Want to volunteer at Allen County Parks?

We would love to have you!!!!

We need volunteers for all kinds of activities, be it
program help, maintenance help, removal of invasive
species, filling bird feeders, small construction projects, hosts/hostess, anything you’d like to do!!

All potential volunteers for the Allen County Parks
Department must complete a volunteer application
before volunteering. A link to this application can be
found at our website on the Volunteer in the Allen
County Parks page.

What's Happening at Metea County Park?

To view a complete and up-to-date list of activities occurring at Metea Park, please see the Wild Grapevine, available at the Allen County Parks website.

Life and Times of Chief Metea

By Andrew Hartsock

Metea County Park was named for a Potawatomi leader whose village on the north bank of Cedar Creek near its mouth was close to the boundary of the current park. Metea's village was called Muskwawsepeotan, which means "town on the old red wood creek".1 The village, the southeasternmost Potawatomi village in Indiana, was settled sometime after 1795, when the Potawatomi tribe first moved into northeastern Indiana from the area of the St. Joseph's River of Lake Michigan near modern South Bend.2 The site was abandoned after it was ceded to the United States along with all other Potawatomi lands in the area by treaty in 1828.3 Although the population of Muskwawsepeotan is not known, similar small Potawatomi villages on the Tippecanoe River are estimated to have had 125 to 150 inhabitants.4

Metea was known as a prominent spokesman for his tribe. Although he was not an especially powerful clan elder, his skill as both an orator and a warrior won respect and brought him influence among his people. Many times, Metea fought and argued for the interests of the Potawatomi. He was an active leader during the War of 1812 and a valued lieutenant of Tecumseh.5 Among the battles he directed was the notorious massacre of the United States outpost at Fort Dearborn, now Chicago, in 1812.6 His bravery in warfare left him with a scar on the right side of his nose and a useless right arm. His arm was shattered when he was shot by a sentry while he was scouting General Harrison's army near Fort Wayne on September 11, 1812.7 Despite the debilitating wound, Metea risked his life to save his gun because, as he stated afterwards, "I would rather have lost my life. Had I returned from battle without my gun I should have been disgraced; but had I died with my face toward my enemy, my young men would have said that Metea died like a brave."8

Although he was unable to lead his warriors into battle after he was wounded, Metea's determination continued to serve his tribe as he represented them at many treaty negotiations. His serious, uncompromising nature earned him a reputation as "the sullen one," an ironic contradiction of the literal meaning of his name, "kiss me."9 Metea's memorable appearance added to his commanding presence as a speaker. Tall, at six feet, and scarred, his looks were described as "unpleasant" but, ultimately, "striking."10 The contrast of his relative youth for one so esteemed by his people and grave bearing also struck observers; he was still in his forties when he was most recognized as a spokesperson. Nevertheless, his verbal ability was his most memorable attribute. Senator Tipton of Indiana, among many who professed admiration for Metea's oratory, asserted many years after hearing him that there were few more eloquent speakers.11 During an important negotiation at Chicago in August, 1821, concerning the sale of lands in Michigan and Indiana, Metea was delegated as a spokesman, not only for his own tribe, but for their allies the Chippewa and Ottawa as well. The following is an excerpt from his address to the United States negotiator Lewis Cass which exemplifies the beliefs for which Metea fought; in this speech he admonishes both the land hungry United States and those Native Americans who agreed to further land sales:

"My Father: A long time has passed since we first came on our lands; and our people have all sunk into their graves. They had sense. We are all young and foolish, and do not wish to do anything that they would not approve, were they living. We are fearful we shall offend their spirits if we sell our land and we are fearful we shall offend you if we do not sell them. This has caused us a great perplexity of thought, because we have counseled among ourselves and do not know how we can part with the land. My Father: our country was given us by the Great Spirit, who gave it to us to hunt upon; and to make down our beds upon when we die. And he would never forgive us should we bargain it away. When you first spoke to us of lands at St. Mary's, we said we had a little, and agreed to sell you a piece of it; but we told you we could part with no more. Now you ask us again! You are never satisfied!

