Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dygert Nature Preserve, Whitley County

     The true name of this site is the Evelyn and Wendell Dygert Nature Preserve.  So my own Evelynn was my sole companion on this outing.
By the end of our hike, Evelynn was vowing to never hike with me again. Ever.  More on that later.

One of the many picturesque trails running throughout this preserve. 

This steep sided ditch has water running through it.
I was glad to see that ALL the water in Indiana hadn't yet dried up!
     As Evelynn and I explored the trails and paths running through the preserves, a common theme kept popping!  (It didn't help that we had not yet had lunch.)  One of the first things we happened upon was a cluster of cherry trees, ripe for the picking.  
So red and looking delicious!
Unfortunately most of the cherries were already claimed by the little white larvae worms of the Western Cherry Fruit Fly. In the spring, adult flies lay eggs under the skin of the cherries, and in a larval form, the maggots feed on the meaty insides of the cherry. 
     My family is full of anticipation for the opportunity to collect the season's first haul of ripe black raspberries.  Soon...
 Wild Black Raspberries.  Give these another week or so and Dygert Preserve will have some very happy birds and critters!
     This Stiff Dogwood bush was covered with clusters of pretty blossoms...providing yummy nectar for lots of bugs!  (Although Evelynn and I agreed they smelled pretty stinky to us.)
I didn't see him at first, but this cluster of flowers is providing a smorgasbord for a tiny beetle. (He is near the lower right of the cluster.)
This Giant Swallowtail butterfly appreciates a helping of the Stiff Dogwood as well.
     Our own rumbling tummies kept us painfully aware of the evidence of eating going on around us. 

This Red Admiral butterfly enjoys a sip of Prairie Fleabane nectar.
These squiggly whitish lines are created as the larvae of a leaf mining insect eat their way through the interior of the plant's leaves.  
The bark of this Ash tree has been ripped away by birds desperately seeking to make a meal of the Emerald Ash Borer insects inside.  
The Emerald Ash Borer has eaten his fill of this tree.  This small D shaped opening is his exit hole.
Even this tree appears to be eating a strand of barbed wire.  Yum.
      I am certain this lovely Scarlet Catchfly flower would make an appetizing meal for some hungry butterfly or bee.  However, it was in pursuit of an eye-catching photograph of said flower that Evelynn got the chance to test out a recent hypothesis.
Scarlet Catchfly
She was so excited to snap a pic that she threw all hiking-caution to the wind, veered off the path and struck a course toward the flowers...straight through a patch of Stinging Nettles! 

Stinging Nettles are covered with tiny hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on its leaves and stems.  These hairs act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation upon contact with skin.  

     This was not Evelynn's first run-in with stinging nettles this year.  Last time, her Mamaw told her about a simple treatment to take away the nasty sting and itch of the attacking nettles.  So today, Evelynn had the opportunity to test out her hypothesis...MUD!

Evelynn poured her bottle of water out onto a mound of turned up soil, and mixed it to make thick mud.  
She then rubbed the mud onto her itchy, burning, nettle infested legs.
 "Thanks for the tip, Mamaw!"  Much to Evelynn's relief, the mud-method of nettle stinger removal worked!! However, any possibility of hitting the first quality restaurant we passed on the way home was now reduced to fast food drive-through options only!
The theory is that as the mud dries, it shrinks and pulls those little nettle stingers out of the skin.  
     Despite their painful sting, nettles are actually an extremely nourishing leafy vegetable known for their nutrients and pleasant flavor.  When simmered in a little water for ten to twenty minutes, the tiny stingers dissolve leaving a completely edible spinach-like vegetable.  Nettles are rich in protein, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, and B-complex, and many essential trace minerals.  Even the water used for cooking the nettles can be sipped as a hearty, healthy broth or tea!  Find very helpful Nettles info here...     At this point Evelynn wanted no more to do with nettles, mud, or even hiking with her dear old mom.  And still hungry (make that ravished with abominable appetite!) she was ready to eat anything she could find.  And that included sucking the nectar from the florets plucked off the head of this Red Clover. I remember doing this when I was her age. 

Red Clover can be used in many ways, for many reasons.
     We eventually ended our hike, and even though she says she will no longer be my outdoor adventure partner, I think Evelynn will find it hard to stay away.  Especially if she knows there will be Red Clover available!

"Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites."  ~William Ruckelshaus


  1. I grew up next to Dygert's and knew Wendell and Evelyn. Uncle George and Aunt Mildred lived there before Dygert's or the next owners. Isn't it a magical place? I miss it so.