, though tiny, flowers still attached. Its seed head looks like a turkey's foot giving rise to another common name for it: turkeyfeet. It's one of the most important grasses in North America and was once the dominant grass of the tall grass prairie.



Big bluestem

 

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota master naturalist and longtime teacher of field biology (along with other science classes) at Delano High School. He is most often found, binoculars in hand, somewhere outside and is active in outdoor adventures all year 'round.

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