"My Father: We have sold you a great tract of land already; but it is not enough! We sold it to you for the benefit of your children, to farm and to live upon. We now have but little left; and we shall want it for ourselves. We know not how long we may live, and we wish to have some lands for our children to hunt upon. You are gradually taking away our hunting grounds. Your children are driving us before them. We are growing uneasy. What lands you have you may retain forever; but we shall sell no more.

"My Father: You think perhaps that I speak in anger; but my heart is good toward you. I speak like one of your children. I am an Indian - a redskin, and live by hunting and fishing. My country is already too small; and I do not know how to bring up my children if I give it all away...."12

Despite Metea's arguments, however, the tribes agreed to sell their lands; many in the tribes wanted money and trade goods which were given in quantity by the government in exchange for territory. Unfortunately, however, to many Potawatomi, material goods were not the primary objective of the negotiations; speaking for them, Topinbe, who claimed to be a leading chief, desperately admitted to Cass, "We care not for the land, the money, or the goods; it is the whiskey we want - give us the whiskey." Cass, professing reluctance, agreed to give the tribes enough alcohol "to make every man, woman, and child in the nation drunk" in exchange for the approval of the treaty.13 In the drunken revelry which followed the treaty signing, nearly a dozen Indians died from inebriation.14

Although Metea was well aware of the danger that white encroachment posed to the Potawatomis' sovereignty and way of life, he was not inveterately hostile to all elements of white culture. Actually, he found some aspects of white culture appealing, beneficial, or, at least, inevitable. Metea, like most of his tribesmen, preferred to wear the latest fashions imported from eastern cities. Observers often commented on the fastidiousness with which he dressed. With many Potawatomi, he probably envied the life of prosperous, independent frontier traders. Metea even advocated the education of some of the youth of his tribe in white-run Indian schools, such as the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky.15 He also sought medicine, such as smallpox vaccination, for his people.16 Undoubtedly, Metea did not believe that all white influences were necessarily a threat; rather, he sought to incorporate the more useful elements of their culture into his own.

Metea, characteristically seeking advantage for his people, tried to exploit differences among whites. During the War of 1812, he personally warned French trader Joseph Bondie of a planned Potawatomi attack on Fort Wayne. Metea sought the gratitude of an important member of the relatively large French community in the area, as well as continued access to European goods during the war. Unfortunately for his plans, however, Bondie betrayed his trust to the U.S. garrison.17 Later, unhappy when required to journey to Detroit to collect annuity payments from the government, Metea opportunistically journeyed to nearby Ontario to receive gifts from the British, who were seeking to inspire dissent among the Indians in the United States.18 Despite treaties of friendship with the U.S., Metea received yearly pension payments from the British as a wounded war veteran.19

Metea's entire life was devoted to ensuring the prosperity of his people and the continuance of their independence. Ultimately, however, his quest was doomed to failure. The unprecedented, unrelenting pressure of white settlers combined with disease which decimated the Native American population eventually destroyed much of the Native American culture in the Old Northwest. In 1838, most remaining Potawatomi were forced out of Indiana at gunpoint.20 Metea, however, did not live that long.

The circumstances of his death remain mysterious. Some assert, with cause, that he was deliberately poisoned for speaking too forcefully against land cessations, possibly by either dissatisfied Potawatomi or white settlers. What is known is that he died at Fort Wayne in October, 1827, after a treaty negotiation. Tired after long discussions, Metea remarked that he must have a "frolic." He was given alcohol and demanded more. Drunk, he mistakenly swallowed a bottle of nitric acid he took from a shop window and died in less than an hour.21 He is believed to be buried on the shore of the St. Mary's River between Wayne and Berry Streets. Some of his descendants still live in Northeast Indiana.22

