Saturday, August 4, 2018

Phenology at Lakeshore State Park

“During every week from April to September there are, on the average, ten wild plants coming into first bloom. In June as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No [one] can heed all of these anniversaries; no [one] can ignore all of them. … Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.”

~ Aldo Leopold

Phenology is the study of seasonal changes in the landscape, such as the emergence of plants and the migration of animals. Hearing the term reminds me of A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold’s epic tribute to the natural world. The quote above is from a chapter entitled Prairie Birthday, which strikes me as appropriate for the landscape of Lakeshore State Park. This 22-acre treeless island in Milwaukee Harbor, which was wholly fabricated from debris excavated from Milwaukee’s deep tunnels, has been planted with flowers and grasses native to Wisconsin prairies.

It is a bold initiative, creating a park from scratch and in such an unlikely and precarious location between city and lake. Leopold also wrote this:

“I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, … but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land.”

I went to Lakeshore State Park for a phenology hike. It was a brilliant morning, not a cloud in the sky. The day promised to be hot, but the cooling effect of Lake Michigan had so far mitigated the relentless sun. A great time to explore the park. In the shade of a grove of river birches at the north entrance, I joined a small gathering, which had been organized by the Southeast Wisconsin Hiking Group of

This story was posted June 22 in The Natural Realm, a new blog on the new A Wealth of Nature website. Please click here to go to continue reading.