Hike Report: Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge

Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge Hike

by Holly Faust, interpreter, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation

August 17 turned out to be one great trip to the Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge near Seymour. 

We saw Joe Pye weed all along US Highway 50 to the entrance and all kinds of natives growing along the forest’s edge.  My favorite was the big pink native Hibiscus moscheutos. 

Our guide was Daniel Boone, field botanist and certified arborist for Bartlett Tree Experts.  We drove to the first site and disappeared into the woods to find a very dry wetland/alkaline seep. We encountered sedge Muskingum (Carex muskingumensis), aquatic milkweed (Asclepias perrenis) and lizard’s tail (Saururus cernuus), blooming despite the dryness. 

We walked over tall crayfish chimneys and passed more fungus than a mycologist could take.  We ran into climbing hempweed (Mikania scandens) competing with some type of parasitic dodder, amidst blooming arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia).

We saw a nice specimen of water parsnip (Sium suave), walked past a little buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), then ran into Midwestern arrowhead (Sagittaria brevirosta) with its burs on. We saw false water-pepper and the small flower of a plantain of some sort. We kept a lookout for the elusive (due to its height) overcup oak and passed ironweed, green ash, Walter’s St. Johnswort and smelly camphorweed. The forest floor was carpeted with invasive moneywort.  Clearweed and false nettle were plentiful.

Dan showed us the difference between swamp cottonwood and Eastern cottonwood. After lunch, we drove to another area where we headed off straight into invasive multiflora rose toughing it out with native greenbrier.

We headed into the acid seep, which abounded in ferns: Christmas, New York, cinnamon, green lady’s, and beech fern, to name a few. We also saw cranefly orchids, doll’s eyes (white baneberry), spicebush, beech trees (some with wooly aphids), Indian pipe, Indian cucumber root (in berry), Virginia jumpseed, and American ginseng.  We found the elusive Platanthera orchid but were not sure which one, possibly P. clavellata.

In trying to keep up with Dan as he was looking for black alder, I stepped into – and was briefly stuck in – the smelly acid seep.  This is why one does field botany with others! 

Dan and his sidekick Andrew Gibson, a student from Ohio, were very informative and enthusiastic – and in much better shape, physically and botanically, than I was!

Original announcement with directions

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