Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Just a couple minutes away from where I live...

...is the Anita B. Gorman Urban Conservation Campus, a ten acre park full of native flowers and grasses and trees and a Discovery Center for urban kids to learn about nature. I had never heard of it...and it's been there for nine years!

So on Sunday I decided to go find it. And there it was, tucked behind some apartment buildings and a KFC, completely hidden from the street.

I instantly liked this place. The parking lot was full of asters, sumacs, goldenrod, grasses...

...and my favorite of the lot and in the lot(!), Helianthus salicifolius, the willow-leaved sunflower.

Not many of the flowers were still in bloom but even if there weren't any, I still liked those six foot tall willowy stems.

I even liked the seedheads.

Behind some brown leafed trees, I found one small sassafras tree.

I was lucky to find this one small Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), but then, it was hard to miss it growing in front of all those purple asters.

Bittersweet always stands out, it can't help itself.

This little 12 inch deep (or less) pond was intriguing to me. Something about that still water, the gently swaying giant cattails and the leaping, meeping frogs. It must have been a lot prettier before things started turning brown.

There was an elevated walkway beside the shallow ponds. This willow was telling me it wanted to move to Kansas. I told it where my car was parked. It was just the prettiest feathery thing. Loved it.

In a drier area, there were some milkweed pods (Asclepius syriaca).

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) bordered a nearby path.

I was getting drawn into all the different browns around me. I thought autumn color was just starting but apparently, I must have just missed it after seeing what was around me in this garden.

Still, even the dried up leaves and spent flowers were full of beautiful colors in the landscape (and the bees and skipper butterflies sure didn't know any better).

One of the larger ponds was lined with pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata)...

...which was on its way to becoming brown too.

But one thing wasn't. It was positively vibrant with life (and color!). I had never seen this plant before and it had me stumped for a long time until I finally identified it. Closed gentian (rhymes with "tension" so you don't embarrass yourself if you say it out loud). Isn't it the oddest but prettiest thing? The flowers never really open. They can only get pollinated by big hardy bees that work hard to force those closed flowers open.

My car is going to be busy next spring when I finally get started on my new gardens. This closed gentian is such a fascinating plant to me, I'm going to have to let it sit in the front seat when it gets driven to its new home. I just love looking at its colorful oddness. Love it. Love it. Love it. It's hard to imagine that one day soon, it will probably be turning shades of brown too.


Rural Rambler said...

Looks wonderful Maria! We may have to check it out. We are probably going to be in KC next week! I really love Fall for the weather but yesterday I sat under the Oaks and it made me sad to see all the leaves hitting the ground. I went to book club yesterday with a friend and we were shocked at all the Oaks that were naked that should be holding their leaves till Spring. I don't know what happened to the trees this year. I am glad you found the Conservation Campus, it looks like a little jewel :)

Leenie said...

A delightful little campus of biology. Too bad it's not more visable to the passerby. Even the earthy colors of autumn are cheery in their own way. Love the gentian. I've not seen anything like it. (wondering if it would survive high dry SE ID).

Maria said...

PIX! You're visiting KC? Any chance of meeting up for coffee or wine or something? <:-) Wouldn't it be fun to coordinate something with Shelly some time up in St. Joe???

Yes. That conservation campus is really something wonderful. I visited it yesterday after all the schoolchildren left and oh my, school sure is fun these days. They had a birdhouse making room, an art room, a wetlands room with real water...it was quite the surprise. On the edge of the campus, they're working on transforming an old house into a green one. It's great to have actual research opportunities so close to where I live!!!!

Leenie-I don't know what grows in Idaho. I don't even know what will grow here if I plant it!!!!! You need to check out some wildflower sites like....
http://www.idahonativeplants.org/ or http://www.wildflower.org/

From what I can tell, gentian likes a moist environment so um, I don't know...... I do know that you probably would have an effortless time with alpines and sempervivums. Jealous!

Maureen said...

So did the willow find your car yet?

Rural Rambler said...

Maria, would absolutely love to meet with you! I will email when we are sure on times :)

Ellyn O. said...

Hi Maria - Your pictures are so beautiful. I finally had some time to stop here tonight and was awed by the colors and all of your ramblings - good ramblings, I mean. Now I'll have to catch up on all of the earlier postings when I am not too tired from all of the chaos here. Your photos seemed so peaceful.