The Wilderness Center: A Virtual Guide
The Wilderness Center (TWC) is located in the village of Wilmot, which is based in Stark County and has Wayne County and Holmes County as close neighbors. This site consists of 619-acres of old growth forests, meadows and parries, wetlands, and hiking trails and offers a variety of educational programs and activities. With a mission to connect the community with nature, educate across age groups, conserve natural resources, and practice environmental stewardship, TWC also houses an Interpretive building, Planetarium, Picnic shelters, and a Viewing tower that overlooks a large pond.
I have been exploring this site since I was little, going on hikes with my family, participating in the educational programs, and interacting with TWC community. Only a 20 minute drive from my hometown, I feel that this site has some botanizing potential, so here it goes!
Getting Started: Leaflets three, let it be!
Before we dive in, it is important to draw some attention to Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans), which has the potential to cause some discomfort, as its oil can cause inflammation, rash, or blisters. Contact with this plant causes skin irritation that can be itchy and rather uncomfortable. Being able to identify this plant is very important and your future self will likely thank you!
Poison Ivy can present itself as a shrub, trailing vine, or climber and contains 3 leaflets. These leaflets can be shiny or not, and can occasionally appear reddish if it is young or dying. Poison Ivy can also be identified by its flowers and fruits. It flowers May-July and can be identified by noting its small, yellow petals and fruits August-November with small, smooth white berries that are bell-shaped and clustered. (Peterson “Trees and Shrubs” Field Guide).
If you do happen to come in contact with it, there are some important things to know when it comes to washing the oil off. Symptoms usually kick in within a couple of hours after contact and can appear as itchy blisters or as a rash. Effectively washing the oil from your skin requires a thick lather of soap (for example laundry soap or special soap for contact with Poison Ivy) and a lot of scrubbing! If you believe you have come into contact but do not see any symptoms yet, it still wouldn’t hurt to follow these tips.
Trees, shrubs, and flowering plants
This tree has toothed, heart-shaped leaves and can be found in moist woodlands and forests. The roots of T. americana are quite fibrous and strong and can be used in making mats and baskets.
This tree has very distinctive thick, prickly leaves and red berries. These leaves are often foraged for decoration and its lumber can be used in the production of piano keys (Peterson “Trees and Shrubs” Field Guide).
This shrub can be found along field edges and open woodlands. Its leaves are firm, elliptic, and hairless and clusters white, cone-shaped flowers from June to July. Both song birds and game birds enjoy the fruit produced by L. vulgare.
This shrub thrives in drier soils and has elliptic, wavy-edged leaves. Like plants of the legume family, E. commutata has special root nodules that can fix nitrogen in the soil (Peterson “Trees and Shrubs” Field Guide). Alaskan natives have also used this plant in cooking.
This flower can be found in meadows and open woods (Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide).
This flower thrives among moist woods and is characterized by its pink or white petals with dark pink veins (Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide).
The coefficient of conservatism (CC) is a numerical index that aids in the understanding of a plant’s ecological tolerances and can help the observer gain insight to the ecosystem in focus. High CC species can be thought of those with an assigned value of 5 or higher. These species tend to have a more narrow range of tolerances and are found in stable conditions. Blue-eyed Mary, Collinsia verna, CC=8 thrive in moist, open woodlands and can cover fairly large portion of the forest floor. This small but eye-catching flower attracts a large number of native bees.
American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) and Swamp Oak (Quercus bicolor) both with CC=7 can be found in areas of rich, mature soil and low woods, respectively. The lumber from Beech trees can be used for cheap furniture and tool handles, while the lumber of Swamp Oak has more value for cabinetry and furniture.
The Tulip, Liriodendron tulipifera, with a CC=6 thrives in fertile woodlands and has a distinct leaf containing 4 lobes and a notched tip. This species is one that has been used by Native Americans to make dugout canoes and its lumber is commonly used for a wide variety of wood products including shingles, furniture, boxes, and toys.
In contrast to high CC species, low CC plant species are those with a CC index of 5 or lower and are more tolerant to disturbances and can be more widespread throughout a large range. Species with CC=0 are often non-native and can be invasive. Sassafras, Sassafras albidum, has CC=3 meaning it can be found in stable communities but can still persist after some level of disturbance like in older fields and woodlands. This tree, like the Tulip, has distinctive leaves that can resemble a mitten and its lumber can be used to make dugout canoes. One of my favorite uses of Sassafras is sassafras tea, which involves boiling the bark and roots.
Sensitive fern, Onoclea sensibilis, CC=2 can be found in in meadows or fields, along rivers, and other wooded areas with moist soil. Its leaves appear pinnately compound and are a soft bright green. This species was named for early observations of its sensitivity to frost.
Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia, CC=2, thrives in woods and thickets and has palmately compound leaves with 5 leaflets. The shape of the leaf resembles the spokes of a wheel and its blue fruit is consumed by many bird species and skunks. (Petersons’s “Trees and Shrubs” Field Guide)
Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica, CC=2, can be found in moist woods and are fairly low to the ground. The can be identified as small pink or white flowers with darker pink veins through the petals. Some individuals enjoy foraging for this species, as their roots resemble small potatoes, and taste like them too.
Natural areas, like TWC, provide space for exploration and education. To assist with the educational aspects of natural areas, interpretive signs can be put in place. These signs provide pictures of what explorers might see as well as information regarding observations and the site itself.
The signs pictured below give some good insight to the natural areas they are addressing. I really like that they show different species that you can look for while visiting. Sometimes, though, the signs seem a bit content heavy. Hikers may enjoy a quick read that is easy to digest instead.
Some elements I decided to use in creating my own sign for TWC include providing observable species and a bit of information about the ecosystems found there. I tried to keep my content relatively short to ensure a quick and digestible read. This sign also has an interactive element to encourage explorers to discover species on their own.