So many amazing animals!
Many different creatures call the Children of Indiana Nature Park home. Let’s explore what can be found in the area and what makes these critters unique. We’ll periodically rotate this list so there will always be someone new to learn about!
Eastern Tiger Salamander
The eastern tiger salamander is one of the largest land salamanders in the US. They are usually between seven and eight inches long with stocky limbs and a long tail. Their bodies are very dark brown with yellow or dark green irregular spots.
Most of the time these salamanders are found underground. They are referred as “mole salamanders” for this reason. In February or March, the salamander leaves its burrow to migrate during the night, usually in times of rain.
Females lay eggs in masses. They lay these egg masses attached to twigs or weed stems submerged in water. Each egg mass holds 25-50 eggs. Once these eggs hatch after around four weeks, the animals are in the larval state and will remain that way until late summer. When they grow to resemble salamanders a bit more and are 4-5 inches long they leave the ponds and travel at night when it is wet and start to live underground. Eastern tiger salamanders can live to up 15 years old.
The eastern mole, also known as the common mole has the widest range of any mole in North America and is native to Canada, the eastern US, and Mexico. Generally eating earthworms, it is not a threat to vegetation besides creating “mole hills” and tunnels.
They have hairless, large, spade-shaped feet perfect for digging and spend most of their time underground. Their eyes are small, not very useful, and hard to see because they are undeveloped. Their tail plays a role in their movements as it is used as a touch organ that guides that mole as it moves backwards in tunnels. The mole’s hair which is thick and velvety can vary in color from copper to silver to black and is hinged which helps the animal move backwards and forwards comfortably.
Eastern moles can be found in fields, meadows, pastures, and open woodland areas preferring to be in areas with moist soils. They are also strong swimmers. Tunnels are dug for burrows and as routes to food. Eastern moles are high energy animals and eat up to a fourth of their body weight in food each day. Earthworms are their main course, however they are also known to eat insects, their larvae, and at times vegetation
Even though the moles are solitary creatures, they might have tunnels that overlap with other mole tunnels and share some space this way. Eastern moles help control insect and worm populations as well as help to turn soil over by digging so while some might find them a nuisance, they are important to our ecosystems!
Also known as the common snapping turtle, this animal lives everywhere from Canada to the southwest edge of the Rocky Mountains, and down to Florida. It is known for its combative nature when out of the water and has powerful beak-like jaws and can easily move its head and neck.
In the water, snapping turtles are more likely to run away and hide. These turtles can reach up 20 inches in length and weigh as much as 35 pounds. They usually live around shallow ponds or streams and are sometimes known to bask in the sun – though it is rarely seen.
Snapping turtles are scavenging and hunting omnivores. They will eat plants as well as any animals they can shallow such as fish, frogs, and even small mammals. They will travel over large areas of land to reach new habitats or lay eggs and many factors such as pollution and food scarcity can push these animals quite far away from the nearest water source.
The Carolina Chickadee was named by John James Audubon while he was in South Carolina. At around five inches long and weighing less than an ounce, they get their name from one of their common calls “chick-a-dee-dee-dee.” They have a long narrow tail, a short neck, and a large head.
With their small size, black markings on top of their heads and on their throats, dark gray upper areas, and lighter bellies, these birds are easy to spot and common to see. Though they can be confused with the black-capped chickadee, their browner wings differentiate the Carolina Chickadees.
Carolina Chickadees can be found in a variety of habitats from forested areas to suburban yards and parks with large trees. They are found in central and southern Indiana as well as southeastern parts of the U.S.
These birds are inquisitive and acrobatic. They can be seen with other chickadees as well as other small bird species feeding together, except during their breeding season. During this time two birds will pair up together and spend the next several years with each other. How long a pair stays together is dependent upon the population size and how successful nesting attempts are.
Let’s talk about plants!
The park is home to a variety of plants. Some belong here (they’re called native plants) and some do not belong here (they're called invasive plants). We’ll explore both native and common invasive plants here, sharing a little about each one to help you learn about what grows on your land. We will periodically update this list, so be sure to come back so you can become a native plant expert!
