Michigan Botanical Club Spring Foray 2006
Indiana Dunes, Michigan City, IN
Over one hundred years ago University of Chicago professor, Dr. Henry Cowles said, “Botanically the Indiana Dunes are a floral melting pot… where one may find plants of the desert… rich woodlands… pine woods…. swamps….oak woods… and prairies together in such abundance as to make the region a natural botanical preserve…”. Still today, the Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Program has reported that the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore “ranks third of all U.S. National Parks in plant diversity, even though its acreage totals less than 3% of either of the top two (Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon).” Also, we cannot forget the Indiana Dunes State Park, which lies within the environs of the National Lakeshore, Warren dunes and Grand Mere State Parks in Michigan and local prairies. For these reasons, not to mention the aesthetic beauty of the dunes, the Southwestern Chapter has chosen this fascinating landscape to explore at our May, 2006 Spring Foray. We are confident that you will enjoy the field trips we have planned.
The foray will begin Friday evening with our speaker, Mark Reshkin (Indiana U.), describing the geologic history of the area. The area owes its diversity to the glacial advances and recessions, numerous lake level changes and prevailing winds. You will want to hear the story in detail at 7:30 pm.
Due to the industrialization of the Chicago region many of the natural features of the beaches, dunes and bluffs were obliterated. It took foresight and perseverance of a strong few to protect these and remaining lands from future degradation and development. One such person is Senator Paul H. Douglas (1892-1976) for whom the Douglas Center for Environmental Education at the National Park is named. It was through his efforts that the national Park was established. Today, the Save the Dunes Council, the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, the Indiana Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and other trusts are working to preserve additional tracts. We will visit preserves protected by these groups. Excellent preparatory reading for the weekend is Chapter 10 (Beaches, Dunes, and Bluffs), A Natural History of the Chicago Region by Joel Greenberg, University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Not only does the chapter discuss the natural history of the area (including Michigan’s Warren Dunes) but also the politics of its preservation. Many of the areas we will visit are discussed in detail. Mentioned in the book are members of the Michigan Botanical Club who are also members of the previously mentioned organizations, for their preservation efforts and botanical discoveries. One such person, Barbara Plampin, will speak Saturday evening on “Alien and Introduced Species”.
The weekend includes trips to a diversity of habitats. They include beach, open dunes and blowouts. We will see wetlands of marsh, swamp, bog, fen and “panne” (a unique type of pond lying between grassy or barren dunes). We will visit prairies, savannas and wet and dry woods. Our speaker Sunday evening, Noel Pavlovic (USGS), will speak on “The Flora and Ecology of the Indiana Dunes”.
You may also find the visitor centers at both the National and State Parks of interest. At the National Lakeshore is the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, which has a bookstore, 11-minute video and exhibits. Also, at the National Lakeshore is the Bailly/Chellberg Visitor Contact Station adjacent to the historic areas. It also has a bookstore and exhibits/information on the historic areas. The Indiana Dunes State Park has a Nature Center with a library, exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the Indiana Dunes, a children’s activity corner and bird observation room.
Sunday morning at the Holiday Inn, Dr. Dennis Woodland of Andrews University will be presenting a workshop on curating a small herbarium. This is a true “hands-on” workshop, supplies will be provided. On Sunday afternoon, Emma Pitcher, naturalist and former Indiana Dunes resident and researcher, will present a program called, “Sandy Botanists”. Emma will trace the exciting work of Dunes botanists over the past century, including Cowles, Deam, Swink, Wilhelm and Pavlovic.
For the shopper The Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet Mall may be of interest. A collection of 120 outlet stores can be found there. Finally, another attraction to Michigan City is the Boyd gaming facility called The Blue Chip.