1William H. Keating, Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of the St. Peters River...under the Command of Stephen H. Long, Major U.S.T.E. vol 1 (London: George B. Whittaker, 1825), 88.
2Otho Winger, The Potawatomi Indians (Elgin, Ill: Elgin Press, 1939), 81.
3David A. Baerris, The Geographic Location of Potawatomi Bands: 1795 to 1846 (Bloomington, IN: Glenn A Black Laboratory of Archaeology, 1998), 41-42.
4Winger, 67-68.
5Gilbert Bil, God Gave Us This Country (New York: Doubleday, Anchor, 1989), 231.
6Ibid, 98.
7R. David Edmunds, The Potawatomi: Keepers of the Fire (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978), 191.
8Thomas L. McKenney, History of the Indian Tribes of North America vol. 2 (repr. Edinburgh: J. Grant, 1933) 207.
9Edmunds, 140 and Keating, 88.
10Keating, ibid.
11McKenney, ibid.
12Hiram Beckwith, The Illinois and Indiana Indians (Chicago: Fergus, 1884) 179-181, quoting Henry Schoolcraft, Travels...in the Central Mississippi Valley (n.p. 1821).
13Edmunds, 221.
14William E. Unrau and Craig H. Minor, Tribal Dispossession and the Ottawa Indian University Fraud (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985), 34.
15McKenney, 208.
16Keating, 130.
17Wallace Brice, The History of Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne: D.w. Jones, 1868), 213.
18Charles Poinsatte, A History of Fort Wayne Indiana from 1716 to 1829 (Notre Dame: MA Thesis, 1951), 156-157.
19Edmunds, 216.
20Shirley Willard ed, "Trail of Courage, Trail of Death" Fulton County Historical Society Quarterly 53 (Fall & Winter 1988, Spring 1989), 62.
21McKenney, 211.
22"Potawatomi Indian Clan Installs Chief in Ancient Ritual" The Scottish Rite Standard (Fort Wayne: n.d.), 8.

Famous Naturalists In Their Youth

By Ron Divelbiss

Today many girls and boys love to walk along the edge of a creek or watch a hawk soar overhead. But back when the science of studying nature was new, most naturalists were men.

Many naturalists started their study of nature as young boys. They liked frogs and worms and other wiggle things.

Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss-American naturalist and geologist, as a boy caught fish and put them in a drinking fountain to study them. His later studies of fish were world-renowned.

Edward D. Cope, a great American paleontologist, at seven went with his father on a voyage and drew pictures of the jellyfish and other marine animals he saw.

David Starr Jordan (who later became President of Stanford University) at the age of thirteen listed all the plants in his neighborhood and then learned all the constellations in the northern hemisphere.

Sometimes these young naturalists had rather funny experiences. It is said that Charles Darwin as a boy was once collecting insects and ran out of containers to put them in so he carried one precious bug home in his mouth.

Our great naturalist President, Theodore Roosevelt, as a teenager, had a similar experience only much more embarrassing. He was collecting specimens along the river with some friends. When he found he had no more room in any of his bulging pockets, which were already crammed with frogs, toads, snakes and insects of all sorts, he stuck the last frog under his hat. On the way up the river bank the boys came upon the Honorable Hamilton Fish and his wife. Poor Teddy tipped his hat and lost both his frog and his dignity, and in the process scared Mrs. Hamilton out of her wits.

Not all those who study nature have the chance to become professional naturalists, so most of us are amateurs. However, a large part of the world’s knowledge has been gathered by the amateur naturalist.

Backyard Habitat

By Cheryl Allen

"The retention of wildlife in the cities and suburbs goes a long way toward maintaining the essential bond between people and nature that breeds a sense of stewardship and responsibility for the land and its life far beyond city limits." Robert Michael Pyle

My cats, draped over the back of the sofa, think the yard is wildlife-friendly for their benefit. Avid bird watchers, their interest of late has been the baby bunnies nibbling at the creeping phlox and cotoneasters outside the front window.

Not all developers of backyard habitats welcome rabbits, though. Purdue Advanced Master Gardener Alan Clayton finds them too destructive.

