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!
Monarch butterflies are easy to identify with their bright orange wings with black lines and white spots. They are rather large with wingspans up to four inches. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed. This makes monarchs toxic in both their caterpillar and butterfly forms and they use this as their defense against vertebrate predators such as birds and small mammals. The poison as well as their bright colors serve as a warning to anyone who would think about trying to eat them. Adults feed on nectar of various flowers.
Monarch butterflies are also known for their great migration from the north down to Mexico and California. Unlike migrating birds, monarch butterflies do not return to the north once they fly south. Instead, they continue their lives down south by mating, reproducing, and eventually dying. Their offspring continue the cycle by returning north the nest summer.
For butterflies to overwinter in an area, it must have lots of trees so that the butterflies are able to cluster together. These creatures also need areas of underbrush with water. Monarch butterflies need areas that can protect them from wind and snow, but also provides a place to rest and not use all of their reserved energy.
There are over 500 species of carpenter bees worldwide. In Indiana, we most commonly find two eastern species. They are easily mistaken for bumble bees. However, their bodies are shiny black in color with a bare abdomen and yellow or white on the heads of males. Bumble bees differ from carpenter bees in one way by having fuzzy bodies instead of hard shiny ones.
Male carpenter bees appear aggressive and will hover around humans if they are near nests. However, males do not have stingers and are harmless. Females have stingers, though they will rarely sting unless handled or provoked.
Unlike many other bee types, carpenter bees are solitary instead of social. Carpenter bees tunnel into wood using their mandibles to dig away at the wood. They do not eat wood as termites do and these nests are used to lay their eggs and store nectar.
Field sparrows are about six inches long and weigh less than an ounce. They have brown feathers on their upper bodies, a dark brown forked tail, a pinkish beak, and rust coloring behind a white ring around their eyes.
Their natural habitats are brushy areas with shrubs and grasslands. Field sparrows make their nests on the ground, hidden under bushes or clumps of grass. They feed on insects and seeds. The field sparrow populations are thought to slowly be declining, though still abundant in numbers.
These birds are often overlooked but can be found commonly. In the mornings during mating season, lone male birds can be heard making a long and unique song. At other times of the year, groups of field sparrows can be found quietly feeding on the ground.
Northern Leopard Frog
Distinguished by large, dark, spots on their bodies northern leopard frogs can reach up to four inches in length. Males are smaller than the females. Each of the frog’s spots has a lighter ring around it and there are two parallel white lines running from the frog’s eye down its back.
Northern leopard frogs can be found in ponds, slow moving streams, swamps, and marshes in a variety of habitats from forests to urban areas. As long as water with vegetation is available, the leopard frog can survive. Males will make a call similar to a snore in the spring and summer to attract mates.
Outside of the breeding reason, the frogs are solitary but they are not especially territorial. During this time, they may venture away from wet areas to forage for food in meadows and grasslands. To keep hydrated, they absorb the dew on plants. Northern leopard frogs are most active at night when it is breeding season, and more active during the day when it is time to forage. In the winter they return to the areas of water they call “home.”
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: Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
Dutchman’s breeches is a native wildflower found throughout the eastern United States. It has many names, but one of its common names is little blue staggers. This name comes from the way cattle seem to stagger drunkenly after eating the flower. Blooming in early spring during March and April, the flowers of Dutchman’s breeches are white to pink in color and resemble a pair of pants (or “breeches”) hanging upside down. With fern-like leaves, this plant is a good addition to gardens with shady moist areas.
Native: Spring Beauty (claytonia virginica)
Spring beauty is one of the most common flowers to see across eastern North America. These wildflowers grow low to the ground and are found in star-like clusters of five white to light pink petals and dark green grass-like leaves. Spring beauty is common because it is able to adapt to disturbances in the land like timber harvest and mowing. These flowers also smell great. Like most things in nature, it is best to leave these wildflowers alone and plant some in your yard instead of being tempted to take them from the wild.
Native: Cutleaf Toothwort (cardamine concatenata)
Cutleaf toothwort has many names such as crow’s toes, pepper root, or purple-flowered toothwort. Cutleaf Toothwort gets its name because of the sharp teeth on the leaves, and the tooth-like appearance of its rhizome which makes it easily recognizable from other toothworts. Growing anywhere from 7 to 25 inches tall the plant has white to pinkish flowers and blooms March – May with four petals. The cutleaf toothwort grows in deciduous forests and wooded slopes in areas of leaf litter. Seed pods are long and erect and contain small black seeds. It is a member of the mustard family.
Native: Wild Blue Phlox (Plox divaricata)
Also known as woodland phlox and wild sweet William, wild blue phlox is a flowering plant native to forests in eastern North America. Growing between 8 and 18 inches tall, wild blue phlox produces its five-petaled, pastel-colored, fragrant flowers in the late spring and early summer. Colors of the flowers can range from light purple, pink or white, to lavender-blue. Phlox need cross-pollination to produces seeds. Meaning without bees, butterflies, and other pollinators going from phlox to phlox, these plants would not survive.
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.
A deer mouse.
The Importance of Biodiversity
You’re not the only one studying your land! Science professors at Earlham College in Richmond are studying it too. In a study focusing on the Children of Indiana Nature Park habitats, they want to know how different habitats affect mammal populations and species diversity. In this study, mice are the target mammals.
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.”