Sycamore Land Trust https://sycamorelandtrust.org A 501(c)3 nonprofit protecting southern Indiana's landscape and connecting people to nature Fri, 08 Dec 2017 14:40:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://sycamorelandtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Sycamore_One_Tree_Logo_357_white-center2-90x90.png Sycamore Land Trust https://sycamorelandtrust.org 32 32 28899026 5 Reasons to Support Sycamore this December http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/5-reasons-to-support-sycamore/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/5-reasons-to-support-sycamore/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 20:57:19 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4317 by Abby Henkel, Communications Director and tree admirer We all have our own reasons for being a part of land conservation, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what would speak to people who are ready to make a difference, but don’t know where their donations will have the biggest bang for their buck. These five reasons are biggies for me, and they’re why I love Sycamore so much. So...  [Read More]

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by Abby Henkel, Communications Director and tree admirer

The author on a hike last winter at Pate Hollow

We all have our own reasons for being a part of land conservation, but I’ve been thinking a lot about what would speak to people who are ready to make a difference, but don’t know where their donations will have the biggest bang for their buck. These five reasons are biggies for me, and they’re why I love Sycamore so much.

So if you’re moved by what you read below and are ready to show your commitment to protecting the environment, please make a donation to Sycamore Land Trust by the end of the year. Then visit the 16 public nature preserves you’ve helped to protect, and spread the word to your friends and family! Thanks!

 

1. Wetlands are way cool.

Twelve-spotted skimmer at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve, by Chris Buck

Wetlands are among those unique ecosystems that make southern Indiana such a special place. One of Sycamore’s strategic priorities is protecting and building the Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area in Monroe County. It’s a wonderfully productive, biologically diverse area with protected species like the Kirtland’s snake, bald eagle, and native Indiana orchids.

Thanks to the support of Sycamore members, we’ve been able to protect more than 1,200 acres in the Beanblossom Creek area, and that number is growing all the time. Your gift can help us continue to purchase and steward this important ecosystem!

 

2. Sycamore is local, through and through.

Mont Clair Farm, one of Indiana’s oldest farms, protected by a conservation easement with Sycamore

We are homegrown. Sycamore members are local business owners and college students, grandparents and first-grade classrooms, lifelong Hoosiers and international transplants who have fallen in love with this Hoosier hillscape. Our employees all have deep roots in this state, just like the maples and milkweeds we work so hard to protect. We understand the priceless integrity of a 50-acre family farm or a small but mighty tract of old-growth forest. We appreciate the amateur gardener who steadily builds a native prairie in her backyard.

When you know the land through and through, you want to keep it safe forever. When you understand the specific needs of local communities and the nature they interact with, you do a better job of protecting those natural spaces.

 

3. Our trees are protected forever.

Exceptionally large trees dominate the forest canopy at Wayne Woods.

Sycamore does not allow timbering trees on land that we own. When we protect land, we protect it forever. Allowing trees to grow to maturity and live out their full lives contributes to the complex and fascinating network of a healthy forest ecosystem. How do you get a hundred-foot sycamore tree? You plant a seed, and then you protect it.

Of the 9,100 acres we now protect, about 5,100 of those we own outright (fee title), and 4,000 are protected through permanent contracts with private landowners (conservation easements).

 

4. Together, we’re building the next generation of conservationists.

Little Hikers program studying water at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve, 2016. Photo by Heather Heerssen

Those who love nature are the most passionate advocates for protecting it. Sycamore’s Environmental Education program connects kids and adults to nature through hands-on, long-term programs. We visit classrooms, schoolyards, nature preserves, retirement communities, and nonprofits to make this programming accessible. This year alone, we’ve reached more than 5,000 participants.

A few things someone might experience in our Environmental Education programs:

  • Planting and tending a native plant prairie on a school campus
  • Tapping sugar maples, then making and tasting local maple syrup
  • Playing games to learn about predators, prey, and the food cycle in nature
  • Reading a book about making observations in nature, then visiting the schoolyard to see what you can find
  • Repairing a trail at one of our public nature preserves
  • Learning about the complex network of organisms in a pond by dipping a sieve in the water and talking about your discoveries

 

5. You can touch the earth you’re saving.

A view of the Milky Way from Sycamore’s Lake Monroe property, the Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve. Photo by Nake Clark (@nateclarkski)

What’s more rewarding than visiting a nature preserve that you’ve helped protect? With 16 public preserves and 32 miles of hiking trails, all of which are completely free to visit, you can breathe in the fresh air of your protected land all across southern Indiana. You can walk right up to a towering beech tree and know that it’s safe because of you and your community of more than 1,100 other Sycamore members.

