Nature on the Fishing Line
by Tiffany Parker
We are lucky enough to enjoy our Fishing Line trail as it winds through the quiet beauty that is Noble County. If you are like me, as you wander along you take a moment to absorb the nature that surrounds you and might often find yourself wondering - what’s that?! I’m going to share a few things that I’ve spotted in my meandering to help visitors learn what is living along the trail.
Spring is always a great time to get out and enjoy the trails. Things are coming back to life, greening up and the chatter of creatures great & small can be heard all around you. Many of the wildflowers spotted along the trail are only around for a short time. Known as ephemerals, they have a bloom period of less than two weeks. Some of them only bloom for a day or two before they drop their petals. One of my favorites is bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) which blooms before you see the foliage while the foliage will last into the early fall. These eight petaled bright white flowers can be spotted sticking out above the ground with the foliage curled around it in late April and early May. In the photo, you can see some of the deeply lobed foliage opening up.
A spring wildflower that tends to draw out the hummingbirds is Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). This red bell-like flower can be spotted in various spots along the trail and is typically just off the side of the trail. This flower can get up to 3’ tall and tends to be a-buzz with activity when fully in bloom.
Next up is wild phlox (Phlox divaricata). These purple and white beauties can be found all along the trail and are often confused with an invasive species, Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis). You may have noticed us removing the Dame’s Rocket earlier this year and that was in order to create a space for the natives to move in. Invasive species tend to crowd out the natives, creating a monoculture which will eventually throw everything out of balance, causing a decrease in pollinators, birds and other wildlife. An easy way to identify the difference is that wild phlox has 5 petals while Dame’s Rocket has 4. Dame’s rocket also tends to occur in areas where the soil has been deeply disturbed while the phlox prefers to hide away in the more shaded areas.
Phlox good. Dame's Rocket bad.
As spring turns into summer, less wildflowers are seen and more of the shrubs and trees are starting to put on a show. One of the shrubs really showing off right now are the maple leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). This native shrub has small white flowers that bloom in a cluster. The leaves have a look similar to maple and in the late summer/early fall, their berries start to ripen. Right now you can see these beauties all along Stonebreaker Drive, behind Taylor Made in Kendallville. This also prefers the shade, especially where the ground holds moisture. As the leaves turn a brilliant red, the dark fruit will attract birds of all varieties as they consume the berries in preparation for their migration.
Maple Leaf Vibernum
Another attractive shrub that is often found along the trail is staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina). This particular plant tends to thrive all along the trail and is one of the first to start changing colors in the fall. You can currently see the tall, fuzzy red clusters of flowers blooming on these shrubs. Often confused for poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) staghorn sumac likes drier ground while the poison sumac is often found in wetlands and bogs. All of the sumac growing along the trail is the staghorn sumac.
As fall creeps nearer and nearer every day, you will start to see the leaves on the trees beginning to change. Many of the maples will be orange or red while the yellows and gold will be the birch and aspen found along the trail. The oaks are the last to fall and are the great big crunchy brown leaves that cover the path. There are a few trees that keep their leaves, even after they are brown. This is called marcescence and is most often seen in beech and oak trees. These leaves will drop in the spring when the new growth begins.
So you can see, any time you are out enjoying the Fishing Line Trail there is a lot to be seen and enjoyed. From spring to winter, you can watch our little corner of Noble County flourish and put on a show.