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!
Non-native: Chinese Mantis
As the name suggests, the Chinese mantis is not native to North America, but rather to Asia. The species of mantis was introduced to North America in the late 1890’s. Chinese mantises feed on other insects mostly, but some large females have been found eating small reptiles, amphibians, and even hummingbirds. One problem with the Chinese mantis is that it does not discriminate against its prey and will eat many important native species including those listed previously.
Chinese mantises are long, slender, and green and brown in color. They can reach up to almost four and a half inches long with females being larger than males. Chinese mantises can be identified from the yellow spot between their front legs. Like other mantises, they are known for being cannibalistic.
Bess beetles are part of the passalidae family and are also known as horn beetles, bessbugs, and Betsy beetles among others. They are known for the single “horn” on their head. They are also social beetles which is uncommon and they live together in family groups. Their bodies can be up to an inch long and are black with a narrow head and wider thorax.
Bess beetles live in groups in rotting logs and care for their young by preparing food for them and helping the larvae build their pupal cases. Bess beetles eat their feces and can make 14 acoustic signals or sounds by rubbing their legs or wings against different body parts.
Wood frogs are between two and three inches in length and their color varies. Most of the time they are brown, tan, or rust colored. However, they can also be shades of green or gray. Wood frogs are recognizable because of their “robber’s mask.” Like raccoons, they have black bands that go from their eyes to the top of their front legs.
Wood frogs only live in the United States and Canada. They are able to survive in freezing temperatures and live in a variety of habitats from peat bogs to uplands dependent upon the season. They are able to survive in cold temperatures by going dormant in shallow soil or leaves on the ground and are not harmed when their blood and other tissues freeze. Wood frogs are active during the day and are rarely seen at night.
To reproduce, wood frogs need water areas that are free from fish. When not breeding, the frogs will move away from the water and live under logs or fallen branches and leaves. In the winter they hibernate and use these hiding places to spend the cold months.
This medium-sized deer is native to the US, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. In North America they are commonly found in east of the Rocky Mountains. White-tailed deer live in a variety of habitats and can be found in forests, brushy areas, and even swamps and deserts. They prefer to be near forest edges and adapt well to areas that have been cultivated for farming.
Depending on the time of year, these animals will have different colored coats. In winter their fur is more gray. In summer their fur is a reddish-brown color. White patches are found on their face and lower legs as well as the underside of their tails. When they run away after being startled, their tail flips up exposing the white underside of the tail. Males grow antlers in the spring, then shed a velvet like layer of fur off in the fall during mating season. In winter, the antlers completely fall off. They grow back in spring, and the cycle starts once again.
White-tailed deer are shy and nervous animals and usually flee from humans or anything else that startles them. They are able to run quickly reaching speeds up to 30 miles per hour. They are also able to swim and will retreat to a large stream or lake to escape predators, which include humans, mountain lions, and coyotes. White-tailed deer also have good eyesight and hearing, but rely mostly on their sense of smell to detect danger.
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: Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotine)
The wild black cherry tree is an easy plant to identify. The bark, which appears broken and similar to thick burnt cornflakes, is dark grey or black in color. The leaves of the tree are long and shiny and a smell similar to almonds is released when a young twig is scratched. Black cherry trees need lots of sunlight to grow and can be found in old fields with other sun-loving tree types. The fruit of the tree can be used for jam and pie making. However, the seeds should be removed before consuming as they contain poisonous cyanide. We also do not advocate eating any plants you encounter.
Native: Boxelder (acer negundo)
Boxelder is a type of maple tree native to North America. It is also known as ash-leaved maple, maple ash, or boxelder maple. These trees grow quickly but have short lives. They do not grow especially tall, reaching heights between 33 and 82 feet. Often these trees will have several thin trunks between 12 and 20 inches and form impenetrable thickets. Boxelders prefer bright sun and often grows in floodplains and other areas with lots of water available. Many animals depend on the boxelder, but the Maple Bug in particular, prefers to lay its eggs on this species of maple above other maple tree types.
Native: Spotted Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis)
Spotted touch-me-not also goes by the names of common jewelweed, orange jewelweed, and orange balsam. This plant grows between three and five feet tall and blooms orange flowers in summer to early fall. The hanging seed pods of this plant will burst open and send the seeds flying out upon contact. This gives them the name of “touch-me-not” and helps spread the seeds of the plant. When the leaves are held underwater, they appear silver or “jeweled” which is how they came by the name of “jewelweed.” Spotted touch-me-nots were traditionally used to treat rashes. The effectiveness of this is not particularly notable or recommended.
Native: Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)
The northern red oak is sometimes called “champion oak” and usually called red oak. It is native to North American and grows from the Great Lakes east, as far south as Georgia, and as far west as Oklahoma. It can be distinguished from other oaks with its reddish grey brown bark and its leaves. The northern red oak’s leaves have seven to nine lobes with the second pair of lobes from the top of the leaf being the largest. These trees are deciduous and lose their leaves for the winter. They grow usually around 92 feet tall and their trunks can be 20-39 inches in diameter. It can grow in many types of soil but generally prefers glacial drift and well-drained stream borders.
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 kids came together to help care for 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! Kids helped plant 3,000 trees!
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.”