So many amazing animals!
Many different mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects 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!
Bullfrogs can weigh up to one pound and be as long as 18 inches. This makes them the largest real frogs found in North America. Bullfrogs are brownish or green in color and usually have dark colored splotches on their backs. They are good swimmers thanks to their webbed back feet.
These animals must live near water and can be found near lakes, ponds, rivers, or bogs. They prefer water areas that have warm, calm, and shallow water. While bullfrogs generally like avoiding humans, they are being found more commonly in areas we have disturbed. The warm water put out by power plants provide a habitat they like.
Bullfrogs are fair weather creatures, preferring warm weather. They hibernate when the weather gets cold by burying themselves in mud and building small cave-like areas. To catch food, bullfrogs sit and wait. When their prey does come by, the frogs flick their tongue out to catch it and bring it to their mouths. Bullfrogs are active during the day as well as at night, but they are most active when it is warm and moist.
Male bullfrogs have low rumbling calls that can be heard almost a mile away. Adult males are aggressive and territorial. They will defend their areas by wrestling other frogs who invade their space. Bullfrogs have good vision and can sense vibrations. This is how they find mates, protect themselves from predators, and find food.
With around 3,000 species found worldwide there are quite a few of these common insects around us. While mosquitos might appear to be pests when they surprise you with a bite on a summer evening, humans are low on their list to bite. They prefer to visit horses, cattle, and birds.
Male mosquitos feed strictly on nectar and live between five and seven days. It is the females who bite animals to gain more protein and iron to help develop fertile eggs. These biting insects are a type of fly and are considered good food for many other animals including bats, dragonflies, and frogs. They are also helpful for pollinating plants.
These pollinators can still be dangerous carrying diseases such as West Nile Virus. So while, mosquitos are important, we do need to be careful. Females need standing water to lay their eggs so experts recommend to remove standing water that might be found in flowerpots and buckets.
This semiaquatic mammal native to North America is a carnivore that feeds on rodents, fish, crustaceans, frogs, and birds. It has thick fur that is usually lighter (but not white) in the winter and darker brown with white patches on the chin, chest, and throat in the summer.
The American mink measures anywhere between 12 to 18 inches in length and has short legs. They are solitary creatures whose dens are large and have many entrances and passageways. Males are particularly territorial and mark their territory with strong-smelling substances.
Minks prefer areas of forest where water can be found nearby. Areas near lakes, streams, and ponds with brush or rock cover are also considered areas of mink habitat. When a mink is stressed, it expels a powerful odor that is said to be worse than a skunk spray. Odor is the mink’s main way to communicate with others during times of mating and marking territory as they are fairly quiet vocally. They are active at night especially near dusk and dawn times.
A common sight on summer nights, fireflies - also known as lightning bugs - are winged beetles that use bioluminescence to display their light shows. There are many species of firefly and their light displays vary in color and pattern depending on the type.
The light, which comes from their abdomen can be yellow, green, or a pale red depending on which species it is. The light is also a “cold light” meaning the chemical reaction causing the glow producing little heat.
Fireflies use their light to attract mates. Males and females of the same type will flash to let each other know they are there. The light also serves as a warning to predators as many species taste bad when eaten. There are certain kinds of fireflies that do not flash at all.
Fireflies tend to stay near to where they are born and are seeing a loss in habitat as well as light pollution threatening their numbers. Adult fireflies only live long enough to mate and lay eggs.
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: Small Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum biflorum)
This native woodland plant species of eastern and central North America is thought to resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon, which is how it received its name. Solomon’s seal grows rather tall reaching several feet vertically and prefers shaded areas. With small white-green flowers that hang from the stalks that bloom in late spring or early summer, this plant is easy to recognize. The flowers eventually are replaced by small blue berries. Historically, this plant was used for food being used to make soups and breads. Young shoots of Solomon’s seal are also edible and are similar to asparagus. It was also often used for medicinal purposes.
Native: American Linden (Tilia americana)
American linden, also known as American basswood, is a deciduous tree. This means they shed their leaves and go dormant for the winter. Native to eastern North America, linden trees can grow between 60 and 120 feet tall and the trunk can be as wide as four feet. They live to be around 200 years old. The American linden is vulnerable to many insect pests, but is a particular favorite of the invasive Japanese beetle who feed on the leaves. If a tree is cut down or falls down, it is likely to sprout from the stump. Wood from the tree is commonly used for the body of electric guitars and wood-carving. The inner bark is also very tough and was used in the past for making ropes.
Native: Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana canadensis)
This plant is in the evening primrose family and gets its name from Circe, the enchantress of Greek mythology. Enchanter’s nightshade is not especially toxic, but does contain a large amount of the toxin common to the nightshade family. It blooms in the summer with white flowers and rounded leaves. Native to Europe, Asia, Siberia, and eastern North America, it will grow in areas of woods in extremely shade and in clay with nitrogen in it in moist environments.
Native: Daisy Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus)
Daisy fleabane is known by many names including the common fleabane and frost-root. It has narrow leaves and small white or pink flowers resembling those of daisies. The flowers are less than an inch around clustered together on hairy stems. The flowers can be seen in bloom from March – June. This plant grows in a variety of habitats and can be seen along roadsides, in fields, and in woodlands.
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 how one group cares for a very special animal that lives on our land.
Staff and volunteers from The Nature Conservancy and Cope Environmental Center assist kids with a tree planting and the nature bio-blitzes on Kids to Parks Day, Saturday, May 19
Whoa! What happened here?
The Children of Indiana Nature Park looks a bit different than it did last month. That's because May 19, was Kids to Parks Day and we celebrated with a tree planting of native hardwoods! The daywas a huge success and 3,000 trees were planted.. Volunteers and staff from the COPE Environmental Center enjoyed the tree planting process with off and on rain followed by a good rain shower after the planting was completed. Tthe trees are expected to do very well.
Click here to 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.”