 

Ready to stand up for the environment? Donate to Sycamore today.

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For Forever video http://sycamorelandtrust.org/image-slider/for-forever-video/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/image-slider/for-forever-video/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 15:08:40 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4306 The post For Forever video appeared first on Sycamore Land Trust.

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Saving Whooping Crane Habitat http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-whooping-crane/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-whooping-crane/#respond Thu, 26 Oct 2017 15:40:18 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4299 By Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator for the International Crane Foundation This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. The story of the whooping cranes’ brush with extinction and fragile recovery is truly remarkable. Unregulated hunting, driven by museum collecting, trophy hunting, and the...  [Read More]

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By Lizzie Condon, Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator for the International Crane Foundation

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

Photo by Chip Methvin at Goose Pond FWA

The story of the whooping cranes’ brush with extinction and fragile recovery is truly remarkable. Unregulated hunting, driven by museum collecting, trophy hunting, and the millinery trade, along with rampant destruction of wetlands, drove whooping cranes to the edge of extinction. In the 1940s and 50s, the species population dropped to about 20 birds. Even optimists had to admit it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to save the species.

Then the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1928 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 made it illegal to shoot whooping cranes. Conservationists began to protect key wetlands for the last remaining wild flock of whooping cranes, which still exists today. It is called the Aransas-Wood Buffalo Population, named for the wintering grounds at Aransas Bay on the Gulf Coast of Texas. This population is slowly growing, now at about 320 birds.

Biologists decided to reintroduce additional flocks back into the historic range of the species. Through captive breeding, various reintroduction techniques, and intense research and monitoring, conservationists have established two reintroduced populations. One is a non-migratory population in Louisiana, established in 2011, where historically whooping cranes had been found all year round. The other is known as the Eastern Migratory Population (EMP), which was established in 2001, and now has about 109 birds.

Whooping Cranes in the EMP spend their summer on breeding territories in Wisconsin. Starting in October, they start to head southeast. At the inception of this project, biologists thought that EMP flock would winter in Florida. But many of them have been stopping short. Indiana provides vital habitat for both migrating and wintering whooping cranes, with Goose Pond State Wildlife Area being the most important spot in Indiana for the species.

The mix of agricultural fields and shallow wetlands at Goose Pond provides ideal habitat for both whooping cranes and their much more abundant relative, the sandhill crane. Sycamore Land Trust has played an instrumental role in the creation and continued expansion of the property, and whooping cranes are loving it. In the winter of 2016-17, 34 individual whooping cranes were recorded at Goose Pond or in the surrounding fields, representing about 31% of the EMP.

I saw my first whooping crane when I joined the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in 2010 as an education intern. My job was to give tours of our headquarters in Wisconsin to schools and the public. I even got to wear a crane caretaker costume, a white tunic with a mesh panel for me to peer out of so that the whooping crane chicks would not imprint onto the human form.

Once, a wild whooping crane mistook me for another one in its territory, and I found myself face to face with a five-foot-tall bird that was threatening me with the red patch on top of its head. One of our professional aviculturists, dressed in a crane caretaker costume, stepped between us and walked toward the wild whooping crane until he got the message and backed off. It was both a thrilling and terrifying experience. I knew I wanted to work with this species again.

After graduate school I landed back at the ICF as their Whooping Crane Outreach Coordinator. My job is to raise awareness about whooping cranes in communities where they occur across North America, including southwestern Indiana. Sounds easy, right?

Sycamore members are likely aware of the story of the whooping crane,  but our research through surveys and focus groups indicates that the general public has a very low level of knowledge and awareness about them. Unfortunately, this has led to some terrible consequences for the species, such as shootings. Indiana has the highest number of whooping crane shooting incidents in the EMP.