"Rabbits are my most unwanted wildlife, and the occasional raccoon. I have tried many ways (some I now know were 'folklore remedies') to stop the rabbits from devastating our vegetable and perennial gardens. I finally have succumbed to green plastic coated chicken wire. It is not all that attractive (much better than plain chicken wire, though), but it is very, very effective. We had a split rail fence with green wire mesh installed around our vegetable garden. That worked great for adult rabbits. However, all the baby bunnies could get through the mesh; they devastated the tender new growth on the vegetables."

Since 1973, the National Wildlife Federation has sponsored the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. This program provides encouragement and assistance to those who welcome wildlife to their yards. Alan registered their yard in 1994.

Why register? "The main advantage to registering our yard as a Backyard Wildlife Habitat," says Alan, "is that we learned so much about a habitat by reading all about it and by just making the sketch of our yard to fulfill the requirements. It has been a real learning process."

The Backyard Wildlife Habitat program outlines the four basic needs of all wildlife: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Of these four, which has the most impact on the backyard habitat?

"Water, water, water," Alan explains. "Either in the form of bird baths (we have 3) or ponds (we have one with a waterfall). We had a lot of wildlife, mostly birds, but after we got the waterfall and the birds could hear it, they 'flocked' to our yard. And in doing so, they ate many insects, most noticeably mosquitoes and Japanese beetles."

The National Wildlife Federation also recommends that, to create a healthful backyard habitat, one should reduce chemical usage and build healthy soil. "Soon after we registered and stopped using chemicals on our lawn and gardens, the birds came in droves," Alan confirmed.

Attracting wildlife means attracting predators as well, the NFW points out. "We have many Cooper's Hawks, and the occasional Red-tailed Hawk," Alan states. "We see them every weekend, and recently we were home for a week (we many times vacation in our Wildlife Habitat) and saw them almost daily."

Unless the animal is behaving strangely, the homeowner usually has nothing to fear, according to the NFW. Still, the presence of predators can be disconcerting.

"We saw a hawk swoop in and kill a bird, smashing a poor sparrow against our garden gate. I went in to Wild Birds Unlimited and spoke with Ben Roush. He congratulated me and said that the hawk incident meant that we truly had a backyard wildlife habitat. So now, I occasionally see feathers in the lawn and just accept it as the natural pecking order of life."

For more information on creating a backyard habitat, visit the National Wildlife Federation online.

Burning Fires in the West

By Angie Carl

The phone rings at 1:00 am. Normally I would be groggy answering the phone that early, but I have been anticipating this for two weeks. Indiana Fire Headquarters has an assignment for me, if I chose to accept. Of course I do, and I forget to ask where they are sending me, all I know is that I have to be there by 7:00 am. I make a few calls to say my good-bye’s, throw my bags in the jeep, and hit the road to Martinsville. This is the beginning of a 36 day tour of the west putting out forest fires.

I’d like to explain a little about why I choose to fight forest fires. The main goal is not as many might think, to stop the forest from burning completely. The media talks about the devastation of the forest fires every day. You hear about people losing their homes, thousands of acres burning up, the redwoods going up in flames, and so on. I read this and wonder if the media has actually been out there, because it is not that way at all. The most important job of a fire team is to prevent building loss. They spend a lot of resources on protection of homes and populated areas. Most of what burns is wilderness. The burning is good for a lot of plants and animals. It is a natural occurrence that revives the woods. The areas that burn usually only lose a few trees and most of the under story.

The first place I was stationed was Sundance, Wyoming. This was a beautiful area in the Black Hills. The fire was a small one and almost out by the time we got there. The Indiana Fire Crew #4 spent three days mopping up the hot spots (anything still smoldering) and we moved on to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The scariest part of both trips was the bus ride from Sundance to Steamboat Springs. The trip entailed two breakdowns, two bus drivers, passing cars in no-passing zones, tires rubbing on wheel wells, and lots of white knuckles.

The crew arrived safely in Colorado. Steamboat Springs is what I imagine heaven looks like. The Rocky Mountains are absolutely stunning. The fire was called the Hinman Fire. We were evacuated the first day as the fire made a run up the mountain toward us. The next few days the Indiana Crew got our division (the area of the fire we were working) under control. They changed our division and we received a great assignment working on the hot side (the front) of the fire. We dug several miles of line, ran miles and miles of hose, and cut down a lot of snags (dangerous trees that are dead or burned out).

