Forest Types and Exploring for Native Species

Iowa prairie.
View of our neighbors pasture.

One of my all-time favorite things to do at home to to walk around the very edges of our property, up past the field and into the forest. Using my new terminology from the Master Conservationist Program, our property actually includes all of the “forest types” ranging from prairie and savanna, to woodland and forest.

Forest types from The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook.

After the conservation class on Saturday, Keeta and I went for a hike to look for native species on our property while it was fresh in my mind.

Wild mustard (Brassica arvensis)
Wild mustard (Brassica arvensis)

Wild mustard, which is blooming right now, is listed as a secondary noxious weed on Iowa State University’s Primary and Secondary Noxious Weeds of Iowa. View the entire list of Iowa’s noxious weeds on their website.

Iowa farm.  Field of oats.
View of the southern portion of our property. A field of oats.
Wild raspberries or blackberries.
Wild raspberries or blackberries.

I specifically asked one of our guides on Saturday about wild raspberry because I knew we had a lot of it growing between the field and the tree line. The patch follows almost the entire border. I’m still not sure if these are raspberries or blackberries but I think I will find out in a few weeks. Good news is that these are supposed to be safe to eat.*

*Make sure to do your own research before eating any plants that you did not plant!!

Wild raspberries or blackberries.
Wild raspberries or blackberries.
Wild raspberries or blackberries.
Wild raspberries or blackberries.
Morrow's honeysuckle
I think this looks like Morrow’s honeysuckle, an invasive plant that we will need to remove.
Herbaceous forest plant.
This looks like some type of nettles, mint or something in that family. They can be extremely invasive.
Raspberries or blackberries.
Wild raspberries or blackberries growing along the border between the field and the tree-line.
Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata).
Woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata).
Iowa forest.
A look into the thick canopy of trees.
Moss growing on a fallen log.
Iowa forest.
Iowa forest.
Tree of Heaven (invasive species). Chinese sumac, stinking sumac.
Photo of Tree of Heaven at Hitchcock Nature Center.

I actually spotted some invasive Tree of Heaven growing on our neighbor’s property. I would not have known this if I had not signed up for the Master Conservationist Program.

Tree of Heaven that I found growing along our neighbors property.

“Tree-of-heaven, also known as ailanthus, Chinese sumac, and stinking sumac, is a rapidly growing, deciduous tree in the mostly tropical quassia family (Simaroubaceae). Mature trees can reach 80 feet or more in height. It has smooth stems with pale gray bark, twigs which are light chestnut brown and large compound leaves. All parts of the tree, especially the flowers, have a strong, offensive odor, which some have likened to peanuts or cashews.” – Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Invasive Plants.

On Sunday, I went on another hike on some adjacent family property. How gorgeous is this place? Keeta was in heaven (and so was I).

Iowa prairie.
Iowa pasture.
Iowa farm pond.
Iowa farm pond.
Iowa farm pond.
Iowa farm pond.
Iowa pasture ground.

And then back at our house…

Ducks in a farm pond.

Our small farm pond is very clear right now because of all of the rain we’ve had this year. You can really see what is going on under the surface right now.

I’m worried to type this incase we don’t have ANY luck this time (we hatched two out of six last time), but we are incubating nine duck eggs from our crew. The females aren’t super interested in laying on their clutches but we thought we could use some MORE DUCKS! We just love these guys so much and they create so much joy in our lives.

Rouen ducks in a farm pond.

Unfortunately, we lost two of our sweet babies to an owl. I think they learned their lesson about not coming back up to the coop to sleep at night and now prefer to sleep safe and sound indoors again with the chickens. Everyone is less stressed now and I feel good about adding more to our coop (and being a good mom). I’m also very pleased that the chickens and ducks get along fine and the ducks have even figured out how to use the chicken’s (warm season) waterer system!

Also, I submitted these photos to Backyard Farmer to see what is growing on our new Red Oak trees. Hopefully these photos will make the show! I’ll be sure to update this post if I hear back from them.

Mysterious green growths on a Red Oak tree.
Mysterious green growths on a Red Oak tree.
Mysterious round green growths on a Red Oak tree.

UPDATE 6/2/2019 –
Here is the episode of Backyard Farmer where they talk about what these are.

They are Oak Apple Wasp Galls, completely harmless.

These unusual plant growths can range in size at maturity from 1/2 – 2″ in diameter and are named for their resemblance to apples.  The galls are constructed of leaf tissue that has been hijacked by a gall wasp (Family Cynipidae) to surround a single wasp larva located within a seed-like structure positioned at the center of the gall.  The exact species of gall-wasp that is responsible for producing the oak-apple gall can be identified based on the gall’s structure, size, color, and oak host.

Source: Ohio State.

I’m looking forward to more hikes over the summer. I’m excited to try to identify some additional native species on our property. I’m sure Keeta will be happy to tag along.

Hope you are enjoying this wonderful season!

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