Two of these shootings have occurred in the Goose Pond area, both on nearby private property. Hunters are not the problem. The majority of whooping crane shootings are completely unrelated to a hunting season, but are instead done by vandals. Whooping cranes are tall, white, and live in open habitats, often visible from a road. This makes them easy targets.

The ICF is launching a campaign in Indiana to change this. Our outreach plan includes working with Indiana organizations such as Sycamore Land Trust on K-12 education, media campaigns, presence at gun and hunting shows, hunter education, and support of the Marsh Madness Festival at Goose Pond. As a supporter of Sycamore Land Trust, you can help us by spreading the word on whoopers through conversations with friends and family and through social media. Please follow the International Crane Foundation on Facebook to learn more about how you can help.

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Twig fall 2017 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/image-slider/twig-fall-2017/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/image-slider/twig-fall-2017/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 15:10:51 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4291 The post Twig fall 2017 appeared first on Sycamore Land Trust.

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Thoughts from an armchair hiker http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-armchair-hiker/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-armchair-hiker/#respond Fri, 13 Oct 2017 14:06:40 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4288 by John Scully, administrative volunteer This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. Hi. You probably don’t know me and I probably don’t know you, even though I may have stuffed, sealed, and stamped an envelope to you from Sycamore Land Trust. I’m sure we’ve...  [Read More]

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by John Scully, administrative volunteer

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

Hi. You probably don’t know me and I probably don’t know you, even though I may have stuffed, sealed, and stamped an envelope to you from Sycamore Land Trust. I’m sure we’ve never met on any of the many trails in the thousands of acres managed by Sycamore. As I told the people here when I started volunteering in early 2016, I’m an avid indoorsman. I’ve been helping out with office chores since then because I’d rather face the inside dangers of paper cuts, database error messages, and taping my thumb to a parcel, than the outside dangers of a scurrilous squirrel, a tenacious tick, or a chancy chipmunk with a chip on his shoulder, a sneer on his lip, and a cold dead look in his eyes that makes you wonder where he’s been and what he’s seen.

Wild animals and I have a healthy respect for each other. When a bird was caught in my garage once, I called 911 because I had seen Hitchcock’s documentary “The Birds.” I bathe in bug spray every afternoon to go get the mail. When I was a child with my family in a restaurant and the waiter told us that the special was steamed clams, I demanded to know what they were steamed about and if they were going to take it out on me.

So I’m very happy volunteering once a week in the office here at Cedar Crest; helping with mailings, updating the database, changing the clocks twice a year, whatever needs to be done. I even ventured outside the building once onto the driveway to help wrap tree seedlings for the Arbor Day give-away. It was touch and go for me, but the wonderful people here were very supportive and got me through it.

No, I prefer working in the basement where I can see 12 acres of beautiful woods but am protected from it by plate glass. I like the idea of nature, it’s just that I don’t like it on me.

But that’s not to say that I don’t value the idea of wild places and safe habitats for the flora and fauna there. I do. And it breaks my heart to see all the forests, wetlands, and pastures that are lost every day to development. So I appreciate very much what Sycamore Land Trust does to protect the wilderness we have left and even expand the boundaries of it. And I love volunteering here and working with all the dedicated people who could make more money in the private sector but believe in making the world a better place and spend many more than 40 hours a week to that end.

I hope you’ll support them too, in whatever way you can. And please get out and enjoy the marvelous trails and wilderness areas supported by Sycamore. I’ll be with you…in spirit.

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Nature’s Potential http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-natures-potential/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-natures-potential/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 20:46:04 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4279 By Shayna Steingard, SPEA Communications Fellow This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. The highest slots on my environmental bucket list are filled with goals to see oldgrowth forests and unexplored wilderness– to visit the rainbow hot springs in Yellowstone or stand under a...  [Read More]

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By Shayna Steingard, SPEA Communications Fellow

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

The highest slots on my environmental bucket list are filled with goals to see oldgrowth forests and unexplored wilderness– to visit the rainbow hot springs in Yellowstone or stand under a giant Redwood in Fern Canyon. I celebrate with a triumphant internal fist pump whenever I hear that environmentalists were able to protect land from damage and development. The more these places are protected, the more likely we all have a chance to hike forests filled hundred-year-old trees, watch hatchling sea turtles crawl towards the ocean, and see a towering glacier firsthand. Sometimes I focus so much on the protection of environments that have the least amount of human interference, that I overlook the natural potential in places much closer to home.