We spent several nights on the fire line, which is called spiking out. A helicopter dropped in our food and camping supplies. On the first night we spiked out, it rained for most of the night. At 4:00 am I heard a sound that I thought was a big storm, but there was no rain falling on my emergency blanket. I stirred myself awake and sat up. 100 feet in front of me a tree was torching. Ashes and sparks were pouring off the tree. It was a beautiful sight.

We put out the fire and came back to Indiana. I took my mandatory two days off, and put myself available once again. Fire Headquarters called on the third day and I was on my way to Oregon. This time there were two crews from Indiana (Indiana Crew #6 & #7) and three from Pennsylvania traveling together. We went to the Umpqua National Forest in the Cascade Range.

This fire was the largest I have ever been on. When we arrived it was already at 17,000 acres, which included 94 fires burning together. This fire was a lot different than the first two I was on. The smoke never lifted from the forest, so it seemed like we were in a thick fog for two weeks. We never saw the sun. The wildlife was abundant. I saw tree frogs, snakes, birds, lizards, and two baby black bear cubs.

On this fire we did similar tasks such as line cutting, hose laying, and mopping up. We also saw a lot of back burns being set to get rid of unburned fuel between the fire and the roads that were used as containment lines. The tactics used to fight this fire were similar to the first two, but they weren’t as aggressively applied.

Fire camp was enormous with over 2000 people. It was called “tent city”. They provided us with meals, showers, and camp stores. There were medical tents, phone areas, and an entertainment tent with a television that didn’t receive any stations. For the large number of people stationed at this complex, the fire will still not be out until the snow falls. The day we left the fire was 30 percent contained and it was up to 50,000 acres.

Fighting fires is not a glamorous way to burn all of my vacation, but it is very gratifying work. I get to see parts of the country I have never been and I get to learn more about fire behavior, which I find fascinating.

Now that I am back home it is hard for me to hear that President Bush wants to allow logging companies into wilderness areas to thin trees to prevent more fires. Protecting inhabited areas should be the top priority, and in my opinion the wilderness I love is in more danger from this plan than from fires.

Metea in Community

By David S. Ridderheim, Jr.

I was asked to write a few paragraphs on what Metea Park means to the community and me. Those two are intertwined so here are some quick thoughts.

Rejuvenation: Being close to and a part of nature is truly restorative. Walking on the beautiful trails (there are several, all different), listening to the wind through the trees, seeing the bubbling waters of Cedar Creek, or just absorbing the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and touches is a great experience.

Recreation: There are so many opportunities throughout the entire year. It is great to see so many people hiking, jogging, swimming, bird watching, cross-country skiing, identifying trees, fishing, photographing, picnicking, or merely relaxing at one of the scenic overlooks.

Families: In today’s hectic world, I love to see families doing things together. My wife and I alone, or with some of our children and grandchildren, find Metea Park provides a great setting for family activities. You will be amazed at the questions and conversation that occur.

Education: Anybody walking through Metea cannot help but be in a learning mode looking for, and thinking about, nature and all of its inhabitants - insects, reptiles, mammals, plants, trees, birds - on and on. Most enjoyable for me is being a trail guide for Friends of Metea, and it is rewarding to help youngsters from pre-school through elementary ages as they explore the park. I am also most impressed with students from IPFW and Leo High School, teachers, and adult volunteers as they provide structured learning activities.

The residents of LeoCedarville and the surrounding region are fortunate to have a nature park such as Metea as an integral part of this community. With the rapid development of the area, it is vital this important area be maintained and improved for citizens to enjoy today and tomorrow.

