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!
Northern Short-Tailed Shrew
The northern short-tailed shrew is one of the largest shrews in the northeastern US. However, it still seems small reaching between four and five inches long and weighing in at about an ounce. This shrew is a digger and spends much of its time digging underground, making nests in tunnels or under rocks or logs.
Though they spend much of their time digging around in the ground, they are agile climbers. Northern short-tailed shrews have been seen climbing up tree trunks to raid bird feeders. They can be found in damp woodlands, bogs, and marshes as well as in the border of fields in areas of vegetation.
These animals also spend time in human populated areas such as cultivated fields, and gardens. During winter they might take shelter in barns, basements, or sheds. Northern short-tailed shrews are insectivores, which means their diet consists primarily of insects. They are not social creatures, preferring to live in solitude and can be territorial. One of the most special features of the northern short-tailed shrew is that it is one of the few venomous mammals.
Eastern Mud Turtle
The eastern mud turtle is also known as the common mud turtle due to its abundant numbers in the United States. These turtles can be hard to identify and are on the smaller side at three to four inches in length. Its shell does not have any distinct patterns and can vary in color from black to yellowish. Males are distinguished from females by the spine at the tip of their tails and the rough scaly patched found on the inside of their hind legs.
Like other turtles, eastern mud turtles live in ponds and other areas of fresh or brackish water. Preferring to be in shallow, soft-bottomed areas, and near slow-moving water where lots of vegetation can be found, they are known to wander far from water sources in the summer months.
The eastern mud turtle is found more commonly in the southern part of the United States. In Indiana it has a small area in the southwestern part of the state. There is also a small isolated population in northwest Indiana.
Threats to these creatures are raccoons that enjoy eating the turtles’ eggs, herons that eat the adults, and capture from the wild due to the pet trade. Habitats for these creatures are also destroyed when wetlands are drained.
Non-native: Pavement ants
The pavement ant is native to Europe and gets its name from the way these ants make colonies in pavement. Pavement ants have one pair of spines on their back which helps distinguish them from other ant species. They also have two nodes on the stalk between their abdomen and thorax and grooves on their head and thorax. In early spring, pavement ants will set out to conquer new territory and attack nearby colonies of other species. These attacks usually occur on sidewalks and sometimes thousands of ants die during these battles.
Pavement ants are very aggressive. In the summer pavement ants are found digging out the sand between paved areas to vent their nests. They are dark brown or blackish in color and very small. In their nests they have workers, some alates (new queens and drones), and one queen ant.
The northern cardinal is the state bird of Indiana and six other states. It is common throughout southern Canada, the eastern United States, and Mexico. Cardinals are found everywhere from swamps to woodlands to gardens.
The males are bright red while the females are less brightly colored. Often cardinals can be seen hunched over with their tail pointed straight down and are often found sitting low in shrubs and trees. They forage for food on or near the ground and routinely do this in pairs.
Cardinals eat mostly seeds, and will also eat insects and fruits. They are songbirds, but their songs can be territorial, sung to show they claim an area. Cardinals in different locations will have varying calls because they learn from what they hear and each song can be particular to a certain region.
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: Tall Agrimony (agrimonia gryposepala)
Tall Agirmony has many names such as tall hairy agrimony, common agrimony, and hooked agrimony. This flowering plant is a perennial which means it comes back year after year. Historically, this plant was used to treat medical issues including fevers. However, this is not recommended today. This plant grows between one and five feet tall and produces a cluster of yellow small flowers on a stalk. When the stem is crushed, it releases a spicy scent. Its fruits are produced in the form of hooked dry seeds clustered together. This native North American plant can be found in woodlands and forests from Canada through the United States and into Mexico.
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.
Native: American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)
American beech trees are native to eastern North America. They are fairly large trees growing up to 80 feet tall with trunks up to 2.5 feet wide. They grow well in areas of mixed forest with other species of trees or in solid stands of other American Beech trees. Their leaves are alternately arranged on stems and are oval shaped with a pointed end and serrated edges. The tree produces fruits called beechnuts encased in a spiny pouch that released in the fall. Chickadees are particularly drawn to beech trees often building nests in them. American beech trees are shade tolerant which means even without direct sunlight they will grow well.
Native: Northern Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum)
There are around 200 species of maidenhair ferns. In Indiana, we have the northern maidenhair fern. This plant is also known as the five-fingered fern. It is native to moist forests in eastern Northern America. The leaves are slender and have shiny black stipes or stalks. These ferns grow between 12 and 30 inches tall and like many trees, lose their leaves in the winter. A hardy plant, the maidenhair fern is able to grow in a variety of habitats from soils to rock faces and ledges although they prefer areas of well-drained and moist soil.
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 Good Turn for Nature, the Boy Scouts Crossroads of America's 2018 service project!
Cub scout holds removed invasive honeysuckle at Bitternut Woods for Good Turn for Nature!
Good Turn for Nature
This past fall the Children of Indiana Nature Park teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America’s Crossroads of America Council for Good Turn for Nature, the council’s community service project, Parks and natural areas around central Indiana hosted Boy Scouts by providing opportunities for hands-on conservation activities and engage them in our natural world. It was an amazing experience!
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!