Columbia Mine Preserve in Pike & Gibson counties is mostly mineland, reverting to nature on 1,050 acres of lakes and woods. Rare species including bobcats and Bell’s vireo have been seen there.

Land damaged by decades of mining, landfills contaminated by PCBs, or farmland that has gone through countless seasons of plantings could easily be passed over in our mission to protect the environment. These developed and highly used places can often seem too far gone. But with a one-track mind towards untouched nature, a place like Beanblossom Bottoms could have seemed unworthy of saving.

Truthfully, it’s hard to find untouched nature. Human influence ranges from raising modern cities to pre-colonial activities of native people. Traces of human activities can be found in even the most remote places, from the depths of the Mariana trench to the top of Mount Everest. Most “natural” spaces are products of human decisions and influence. We’ve changed ecosystems through species loss, pollution, and habitat destruction. But we also construct “natural” spaces when we choose to preserve, conserve, or rehabilitate them.

Sycamore’s Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve was cultivated farmland for generations, and what it has become now — 25 years later — is no less a product of human cultivation. Be it the planting of 50,000 native trees, the removal of reed canary grass and Japanese honeysuckle, or the construction and maintenance of wet meadows for the Kirtland’s snake, humans are an integral part of this ecosystem. We have sometimes gently, sometimes actively steered its growth toward an ecologically brighter future.

It’s important that we see the potential in human-touched places like Beanblossom Bottoms, in part because that’s simply our ecological reality: We live in a world that is highly human. The more we focus on an environment that is separated from human interaction, the more limits we impose on the places where we can do important environmental work. We should look at farmlands, neighborhoods, and backyards just as frequently as “untouched land.” It’s in these places where we can make the simple changes — to plant native species like butterflyweed or purple coneflower, install nesting boxes, weed instead of apply herbicides — that can decrease our negative impact on the environment. And it is in these places where people have the opportunity to make the simple connections — to learn to identify a red-bellied woodpecker or taste wild clover, sassafras, and wood sorrel — that can lead to a lifelong environmental ethic and an ability to see the natural potential in all spaces.

Someday, we may find that we’ve helped create the spaces within our communities and neighborhoods that allow us to check a couple of items off our bucket list.

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Philanthropy in the Classroom http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-philanthropy-classroom/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-philanthropy-classroom/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 20:36:28 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4277 By Shane Gibson, Environmental Education Director This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. Not too long ago, I visited a school with a club that was raising money to protect animals in Africa. I thought to myself, “Why not protect wildlife in your hometown?...  [Read More]

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By Shane Gibson, Environmental Education Director

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

Not too long ago, I visited a school with a club that was raising money to protect animals in Africa. I thought to myself, “Why not protect wildlife in your hometown? Why not protect land where you can touch the soil you helped save?”

Shane Gibson instructs a class from the Harmony School at Yellowwood Farm, which has a conservation easement with Sycamore. Photo by Rachel Hartley-Smith

Thus was born the classroom membership. A classroom membership to Sycamore Land Trust is only $20. The first $20 donated by a classroom goes toward operational expenses related to land conservation. Additional amounts are invested in our Monarch Environmental Education Endowment Fund to ensure that the educational programming provided by Sycamore will forever be free, in much the same way that Sycamore’s land acquisitions will forever be protected. We are nearing our goal of $1 million for this endowment; contact us to learn more about how you can contribute!

In the spring of 2017, Stinesville Elementary students and I finished planting our native seeds early. STEAM (Science, Technology, Environment, Arts, and Math) Coordinator and teacher Jaimie Miller had a backup plan if we finished early. She gathered the students in front of the projector screen and began discussing philanthropy. I had no idea what her backup lesson would be, but just like the perfect lead-in question in an infomercial, I answered, “Well, I have the perfect philanthropic opportunity for you, a Sycamore Classroom Membership.”

