I love the pond of this post, and it actually has a name.
But too many endangered secrets are revealed to use it here.
The Chicago metro area has so many human feet - that excessive publicity (and thus visitation)
risks death by trampling.
If you visit the Somme preserves, please stay on the trails during the growing season.
Un-named pond has sensitive wildlife - and populations of five endangered plant species: an orchid, a gerardia, a sundrops, a speedwell, and a grass. Two are among the largest populations: on the planet (in one case) or in Illinois (in the other). Un-named Pond has more than one hundred species of plants that are uncommon or rare. (We planted most of them - a complexity that's discussed below.)
Today I was happy to find American slough grass - an endangered annual with the impressive Latin name of, Beckmannia syzigachne. We don't find it every year.
|This is one of the region's rarest grasses. An annual, it pops up in Un-named Pond|
some years by the hundreds - and some years not at all.
Today I found it in 5 areas, for a total of 11 plants.
When we started caring for this pond, it was mostly covered by dense cat-tails with little diversity growing underneath. Remnants of richer vegetation survived here and there, at the edges of the cat-tails, so we started swiping the cat-tails with herbicide to protect the biodiversity they seemed to be displacing. It turned out to be easy to kill the cat-tails without damaging the surrounding vegetation. At first we planted no seed. We waited to see what would come from the seed bank, but little came, especially in the deep water areas where the cat-tails were densest. Especially there, much of the current vegetation came from our seed mixes.
|Where only cat-tails - and then bare soil - once stood, the pond now is now diverse and complex.|
Once we started seeding, following our usual practice, we tried to find, gather, and broadcast all species of seed that historically would likely have lived in the muck that faced us when we'd controlled the cat-tails.
Our experience has been that many species are slow to establish. So - while I'm here looking for aggressive invasives like reed canary grass - that need control - I keep one eye open to discover new successes. Soon I see bur-reed, for the first time in this pond, from a recently discovered population in another Somme pond nearby.
|Newly restored, bur reed will be popular with the ponds ducks.|
They prospect for its large seeds in the pond's muck.
Another success here is the threatened species, marsh speedwell. It was a dominant species in one nearby pond - but absent here, until after we moved seed here. In recent years, this speedwell has vanished from that other pond but is doing very well here in Un-named.
|Marsh speedwell likes the parts of this pond that are shaded by oaks.|
|The quiet nobility of the little speedwell flower is shown so much better in Lisa Culp Musgrave's elegant photo.|
Except for Lisa's beauty, above, all the photos in this post are from my cell phone, this morning.
Another puzzler is a sedge (see photo below). Tufted lake sedge is abundant in a similar pond about 300 yards away. In 2012, we'd killed especially large areas of cat-tail. So - in addition to our other mixes - we gathered a shopping bag full of tufted lake sedge and broadcast it in Un-named Pond.
|A bagful of rare seed. Some years, this temperamental species produces none.|
How many plants would result?
|One big plant of tufted lake sedge (front left) stands annually alone, for now.|
|It seems to make at least some fat seeds every year. Will the population explode some year when conditions are right?|
This is a continuing story - for so many species.
But how much diversity can such a degraded marsh recover - through restoration? Our stewardship of Un-named Pond is one experiment that may help answer that question. We have offered it seed of hundreds of species (if you count the various sunny-to-shady and wet-mesic-to-deep-water species).
|Here - where cat-tail was recently herbicided - crow's-foot sedge competes with blue-flag, water parsnip, water plantain, and others. In some places where seed was not broadcast, Iris is now nearly a monoculture.|
Un-named Pond was naturally a savanna pond. The 1839 public land survey and other data indicate scattered and clumped oaks here. The farmer cut the trees on the north and west sides - and planted crops. Part of the recovery now is to get some trees back there. Seedlings abound. But, pruned by fire and deer, they remain small. I note that the bur oak nearest the north edge of the pond has had its top eaten off. A one-year set back.
|Make note: raise the cage.|
|At one point, invading green ash covered most of Un-named Pond. We controlled it.|
Now it's coming in again near the oaks - which are the only large old trees around this savanna pond.
My third woodcock sighting was also of a hen performing her "distressed-looking" decoy flight. I froze again. Just yesterday I'd seen chicks too young to fly. But in this case, there seemed to be no chicks near - except the one dead one shown below. It wasn't eaten. I wondered if it had been stepped on, by a deer or a person. They're well camouflaged. Stepping on them is a serious danger.
|It's mother seemed to be protecting it - but too late.|
Some of the pond's rare orchids and gerardias, (neither in bloom yet) are vulnerable to trampling like that woodcock chick. I've seen massive damage from human feet here - apparently by people who "loved" the place or at least found it very interesting. We need bigger areas like this.
We the well-intentioned stewards, sometimes, probably, unintentionally, step on and injure or kill salamanders, snakes, baby birds, rare caterpillars, snails, and other honored neighbor creatures. We feel bad certainly in the rare cases when we know it. But it's a cost that we balance out with the great help we provide and which, in the bigger picture, provides for vastly more successful seedlings and babies that would otherwise be replaced by the barren chaos of invasives.
Frankly, we stewards don't go into Un-named Pond ourselves this time of year, unless some management or monitoring requires us to do so. But we're happy to enjoy its magic when so required. If you'd like to help, you'd be very welcome.
So, let's end with a photo of hope:
(A more technically science-and-stewardship-focused post on Un-named Pond - that partly overlaps with this one - was also published today at http://woodsandprairie.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-science-and-secrets-of-un-named-pond.html)