(I had computer problems since my last post. Whenever I tried to use an application I got the spinning ball instead of the app. When I finally called Apple Care for support I learned that I hadn’t downloaded macOS Catalina 10.15.7, the latest software update. That fixed the spinning ball problem but this also updated my applications and I had to learn to use them all over again. In any case, this post is somewhat late.)
The red line in the above aerial photo marks the Timberhill boundaries. Our 200-acre property is bounded by Pony Farm Road to the north and Brush Creek to the east. It is comprised primarily of oak and hickory woodland with small prairie openings. Since most of this land had never been tilled it was highly restorable. When we purchased the property the plant list contained one hundred species. It now lists almost five hundred species without us having done any seeding. All we did was thin the overstocked woodland and implement annual prescribed burns.
In the East Savanna several very conservative plants bloom each fall. Most notable is a small pink flowering plant with stalks so slender that the plants appear as a pink cloud under the scattered white oaks.
Having only rudimentary taxonomic skills it was sometime before I identified it as a member of the genus Agalinis formerly knows as Gerardia. Slowly working my way through the keys I narrowed it down either to A. Gattingeri, Round-stemmed false foxglove or A. tenuifolia, Slender false foxglove. Since A. Gattingeri is very conservative (COC=10, plants restricted to presettlement remnants) I decided that it must be the latter.
In June, 2003 friends brought Dr. Gerould Wilhelm, the foremost Midwest botanist to Timberhill. “Can’t be Agalinis tenuifolia,” he told me. It’s the wrong habitat. That’s Agalinis Gattingeri.” To say the least I was stunned to find such a conservative plant proliferating in the dry acidic soil on the East Savanna ridge top. What a thrill that was!
Although I see Agalinis tenuifolia throughout our restoration it is most abundant in the West Creek spring-fed meadow. The plants here are so numerous that it is hard not to step on them. Both plants are annual and germination is stimulated by fire.
West of the creek that borders the West Creek unit is a field that was cropped continuously from 1938 until we purchased it in 2004. I assumed that there would be little native plant diversity on land that had been so heavily farmed. I was wrong.
We began managing this site in 2004 by removing the invasive shingle oak trees and implementing annual prescribed fire. The results have been far beyond what I had hoped. Most impressive has been the restoration of Gentiana Andrewsii, Bottle gentian. This striking plant has rich blue flowers clustered at the top of the main plant stem. Considered a threatened species in several eastern states it is declining because of wetland destruction. However, it is abundant in this old crop field.
Bottle gentian is difficult for most insects to pollinate because the closed flowers never open. It is pollinated primarily by bumble bees which are strong enough to force their way into the closed corolla.
Also blooming throughout Timberhill this fall are Showy goldenrod and various blue asters. Sky-blue aster, Smooth blue aster and New England aster add a colorful contrast to the abundant showy goldenrods.