Fish Creek & FS 568

The Catahoula Ranger district of the Kisatchie National Forest encompasses 121,500+ acres extending from Ball, La., all the way to Saline, La. It offers an awesome variety of plant species for master naturalists in training to practice their skills on, and Dr. Charles Allen, our workshop leader, seems to be on intimate terms with every one of them!

Our morning field work took us to an area along Fish Creek that was new to me. What an interesting variety of trees! We parked our cars at a trail head, and identified at least six species before we headed down the trail.

Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum)
Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) is one of the 20% of plants that have opposite leaves.          ©Bette J. Kauffman

These included several things you don’t get to see everyday: a sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) with upturned sprays of not-quite-open flowers, an American hop-hornbeam (Ostraya virginiana) with hundreds of its hops-like blooms hanging down, and a chittimwood (Bumelia/Sideroxylon lanuginosa).

I photographed 36 different species of plant on the short hike in to the Fish Creek swimming hole and out again, but I know I did not get photos of everything Dr. Allen showed us and talked about.

Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum)
The sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) holds out her sprays of recurved blooms like a woman drying her nail polish. I had heard and Dr. Allen confirmed that these flowers make for excellent honey.         ©Bette J. Kauffman

After a short break back at the Georgetown gas station, we headed straight west on Hwy 500 then north on FS 568 to an area where wide trails extend east and west. We took the eastbound one, as it was higher and drier.

Sadly,  the many red buckeyes I saw blooming profusely when I scouted the area in late April were now just lovely dark green bushes. This short hike turned into a bit of an “edibles” class, as Dr. Allen introduced us to peppergrass (Lepidium virginicum), which flavors bread wonderfully, and ground cherries (Physalis spp.), which I remember eating on the Iowa farm where I grew up.

A highlight of this walk, especially for me, was the female swamp darner (Epiaeschna heros) we spied depositing eggs on a piece of rotting wood. Ovipositing females are pretty easy to approach, being focused on their work, and I got pretty close to this one. Suddenly, much to my surprise, she turned away from the log and began buzzing my head.

My first reaction was startled self-defense and I swatted at her, until someone suggested I allow her to perch. I held up my right hand and she immediately landed on the side of my pinky finger–and stayed there for an amazingly long time! But she was on my right hand, so I couldn’t take a picture. To see this, you’ll have to go to Charles Paxton’s Wild Open Eye blog post, which I shared in the LMN-NE Facebook group. What a delight!

Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) (female)
A swamp darner (Epiaeschna heros) deposits eggs in a crevice in a rotting log.        ©Bette J. Kauffman

Yes to Saturday!

But “no” to June 1. More on that below.

If we survive Monday, which looks a little grim for northern Louisiana, the forecast for Saturday is “sunny,” all day. Dr. Allen is ready and waiting. It looks like we will finally get Workshop 1 of our second cycle in the books.

So… here’s the link to register for Basic Plant Identification this coming Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Register Here

I am going to Camp Hardtner Tuesday and will check out the ULM Biological Station near Columbia that we have been wanting to visit. However, given the amount of rain we have had and how high the water was last time I checked, I am not hopeful.

We will most likely meet Dr. Allen at the gas station in Georgetown for a repeat of last year’s workshop. I will email all who register for the class later this week to let you know for sure.

IMPORTANT: If you have paid for a workshop that had to be postponed due to weather and now want to use that payment for this Saturday’s workshop, please let me know.

Also, Dr. Natalie Clay must postpone. She must travel June 1 and will do research abroad this summer, thus the Bugs workshop must be rescheduled in the fall. Thus if you paid for the Bugs workshop, you might want to use that credit now for Basic Plant Identification.

And, of course, if you do not have credit for a workshop, you can pay online via PayPal at the link above, or email me that you want to pay on site. The flyer on the certification tab of this website is still good except for the date.

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Pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) dance in the breeze along a roadside in central Arkansas.     ©Bette J. Kauffman


Plan C.. or D?

So I’ve lost track of what plan we are on for the start-up of cycle two of our Master Naturalist Certification workshops! Whatever. Here’s the newest iteration:

May 25 – Basic Plant Identification with Dr. Charles Allen

Dr. Allen is awfully busy for a retired person (Hmmm, sounds familiar!), and he is willing to adjust his plans to do a workshop with us Saturday, May 25. Several people responded that they were okay with that date, so we’re going for it.

Regarding location, we will very likely follow the plan that was set for today (May 4). However, I will be monitoring water levels at the ULM Biological Station, Charles Allen Nature Preserve near Columbia. Should this infernal weather give us a break and the water level drop, we’ll move it.

June 1 – Bugs with Dr. Natalie Clay

The power is back on in Ruston! At this time, I am assuming our bugs workshop with Dr. Clay will go forward as planned, with classroom work at LaTech and field work at the LaTech Arboretum.

