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!
The Carolina mantis is a species of praying mantis and is known for its cannibalism, which can occur not only after mating, but at any time the opportunity presents itself. They are native to North America as well as South and Central America. Adult females can be up to two inches long and males are around an inch and a half.
The Carolina mantis is a dusty brown, green, or gray color and because of its color is easily camouflaged on bark and among leaves. As they are growing into adults, each time they molt Carolina mantises are able to adjust their color to their environment. Carolina mantises differ from other mantises because on the females the wings only extend two-thirds down their abdomen and have a dark colored spot on their outer-wings.
Like other mantises, the Carolina mantis will eat almost anything it can catch. Meals include butterflies, moths, flies, small wasps, bees, and caterpillars. These animals can be seen in late summer to early fall before the first frost in meadow areas, shrubs, and on flower heads.
Green darner is a species of dragonfly named after its resemblance to a darning-needle. It is one of the most common, populous and larger species of dragonflies in North America. Green darners migrate from the northern United States to Texas and Mexico.
Male green darners can grow up to three inches in length with a wingspan of about three inches. Males and females can be distinguished because although both have a green thorax, males have a blue abdomen. The females have purple-gray abdomens.
Eggs of green darners are laid beneath the surface of water in areas with aquatic vegetation. Juvenile green darners are carnivores and will eat insects, tadpoles, and small fish. As adults, they eat ants, moths, mosquitoes, and flies. These dragonflies can be found around ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-moving streams.
Also known as hoot owls, rain owls, or wood owls, barred owls are known for their distinctive call. These calls can be identified easily and follow the sound pattern as “who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?”
They are rather large at 16-25 inches long and a 38-49-inch wingspan. For their size, they weigh only between one and two pounds. Their faces are pale with dark rings around their brown eyes with yellow beaks. The brown eyes are a distinguishing feature for these creatures as other owls found in the eastern U.S. all have yellow eyes. Upper areas of their bodies are mottled gray-brown with under parts being light with markings. Barred owls get their name from the barred horizontal markings on their chests.
They prefer forests with large mature deciduous and evergreen trees. Barred owls make their nests in tree cavities. They do not migrate and have a relatively small home range they stay in. Many times staying within less than 10 miles of where they are born.
Short legs, stout bodies, thick skin, and warts make the American toad. The warts are red or yellow and the toad’s skin has glands that produce poisonous milky fluid. This protects the toad from many animals that might prey on it.
American toads need to be near a semi-permanent freshwater area when they are young. After that they can be found almost anywhere from forests to backyards. As long as there is an area of dense vegetation and access to freshwater for breeding they can survive.
In the summer toads seek shelter from the hot sun in various areas including under porches, flat stones, logs, and other debris. In the winter time when it gets cold, the toads move deeper into their homes to wait it out. However, their lifespans are usually only a year or two, but they are able to live a long time. Sometimes they can live to be 10 years old.
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: Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)
The sugar maple is a hardwood tree native to the north-eastern areas of North America. They are known for the transformation of their leaves from green to bright orange in the fall and for being the primary source for maple syrup. They are a deciduous tree which means they grow their leaves in the spring and then lose them in the fall as they prepare to go dormant for the winter. Sugar maple leaves have five ‘lobes’ and are fairly large reaching up to eight inches long and wide. The sugar maple tree is tolerant of shade meaning it can grow well in shaded areas such as closed canopies where other trees are blocking direct sunlight. While they will grow in shade, are easy to transplant, and grow quickly, they are very susceptible to air-pollution.
Native: Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
One of the most common ferns in eastern North America, this plant is easy to grow in a variety of habitats and soils. Christmas ferns seem to particularly like to grow on shady hillsides and wooded stream banks. Typcially, this plant grows in a fountain-like clump. It can grow up to two feet tall and has leathery lance-shared evergreen fronds. The Christmas fern contributes to fighting erosion because the plant flattens after the first frost and essentially becomes are of the soil. It is a favorite not only because of its hardiness, but also because it stays green throughout the year. It is still green in December and is used for decorative purposes, however, how the Christmas fern got its name is unclear.
Invasive: Autumn Olive (Eleagnus umbellata)
Indigenous to eastern Asia, autumn olive was introduced to the United States to provide food for wildlife. However, it quickly became invasive throughout the eastern U.S. as birds spread its fruits. It grows as a shrub or small tree about 15 feet tall, with thorns and leaves that grow alternately on the stem. The underside of the leaves is covered in small silvery scales, and the pale yellow-white flowers bloom in clusters during the month of April. The fruit is silvery and yellow in color until it ripens and turns red. When considering plants for landscaping or gardening, choose native plants.
Invasive: Common Teasel (Dipsacum fullonum)
Common teasel is a plant native to Eurasia and North Africa. It was initially introduced to North America because the teasel’s seed head is used to card wool. Common teasel is an invasive plant that can quickly dominate prairies, old fields and roadsides. This plant is able to be identified by its prickly stem and leaves and cylindrical purple flowers. It is important to use native plants in landscaping and gardens.
Caring for 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.
Photo ©Stacy Martin
Connecting with Nature as a Family
When you are curious about something, you might turn to the internet for answers. That’s just what Stacy and her family did from their home in Fayette County when they were curious about butterflies.
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!