Spring has come to Trumpeter Swan Preserve. This preserve is a mix of an old pine plantation, oaks, the wetlands pictured here, and an old Trumpeter Swan nesting site. Trumpeter Swans prefer to build their nests on small islands, muskrat or beaver dams, or manmade platforms, among other things. The small grass-covered mounds seen here are called hummocks, and it’s not completely understood how they form. It’s possible that they are formed when the grass breaks apart the soil and the little soil clumps are pushed to the surface by repeated freeze/thaw cycles. They certainly make walking through a wetland very difficult indeed!
In the woods, cherry trees (Prunus sp.) are beginning to leaf out. This usually happens in mid to late April, so it’s early this year. You can see that the immature leaves are more reddish than mature leaves. This gives them more protection from insect herbivores, since most insects cannot see the color red. The leaves look dark, sickly, and foul-tasting to them. Once the leaves are fully mature, they must be green in order to photosynthesize.
The river’s edge is home to a fun edible species, the Wild Leek (Allium tricoccum) also known as ramps. Leaves appear early in the spring and give off a strong onion or garlic smell when crushed. By mid-summer, they have withered away and it’s just the flower stalk that remains. Many insects benefit from their presence, including bumblebees, mason bees, and masked bees. Foraging for personal consumption of these spring treats, berries, and mushrooms is allowed at all KRLT preserves.
Click the link below for more details on rules, regulations, and safety tips for foraging in Wisconsin.
Monthly phenology reports about the Kinnickinnic River and watershed are brought to life by Stephanie Erlandson, a long time environmental educator, and plant ecologist.