Father Knows Best: A History of Father’s Day is the special temporary exhibit set for June at the Westchester Township History Museum, 700 W. Porter Avenue, Chesterton. Museum staff is asking the public for help with the display.
Museum Curator Serena Sutliff says, “We need photographs of local dads to include in our Father Knows Best: A History of Father’s Day display this June. Honor your dad by putting his photo in our slideshow of Westchester Township dads – including stepfathers, grandfathers, father figures, and adopted fathers. You can also send in poems, essays, cards, and drawings of or about your dad to be placed in a binder for visitors to see.”
Please note that the museum must have written permission to display anyone’s image. Photo release forms are available at the museum; at Thomas Library, 200 W. Indiana Avenue, Chesterton; and at Hageman Library, 100 Francis Street, Porter.
Send photographs and written entries to the museum at email@example.com. You may mail them or bring them directly to the museum. All submissions must be received by May 28.
Photo by M. Demmon, on the website for the Herbarium of the University of Michigan, michiganflora.net
By Sarah Fuller
A search for May flowers at Kankakee Sands will yield a diverse collection. One particularly easy find is wild lupine (Lupinus perennis). Its eye-catching, bright blue flowers love the dry, sandy openings in the prairies and oak savannas of Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois. Wild lupine, also called sundial lupine, flourishes in disturbed sites with little shade, such as recently mowed or burned areas. Since its flower production increases after a fire, the standing swatches of blue are likely to be dense in locations that were burned this spring or last fall.
Wild lupines have plump, blue, pea-like flowers along the 8- to 24-inch reddish green stems. The round, compound leaves have up to 11 leaflets. These perennial legumes sprout in late March and April, flower from May to June, and by July will have a pod full of seeds ready for dispersal. The above-ground plant material will start dying back in August, but the deep taproot can live for multiple years.
Although the flowering lupine stalks may remind me of blue corn on the cob, it is much more useful to remember that the wild lupine’s ecological processes are more closely related to peas. Like many other plants within the pea family, lupines add nitrogen to the soil. Just as farmers use soybeans (another legume) to improve soil nutrients, lupines perform the same function in a prairie. Lupine roots have nodules containing bacteria that convert nitrogen gas from the air into ammonium—a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. The ammonium is then released into the soil and can be absorbed by roots of neighboring plants. The lupines’ nitrogen fixing capabilities may be especially important after a fire, since surface nitrogen is lost during a burn.
While contributing nutrients to help adjacent plants grow is a distinctive aspect of this prairie flower, nitrogen fixing is not its only noteworthy feature. Wild lupines are the perfect (and only) food for three species of butterfly. The larvae of the Karner Blue (Plebejus samuelis), a federally endangered butterfly still present in the dunes just south of Lake Michigan, is one of the species dependent on lupine leaves. Similarly, the Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius persius) larvae consume the leaves and are endangered within Indiana. The Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus irus), and its bud-eating larvae, are threatened within the state of Indiana. These butterflies, while not documented in Newton County, are all present just to the north in Lake County.
Remember that as you spot batches of wild lupines, there’s no need to be as picky as the caterpillars, who have eyes only for lupines. Take the time for your eyes to feast on the surrounding flowers benefitting from the wild lupine’s nitrogen fixation as well. Enjoy the entire floral array of eye candy the prairie has to offer this May.
Sarah Fuller is an Ohio native and graduate of Cornell University. She is working as a seasonal Restoration Management Assistant at Kankakee Sands, through a partnership with the Student Conservation Association. Sarah is working alongside her other crew members to maintain suitable habitat for all prairie and oak savanna species – especially wildflowers.
The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands of Indiana and Illinois is 10,000 acres of prairie and savanna habitat in Northwest Indiana and Northeast Illinois, open every day of the year for public enjoyment. For more information visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands or call the office at 219-285-2184.
Who’s Who and What’s What? is a display of unidentified photographs from the archives of the Westchester Township History Museum, 700 W. Porter Avenue, Chesterton. The exhibit will run from May 1-19.
