“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 Meetup.com.
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.