Native: Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pubescens)
Downy yellow violets can be found in dry forest areas in the eastern part of North America. They grow between six and ten inches tall. Small five-petaled yellow flowers with purple or brownish colored veins near the center of the flower bloom April through May. The downy yellow violet has alternating heart-shaped leaves on the stem. It can be distinguished from other violets not only by its yellow color but because it appears “hairy.” The downy yellow violet spreads its seeds by the ripe seed pods splitting into three sections and shooting the seeds several feet from the plant.
Native: Common Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea)
The common serviceberry is native shrub to eastern North America and is usually between 12 and 36 feet tall with smooth gray bark. It is found in areas of well-drained moist acidic soils along wood edges, ponds, and streams. White flowers bloom in April and May before the leaves appear. It also produces small sweet reddish-purple berries which are edible. This deciduous plant displays a change in leaf color from green to deep red in autumn before dropping off for winter.
Native: Rattlesnake Fern (Botrychium virginianum)
Rattlesnake fern prefers to grow in shaded areas of moist woods and is typically up to a foot tall. Leaves are compound with many leaflets, grow parallel to the ground and are roughly shaped like a triangle. Some leaves are fertile while others are not. The fertile leaves produce spores that are released in the fall and distributed by the wind.
Native: Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)
The eastern red cedar is also known as the Virginia juniper and eastern juniper. It is a native juniper species of eastern North America. This coniferous evergreen tree usually grows up to 66 feet tall but in areas of poor soil they might not grow more than the size of a shrub. The oldest reported red cedar was found in West Virginia and was 940 years old. The leaves are needle-like and sharp when young and scale-like when they are older. The seed cones are berry like and a dark purple-blue color. The seed cones are covered in a white wax coat that usually rubs offs. These are referred to the juniper berries. The eastern red cedar’s bark appears reddish which contributes to its name.
Stewards of the Land
On this page we feature stories about how people work to keep native habitats healthy and wild, by caring for our lands and waters. Below is a story about the natural history of the Park and an update on the 2018 tree planting.
Tabulating the tree survival rate from the 2018 tree planting on this year's Kids to Parks Day in May 2019.
2019 Kids to Parks Day
In May 2018, the first Kids to Parks Day at the Children of Indiana Nature Park was held. To celebrate the event and return an old hay field to native woodlands, kids helped plant 3,000 trees. In May 2019, the second Kids To Parks Day event was held where the survival rate of the trees was evaluated and our work continued!
Read the rest of the story!
A Natural Park
NOPE, you won’t find slides and swings at the Children of Indiana Nature Park (Park), but you WILL find trees, insects, signs of critters, and life around every corner. This land was deeded to all of the children in Indiana because we think YOU ARE IMPORTANT and because PROTECTING NATURE MATTERS! As you explore the land, you will learn about ways we are changing the property to make your land as healthy as possible!
My Spot Now
Depending where your deed is located, your spot may be in a hay pasture or your spot may be in a wooded area. The Park is mostly flat with a ravine running north-south through the center of the Park. The eastern part of the Park is largely an old white pine plantation where the trees were harvested for building materials. The western part of the Park is a hay pasture that is bordered on the east by hardwood forest that generally follows the ravine. There are mowed trails throughout the property for people to walk. In time, this area will be restored to its natural state as it was before the hay pastures and the pine plantation.
Making the Park Healthier
In the future, the Children of Indiana Nature Park will look more like it should with native plants and animals, thanks to the great care that many children gave to the land, and all deeds to the Park will be located in hardwood forest habitat. The Park will be a native hardwood forest with a diverse understory of native plants, and will reflect the natural features of the Central Tillplain region. The Park will look as settlers may have found the land in the area in the mid 1800's. A new trail system will also allow easy access throughout the Park.
Caring for My Land
What people do on the land affects the plants and animals that live there - sometimes good, sometimes not-so-good. People who care for the land and the creatures that live on the land are called conservationists. At the Children of Indiana Nature Park, we are planning conservation activities that will maximize the number of native plants and animals that call the Park “home.” Read about some of the big changes
occuring at the Park!