Watch Us Grow (Trees)

By Ron Zartman

On Saturday, March 25, 2000, a Tree Planting Field Day was held at the north unit of Metea County Park. In a soybean field on Hursh Road, immediately east of Cedar Creek, nearly fifteen thousand trees were planted. A handful of people went home better informed to plant their own trees. Tom Crowe, of Wakeland Forestry Consultants, spoke about improving existing tree plantings. Bill Lambert, of Lambert Forestry Consulting, talked about tree planting do’s and don’ts. Gary Moughler, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, clued participants in on gypsy moths and other insect pests. Dave Hines with the Natural Resource Conservation Service presented information on federal agricultural programs like CRP and WRP. A lot of people and agencies cooperated to make this happen. This day was a long time coming.

Allen County Parks and Recreation (ACPR) had purchased this land in the mid-eighties. It had been farmed for about ten years to bring in revenue until it could be developed as parkland. Dave Lamb of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) worked with Allen County Parks in 1996 to enter 17 acres at the rear of the property in the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). This U.S. Department of Agriculture program preserves wetlands permanently by purchasing development rights from landowners. In exchange for placing a perpetual easement on their wetland property, landowners receive a lump sum payment of the approximate value of the acreage involved. This was perfect for Allen County Parks and Recreation (ACPR). We planned to protect these wetlands and create trail access to them anyway, and this payment replaced lost revenues from farming. This acreage was taken out of agricultural production and left idle. In a short time “pioneer” trees seeded in on their own. Cottonwood, sycamore, ash, cherry, and dogwood established themselves in the floodplain soils.

In 1998 the County Parks became aware that we could be eligible to enter the remaining sixteen acres of soybeans into the Conservation Reserve Plan (CRP), another USDA farm program. Again, Dave Lamb with NRCS and the Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District guided us through the process. We would be paid a yearly rent on these acres in exchange for taking this land out of production. The rent paid would actually be higher than the farm revenues we had been taking in. If we planted trees the payments would be made for fifteen years. The USDA would cost-share expenses of planting trees and controlling weeds for the first two years. CRP and WRP would help us take thirty-three acres out of agriculture and restore them to forest cover. This would provide wildlife habitat, expand our trail system, and prepare this area for public use.

Many benefits were going to be realized by Metea County Park’s participation in CRP and WRP. Allen County Parks Board member and County Extension Director Roger Moll could see the potential for expanding the County Parks’ and Purdue Cooperative Extension Service’s educational efforts with this project. He proposed using this area as a forestry demonstration area. Land owners who were considering planting trees on their own properties could learn from this planting at Metea County Park. They could compare planting strategies, and in the future they could see best management practices in use. We began to look for partners.

Roger Moll enlisted the help of Purdue Extension Wildlife Specialist Brian MacGowan. Brian offered several tree planting and maintenance strategies, advice on wildlife problems, and suggestions of tree species that would benefit wildlife.

Dave Lamb suggested getting local forestry consultants involved. They may be interested in using this area as a demonstration area for the strategies they commonly use in their work. Being public land, potential customers could view the practices in use at Metea over time and at their leisure.

Two firms decided to help with reforestation efforts at Metea. Both firms were on the Forestry Committee of the Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D. Bill Lambert, of Lambert Forestry Consulting, and Tom Crow of Wakeland Forestry Consultants teamed up to plant trees at a reduced rate. Tom Crowe developed separate tree planting plans for the CRP and WRP plots. The Conservation Reserve Plan plot was started from scratch, planting directly into the soybean stubble. The Wetland Reserve Program land supplemented what came up naturally. Trees that would have taken a long time to come in by themselves, like oaks and walnut, were planted into what was already growing there.

Both of Wakeland Forestry Consultants’ tree planting plans had the objective “to recreate an aesthetically pleasing natural woodland that will produce an economically valuable timber resource in addition to maximizing species diversity, improving wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational and educational opportunities while reducing soil erosion. An additional objective is to demonstrate various aspects relating to tree planting and plantation management that may be used in the future as a demonstration area by people interested in tree planting for timber production.”

Tom Crowe was able to successfully help Allen County Parks secure $3,400 in funding from the Hardwood Forestry Fund, a program of the Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association. This funding will cover costs of seedlings, planting, and weed control not covered by CRP. In return, Allen County Parks has agreed to document the progress of the project with photographs and published news articles and provide the Hardwood Forestry Fund with copies of these. We must also notify the Hardwood Forestry Fund of tree survival and health at years one, five, ten and twenty, or if any changes occur impacting the health or management of the project. Their members may benefit from a timber harvest in the future.