I asked Mrs. Miller why she felt philanthropy was important to discuss with these young students. She said, “Learn to Give is a great resource when starting to teach philanthropy or giving. We define philanthropy as the giving of one’s time, talents, or treasures to improve and give back to the world around us. Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp. students are developing new, practical skills through STEAM classes, and with the help of community partners like Sycamore Land Trust, they’re able to employ those skills to meet needs they see in their immediate environment and to feel empowered as young land stewards for their communities.”

Jennifer Lewis is a first grade teacher at Marlin Elementary with Monroe County Community Schools (MCCSC). In the spring of 2017, her kindergarten class became the first official Sycamore Classroom Member. Sycamore’s Environmental Education program partnered with this class throughout the entire 2016-17 school year.

Mrs. Lewis shared, “through the Sycamore Land Trust’s environmental program, my students learned not only about their environment but what they could do to protect and preserve it. I think it’s important for children to understand that in order to do that, it takes a concerted effort. They learned through raising money for our classroom membership that they could make a difference and be part of something bigger to help our environment – even if they were just 5- and 6-year-olds.”

At MCCSC’s Templeton Elementary, Sycamore’s Environmental Education program partners with many classrooms. Students, teachers, school custodians, and Sycamore staff have worked together to revamp the Children’s Garden and to plant native plants in the circle drop-off drive. This project is funded by a grant from Duke Energy and includes site preparation, mulching, and planting.

Templeton K-6th grade teacher Rise Reinier expounded on her students’ experience working with Sycamore and becoming a classroom member: “participating with and working on Sycamore  projects helps students understand the interconnectedness of all things in nature. Physical involvement, be it digging holes, moving mulch, or gathering seed from native plants, is something tangible – active bodies : active minds. A community of people who value the environment and generously and collectively work to make the world a better place is the reason I think this is a wonderful opportunity for students.”

To become a classroom member, contact Shane Gibson at shane@sycamorelandtrust.org.

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From the Assistant Director: More land, more responsibility http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-assistant-director/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-assistant-director/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 19:25:47 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4274 By John Lawrence, Assistant Director This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. It’s hard to believe how much Sycamore Land Trust has grown since I joined the staff eleven years ago. Three of us shared a small two-room office in the Showers building; now...  [Read More]

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By John Lawrence, Assistant Director

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

John Lawrence birdwatching on a staff trip to Stillwater Marsh in 2007

It’s hard to believe how much Sycamore Land Trust has grown since I joined the staff eleven years ago. Three of us shared a small two-room office in the Showers building; now we are adding our seventh full-time position and are fortunate to have Cedar Crest as our lovely and spacious headquarters. Most importantly, the amount of land Sycamore protects has ballooned from 3,400 acres in June 2006 to over 9,100 acres today. We’ve nearly tripled in size!

Superhero fans will recall the words that drove Peter Parker to use his powers for good as the Amazing Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Had Peter not been bitten by a radioactive spider and instead went into land conservation (anything can happen, especially in comic books), his Uncle Ben would have similarly counseled him that with more land comes more responsibility.  “Completing” a land acquisition project is really just the beginning – protecting a parcel of land forever means taking on the responsibility of caring for it forever.

Sycamore now owns and manages nearly 50 individual nature preserves, and is responsible for over 30 conservation easements. At a minimum, every preserve or easement requires at least annual monitoring and follow-up, and many preserves are intensively managed to restore or improve habitat and to provide public access on trails. All those properties are spread across southern Indiana, too. From Eagle Slough in Evansville, to Beanblossom Bottoms north of Bloomington, and all the way to Pfrimmer Farm near Corydon, we have a lot of ground to cover. Even with all the help of our dedicated volunteers, we’ve got our work cut out for us!

Fortunately, our good friend Darlene Gerster has made a generous donation and pledge to help us keep up with our increasing responsibilities. With her assistance, Sycamore has just hired our first full-time position dedicated entirely to caring for our nature preservers and easements. Chris Fox is joining us as our new Land Stewardship Manager, and I’m excited to begin working with him to expand our land management program. You’ll get to know more about him in the next Twig, so suffice to say for now that he brings a great combination of experience and enthusiasm to our team. He may not be able to scale a skyscraper with his hands, but he will do an amazing job caring for the land we protect.

