Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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April 20, 2013

DNR promotes nature preserves through guided hikes

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Nature Preserves has established Spring Wildflowers and Old Growth Forests Field Days to promote the state's nature preserves.

Michael Homoya, an IDNR botanist and ecologist, led one Saturday at Eagle's Crest in Eagle Creek Park.

"Years ago we had what we called 'natural areas conferences'," Homoya said. "Those were discontinued sometime in the mid-'90s. This year is really our first attempt at making that a regular thing again."

The first field days were conducted last fall. They emphasized prairies and were held at several nature preserves in northwest Indiana.

"This year we've moved it over a broader area of the state and are emphasizing spring wildflowers," Homoya said.

Indiana's nature preserves are meant to protect as many vegetation types as possible. Eagle's Crest has mesic forest with Eastern deciduous trees that are rated among the best in the state. It also has a flatwoods portion and big ravines that are "pretty rugged for this part of the state," Homoya said.

Saturday's hike emphasized the spring wildflowers, including some of the lesser-known species such as Jack-in-the-pulpit, trout-lily, and Solomon's-seal.

"It's still a bit chilly," Homoya said. "I think most of them still have their coats on. We're a little behind schedule for what's considered normal for these (hikes). The spring warm-up can either be earlier or later. Last spring was crazy - these hikes were pretty much finished in March. Now here we are in the middle of April and some of these (wildflowers) haven't even opened yet."

The pace of these field days is casual since the guides spend the majority of the time pointing out plant species and describing them.

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