The CRP planting called for black walnut (2800 tress), red oak (2800), white oak (1400), chinquapin oak (700), burr oak (700), tulip (1400), black cherry (1400), and butternut (100). These species of trees were intermixed in rows by a tractor-pulled planter. Some rows were planted with trees every six feet. Another area would be planted with trees every nine feet. Rows would be eight feet apart. We will be able to determine in the future which did better.

Another variable demonstrated was weed control. The difference between applying herbicide only on the rows of trees vs. broadcast spraying of whole areas should be visible almost right away. Brochures will be developed to explain what areas received different practices so that landowners can determine for themselves how to go about their own tree plantings.

The WRP areas were planted with seven hundred each of black walnut, red oak, white oak, chinquapin oak, burr oak, and shagbark hickory. One area was left alone to show only what has come in naturally with no help. Another will be broadcast sprayed with herbicide to “release” the tress that have come in naturally. In this area the pioneer trees should do better than the first, due to not having competition with weeds for the two years of herbicide treatment. A third area will supplement existing natural regeneration by planting heavy mast (nuts and acorns) producers and controlling weeds over planted trees only. Trees were planted mechanically right into existing trees in eight-foot spacing. Rows were ten feet apart. The remaining area of WRP land followed the same planting regimen as the first, but will be broadcast sprayed for weed for two years, again releasing naturally occurring tress and protecting planted trees from competition with weeds.

To create as much diversity as possible, Hoosier Releaf supplied trees planted by park staff and volunteers on May 20, 2000. These were planted by hand in the same rows as the mechanically planted and will benefit from any weed control applied there.

It is wonderful to think that in ten years we could have a canopy of tree cover where there is now just soybean stubble. There will soon be new trails to hike. And Cedar Creek will begin to benefit from a new buffer from agriculture. It has been gratifying to see so many people and organizations get involved.

Skunk Cabbage - Nature's Oddity

By Kathryn Moore

How can one describe this succulent, thick fleshed flower, that pokes its tips out of the muck and swamps at Metea Park? It is truly an oddity of nature! I have seen the tips in November in readiness for a very early appearance in late February or early March. The flowers are a knob-shaped cluster (spadix) covered with yellow pollen. Surrounding the flower is a 2-5" thick hood (spathe) mottled with colors of brown, green, and purple. The leaves come a week or two later, at first coiled, then becoming very large in late spring. The cabbage-like leaves rise to two feet and have a foul odor when crushed. In early summer, the flower dies away, leaving the beautiful large leaves to brighten the swamp with marsh marigolds. The two are companions in the swamp. I love the scene!

The Latin name is Symplocarpus foetidus and the plant is in the Arum family, the same family as the jack-in-the pulpit. Skunk cabbage covers a large range, from Eastern Quebec to Western Ontario and south to Missouri and Georgia. The leaves are called elephant ears in some localities, in reference to their large size. The flowers have a carrion-like smell which attracts flies for pollinating other plants. The bad odor coming from the crushed leaves is skunk-like, hence the name skunk cabbage. The plant grows in swamps and bog margins, in wet mucky soil.

In Euell Gibbon's 1966 book Stalking the Wild Asparagus, he entertainingly tells us about how he cooked the tightly rolled cones of the young leaves as a vegetable, boiled in two or more changes of water, with a pinch of soda. The bad smell covered the kitchen and when he ate the leaves, there was a bad burning in his mouth! Later he successfully made pancakes from the dried roots. The roots were dried for six months!

Skunk cabbage is listed in the U.S. Parmacopoeia from 1880 - 1882. It is still listed in the U.S. Dispensatory as an emetic, stimulant, antispasmodic, and narcotic. The Micmac Indians treated headaches by binding a bunch of the leaves together, crushing them, and inhaling the sharp odor. This would fit the "doctrine of signatures" where "like cures like".