The museum has hundreds of photographs in its archives, many of which are of unidentified dates, people, events, and/or places. The community is invited to browse the historic images and help museum staff identify the photographs. Maybe you’ll even discover a photo of yourself in the archive!
The Westchester Township History Museum is an educational and cultural service of Westchester Public Library and is open free of charge Wednesday through Sunday from 1-5 p.m. or by appointment. For more information call 983-9715.
- Posted on Friday, April 5th, 2013
- by Westchester Township History Museum in
The Sunday Nature Series will resume at the Westchester Township History Museum on Sunday, April 14, at 2 p.m. The series will take place one Sunday per month through August. The museum is housed in the historic Brown Mansion, located at 700 W. Porter Avenue, Chesterton. Light refreshments will be served.
Local plant expert David Hamilla will give a presentation on spring wildflowers. He will give blooming dates, photos, and identification tips.
Museum Educator Susan Swarner will provide a children’s nature series on the same topic presented each month. On April 14, adults can enjoy the lecture by Hamilla while children ages 6 and up learn about flowers and other plants with Swarner. Children will create flower art and will inspect plant life around the museum, weather permitting.
The Westchester Township History Museum is a free cultural and educational service of Westchester Public Library and is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday from 1-5 p.m. or by appointment. For more information call the museum at 983-9715.
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By Tony Capizzo
One of the first signs of spring at Kankakee Sands can be seen at Conrad Station Savanna. Beginning in March, a terrific green up happens when Penn sedge (Carex pensylvanica) carpets the ground. Although easily overlooked, this amazing sedge plays an important role in our savanna communities. It has a graceful beauty that stands out after months of drab winter colors.
Penn sedge is one of the earliest plants to flower in our area. Individuals flower from early April through the middle of May. Penn sedge looks very similar to a grass, but like all sedges, the stem is triangular rather than round. The flowers are small, white and organized into a single spike at the tip of a stalk. Under the right conditions, these flowering stalks can look almost furry when the pollen laden anthers extend beyond white flowers and quiver in the breeze.
Penn sedge prefers medium to dry, sandy and loamy soils and some amount of shade. In contrast, many of our other sedges prefer wetter and sunnier habitats. Penn sedge grows 4-10 inches tall, spreads by rhizomes to form colonies and maintains a soft green color for much of the year. Because of its shade tolerance, attractive appearance, low stature and low upkeep, Penn sedge can make a great native option for landscaping and a no-mow ground cover for shady lawns.
The hiking trail through Conrad Station Savanna winds through several areas where Penn sedge is a ground cover, a beautiful backdrop for the showier wildflowers. My favorite time to walk through Conrad Station is in late April and early May, when a variety of wildflowers such as wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) and violets begin blooming alongside Penn sedge to create a truly impressive display.
Much of our land management and restoration work at Conrad Station involves thinning the tree canopy and shrub layer to permit sunlight to reach to ground in order to replicate the savannas of the past. Savannas are the transition zone between prairie and forested habitats, where the tree canopy slowly grades from the completely open prairie to the denser canopy cover of forests. Several plant species have adapted to this lightly-shaded environment. Penn sedge is one such species.
One of the most rewarding aspects of tree thinning and non-native shrub removal is to watch the variety of native savanna plants sprout from seeds that have been dormant for many, many years. Penn sedge is one of the first plants to respond to available light, often within a year or two of tree thinning.
I encourage you to take a walk through Conrad Station Savanna in April or May to appreciate Penn sedge, a plant that is so small but offers us a glimmer of hope that both spring and our savanna restoration are well on their way.
Tony Capizzo, Land Steward at The Nature Conservancy’s Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands, is a Michigan native who has worked on sand prairies and savannas in Indiana, Michigan, and South Dakota.
The Nature Conservancy’s Conrad Station Savanna is 380 acres of savanna and prairie habitat in Newton County, Indiana. Conrad is part of the larger Kankakee Sands Project which encompasses over 30,000 acres of protected land in Illinois and Indiana owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and other conservation organizations and agencies. The Nature Conservancy properties are open every day of the year for public enjoyment. For more information visit www.nature.org/KankakeeSands or call the Kankakee Sands Office at 219-285-2184.