caldwell parish diamonds

Its great to spend time in Nowhere, Louisiana.

We(the usual suspects) went to Caldwell Parish this past weekend to visit a couple of the best botanical areas in the state: The Charles M. Allen Nature Preserve and the Copenhagan Hills Natural Area(The Nature Conservancy).

The Nature Preserve is a gift of the Dr Harry Winters Family to the University of Louisiana at Monroe. The Nature Conservancy manages the other as part of its botanical holdings. Both sites are within a few miles of each other along the Ouachita River, south of Columbia, Louisiana, just before the Ouachita combines with the Beouf River. The Ouachita here is substantial in size with a landscape that  has been dramatically and amazingly influenced by the River. The Nature Preserve is a ridge and slope forest landscape, probably a turn of the century cutover that has regenerated beautifully.

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the river is idyllic from the bluff high above the water

Dr. Winters saw the opportunity to connect to the University to learn more about it and found Dr. Allen, who helped survey and document the floristics of the site. The 80+ acres were graciously donated, by the Winters Family to the University just after the year 2000. We went there for several years for field trips. We stopped going for a few years and then Matthew Herron, a student at ULM recently found that the University owned it and he began an effort to utilize it in his studies.

Being at Copenhagen reminded me of why I was always early-on, so enthralled with prairie landscapes. There are so many questions that are unanswered in a prairie and the endless biodiversity speaks botanic volumes.

The Copenhagen Prairie site is very different in that it is an island of herbs with no trees in an otherwise forested landscape. You can look at it on google earth and see as dramatic landscape from a bird’s eye view.

The prairie was stunningly beautiful, as usual. The prairie clover is a truly an amazing thing to see. Its like a cottony flower blanket that cushions your way across as you walk . And nowhere have I seen more. You instantly realize that you are not in a typical Louisana landscape when you step out into the prairie itself. Its a expansive, wide open landscape with not much escape from the blazing sun, in mid June. Our group grazed back and forth like cattle across the landscape: here and there we went. We found lots of wonderfully rare things to behold. One in our party was on his own counting and documenting butterfly species. When we, after an hour or so, found ourselves at the edge of a wooded area, I followed Jake Delahoussaye, who was stepping into the shade and we immediately found an ancient dogwood(out of place!) and a super-cool patch of meadow rue, or thalictrum. Awesome discoveries, both. The meadow rue blew me away. It is not a plant I have seen much of in the wild, but I’ve grown it in shade gardens. I love the plant. Charles came over and tentatively ID’d it. I thought it was a seedling chain fern patch at first and guessed maybe a legume because of the rounded, immature looking leaves but then we found seed stalks on a few mature plants and then we found seed, so then the identification was positive.

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Jacob Delahoussaye finds a botanical “easter egg” in the prairie woods: a sweet patch of meadow rue seedlings

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old prairie dog posing with the old prairie dogwood

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with Jake in the picture, you can see the geologic ripples in the landscape; steep sudden drops and rises

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solid groundcovers of Neptunia

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Charles stepping into a clump of big bluestem grass, his best side to the camera, ha

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the soil that makes the prairie.

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prairie clover galore

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Charles re-living the 1970’s

We all had a good time considering the heat but you have to get into the heat to see prairies growing.

It was funny, at one point when we were at the nature preserve, a group of us were driving in Dr. Allen’s truck truck from the river to the river road(about a mile away). I was in the back bed of the truck and Charles was driving with a group inside the cab. Charles accidentally missed and took a wrong turn and had to back up and redirect, and I smart-assly commented “hey man, what’s the matter? you don’t know your way around your own nature preserve or something?”

I thought that was pretty darned humorous and we all had a few laughs at that.

maybe you had to be there

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