Once, the land surrounding the Fort Wayne area was filled with swamps and bogs, but in recent years, most of the land has been drained. Metea Park is fortunate to have an area (where the Soft Shell Turtle and Raccoon Trails merge) where this plant grows. The Metea parkland off Hursh Road also has this oddity, growing near Cedar Creek. In a huge area at the Isaac Walton League, near Cedar Creek, skunk cabbage and marsh marigolds thrive. There is a small stand at Fox Island, our other county park. It is sad to note that driving down country roads, all our natural wetlands are gone and the sight of bright green skunk cabbage leaves a forgotten sight. Although skunk cabbage was never rare, it is now disappearing with the draining of our bottom lands. On the bright side, there are county parklands and Acres Land Trust, who are dedicated to saving these wonderful areas, where nature's oddity, the skunk cabbage, continues to grow this spring and forever.

Happy exploring!

Alien Invaders Threaten Our Parks

By Jodi Leamon

In mid-November at the parks, most of the vegetation is leafless. A few of the oaks are holding onto their brown foliage, but most of the landscape consists of bare limbs reaching up into the crisp air. This affords a unique view through the forest. At first, one becomes aware of cheery clouds of green hovering about eye-level for as far as is visible. It is tempting to think of this last bit of live growth at this time of year as a good thing. A closer look, however, reveals a more sinister side to the phenomenon.

Those last green leaves belong to the Honeysuckle bush. It is a plant native to Russia, which was imported here for ornamental landscaping. Now there are areas of the park in which the understory consists of very little besides Honeysuckle.

There are several species of this shrub, but one of the most prevalent in our area is Lonicera tataria. The flowers are non-fragrant and produce bright red berries late into the fall. Wild animals seem not to favor the berries as a food source because the berries remain on the plant for long periods of time. When almost nothing else is available, though, birds and deer will eat them. It is believed that this is how the plant escaped to forested areas.

Observers have noted that the Honeysuckle population in the park is increasing at an alarming rate. Any species introduced into a new area brings with it a host of problems. First of all, there are no natural predators or competitors for non-natives. Normally, an ecosystem co-evolves to keep itself in balance. Take any one element out of that system and put it into another, and balance is thrown off. The fact that an introduced species can survive in a new area indicates that the growing conditions are right for it; couple that with the lack of competition or predation, and uncontrolled growth results.

Local flora and fauna suffer due to alien plant species as well. Animals do not recognize the intruder as a normal source for food or shelter. In the case of Honeysuckle, certain animals are able to eat the berries, but it is a low quality food. The real trouble comes with crowding. Native plants are shaded out by the tall leafy shrub, and the sheer number of individuals takes up literally acres of space that could and should be used by our precious natives.

Non-natives, invasives, aliens, weeds, exotics - however they are referred to, these plants pose a huge threat to our wild spaces. Because we are such a mobile society, we transport species to new places faster than we can realize we have a problem. Once the species is present in an area, seeds are spread on shoes and clothing of unwitting hikers and make their way into the winderness on the treads of off-road vehicles.

Exotic plants are the number two cause of loss of biodiversity worldwide after loss of habitat. In 1999, President Clinton supported an initiative to begin widespread eradication efforts on non-native plants in parks and other protected lands in order to address this problem.

Fox Island has begun to take its own initiative on the issue. We are removing Honeysuckle by cutting and treating with herbicide to prevent re-sprouting from the stumps. This is more an effort to control the spread than to completely eradicate the species, and will take a considerable amount of work due to the proliferation of the plant throughout the park.

Some people may think that any plant growing in a forest, especially a nature preserve, has a right to be there. In order to protect that forest, though, we must take measures to prevent the limitless growth of exotic plants. It is hard for any nature lover to go out and kill a living thing, but when faced with the facts, many gentle-hearted naturalists become fierce "weed warriors".

Looking through the trees at that sea of light green Honeysuckle leaves in the fall is a little less pleasant when considering the darker side of the story. Hopefully, the more aware people become about non-natives, the less ground they will gain in our forests, wild lands, and protected places.