Re payment: If you have paid for a workshop that has been cancelled or rescheduled, please know that you have credit. If anyone wants their money refunded to them, please just let me know. Otherwise, I will use it for the next workshop you are able to attend.

Now for a couple of visual treats, a plant and a bug…I think! I went to Dr. Allen’s edible plants workshop last Saturday. Here are gems from that experience.

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Spiderwort (Tradescantia reverchonii) – This is the plant of the day from the Allen Acres Facebook page, which I just shared to the LMN-NE Facebook group. Dr. Allen’s post includes a very handy key to differentiating between three common species of Tradescantia.     ©Bette J. Kauffman
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Anyone know what this critter is? We went to Fullerton Lake to dig ground nuts (yummy!) and I saw this. I’m guessing some emerging stage of something yet to be!     ©Bette J. Kauffman

Basic Plant Identification

So… Bugs was to be the first workshop of Round Two, but it had to be rescheduled due to weather. Thus, the honors for kicking off our second cycle of certification workshops goes to a repeat of Basic Plant Identification with Dr. Charles Allen.

Those of you who participated in this one last year know we had a blast, but you are welcome again! I have taken multiple Charles Allen plant workshops over the years and still have a ton of stuff to learn. Moreover, this one will not be an exact repeat. More on that in a minute.

The link to register for Basic Plant Identification is ready for you on the Certification tab of this website, as is the flyer. Those of you who registered for Bugs and left your money in the LMN-NE treasury do NOT NEED TO REGISTER. (I’ll send out an email about that shortly.)

If you did not register for Bugs, please register for Basic Plant Identification asap so I know how many copies of Dr. Allen’s handouts to make.

We will again meet at the Chevron station in Georgetown and conduct the “classroom” portion of the workshop under the canopy in the parking lot. For field work, we will caravan to nearby locations in the Kisatchie National Forest. The Chevron station will be home base and pit stop at noon. The staff there is looking forward to our food and/or gas business!

Left: Turquoise Bluet (Enallagma divagans). Right: Oklahoma Clubtail (Phanogomphus oklahomensis).     ©Bette J. Kauffman

Here’s what’s different. Georgetown has ended access to its reservoir. We can’t go there. That made me sad because we saw lots of cool plants there last year, but last Friday I scouted a new area in the Kisatchie about 3 miles down Highway 500 from the Chevron station. We’ll turn north off of Highway 500 onto Forest Service 568 (gravel) and in a few miles, the road crosses a stream and nice, wide trails extend east and west into the forest.

I walked just a short distance down both trails Friday and saw lots of cool stuff worthy of our attention. Indeed, I came home with photos of new dragonfly and damselfly species! Of course, I’m not going to spill the beans on what plants I saw. Come and see!

Right now, the weather forecast for Saturday is “mixed clouds and sun with scattered thunderstorms.” To me that’s a go ahead, but I plan to have a rain poncho in the camera bag! Do check your email and the FB page Friday.


For Your Calendar

So, the weather got the better of us. (See the map I posted on Facebook.) I can be kind of hardcore about not letting the weather change plans, but… occasionally sense–and concern for safety–must prevail.

Our next workshop will be Basic Plant Identification with Dr. Charles Allen. It is scheduled May 4, 9 – 3.

Dr. Allen
Dr. Charles Allen at our 2018 workshop. (©Charles Paxton)

We still have not pinned down a location. However, I can tell you that the ULM Biological Station was again flooded just a couple of weeks ago. If it does not clear in time, we will do a repeat of last year or go to the nature trail near the Columbia Lock & Dam.

IMPORTANT: If you paid for Bugs, you have three options: 1) Leave the money as is to cover the Plant ID workshop, 2) leave the money as is to cover the Bugs workshop June 1, or 3) ask for a refund. Please just let me know via email which option you prefer.

The bugs workshop is hereby rescheduled June 1, 9-3 at La Tech, and I for one am hoping for good weather so we can go to the La Tech Arboretum for field work.

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Speaking of bugs, here’s an Orchard Orbweaver (Genus Leucauge) from the St. Mary’s Falls Trail at J. C. “Sonny” Gilbert WMA. (©Bette J. Kauffman)

In the meantime, here are more events to keep you entertained and outdoors!

Saturday, April 20, 10 a.m.: Earth Day at Black Bayou Lake NWR, brought to you by Ouachita Green. We will have a table. Help wanted! Fun activities for the whole family!

Monday, April 22, 6:30: Grand opening of the alligator exhibit at Black Bayou Lake NWR, followed by a talk about alligators by Kelby Ouchley. Bring your copies of Kelby’s books to get them signed, and if you don’t have them, I’m sure the FOBB gift shop will be open.

Sunday, April 28, 1:30 – 3: LMN-NE will have a table at the celebration of Earth Day in Ruston on the grounds of the Civic Center. I will be there with all of our stuff. Again, help wanted! Fun activities for the whole family! Flyer below. Please note that Amy Ouchley will be sharing a letter from Swamper!

Earth Day Celebration 2019