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Brilliant Fall Hues: Where they come from and where to see them http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-brilliant-fall-hues/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/twigfall17-brilliant-fall-hues/#respond Thu, 05 Oct 2017 19:20:39 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4272 By Abby Henkel, Communications Director This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member. Note: The print version of this article is especially beautiful, so I invite you to check it out! We in southern Indiana are rightfully proud of this beautiful landscape, perhaps in the...  [Read More]

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By Abby Henkel, Communications Director

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of The Twig, our 24-page member newsletter. To read more from this issue, click here. To become a member and receive The Twig in the mail, become a member.

Note: The print version of this article is especially beautiful, so I invite you to check it out!

We in southern Indiana are rightfully proud of this beautiful landscape, perhaps in the fall more than any other time. Entire hillsides and forests erupt in vivid colors every September, and the color tends to stay longer here than in some other parts of the country. Ever wonder how this happens? And where are some places off the beaten path to enjoy them?

Beanblossom Bottoms in the fall, by Danielle Lucas/Visit Bloomington

 

Changing daylight means changing colors

While the weather can affect the intensity of the colors, it’s the length of nighttime that causes leaves to start building up a corky (“abscission”) layer that eventually prevents nutrients from passing through the branch to the leaf.

 

Bye bye, chlorophyll

As the abscission layer builds up, chlorophyll production slows and eventually stops, and what’s left in the leaves is broken down into its component parts and pumped back into the tree to be used for next year’s new leaves. Since chlorophyll is what makes leaves green, and it breaks down when exposed to sunlight just like a photograph does, eventually the leaves lose their green color.

 

Before they’re brown, their bright and colorful

Hiding beneath the chlorophyll are carotenoids and xanthophylls, which produce those yellow and orange pigments. Red and purple come from anthocyanins, which are produced by sugars in the leaf. Then as these pigments all break down in the light, the only ones left are tannins, which are brown. Research has found that aphids and other insects that like to burrow in tree bark in cold weather are turned off by the brightest leaf colors, which send the signal that the tree is strong and will defend itself with extra toxins.

 

Why are they so vibrant here?

The more diverse the trees species in a forest or region, the greater chances of having an extended season of fall colors because the species go through this process at slightly different times. Because southern Indiana gets plenty of sunlight in the fall (unlike Europe), our forests aren’t usually dominated by a couple species (unlike New England), and our first frost isn’t until mid-October, Hoosiers can enjoy about a month of autumn’s colorful beauty. Factors like a rainy spring/early summer can signal brighter colors in the fall, because the leaves don’t seal those barriers too early. But rain later in the summer causes too much cloud cover as well as wind and rain, which can cause leaves to fall prematurely.

 

Our favorite Sycamore nature preserves for leaf-watching

You’ll see beautiful fall colors anywhere you go here, but these preserves offer some of my favorite views of the hills covered in bright autumn colors. Share your fall pictures on Instagram and tag @sycamorelandtrust!

Monroe County: Scarlet Oak Woods, Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve

Brown County: Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill

Bartholomew County: Touch the Earth Natural Area

Greene County: Dilcher-Turner Canyon Preserve

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The Peace of Wild Things http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/peace-of-wild-things/ http://sycamorelandtrust.org/blog/peace-of-wild-things/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 13:46:09 +0000 http://sycamorelandtrust.org/?p=4268 I woke up this morning, turned on NPR on my way to feed my dog and make coffee as usual, and was immediately stricken with news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Like all of us, my heart went out to the victims, survivors, and their families. And all the people who have experienced this in the past and continue to be traumatized by history repeating itself. Whenever something...  [Read More]

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Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve. Photo by Holland Colvin/Blueline

I woke up this morning, turned on NPR on my way to feed my dog and make coffee as usual, and was immediately stricken with news of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Like all of us, my heart went out to the victims, survivors, and their families. And all the people who have experienced this in the past and continue to be traumatized by history repeating itself.

Whenever something like this happens, I recall a poem by Wendell Berry called “The Peace of Wild Things.” I hope it helps you feel just a bit calmer today:

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I first discovered this text when I performed a setting of it by Bloomington composer Malcolm Dalglish as part of his song cycle, Hymnody of Earth. It’s a beautiful piece that enhances the meaning of the words. Click here to listen to a recording made by Voces Novae, a Bloomington-based choir that I sing with.

 

– Abby Henkel, Communications Director

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