The Raleigh Naturalist

March 19, 2009

Look down, look closely, at Spring’s lovely weeds

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 2:17 am


   Weeds are just plants someone thinks are out of place.  As the season arrives, we can all get some pleasure from these signs of a diverse ecosystem  in your yard.  Take the time to look down and closely!

snowflakes, an early bulbous wildflower

snowdrops, an early bulbous wildflower





February 22, 2009

News, Notes, and Promises

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

Walnut Creek greenway at Wetland Center

 Walnut Creek Wetland Park is approximately 59 acres in size and is located between Garner Road and South State Street and south of Peterson Street in Southeast Raleigh. This site contains extensive wetlands that are located near the downtown urban center and offer an opportunity for the public to easily explore and learn about the value and significance of wetlands for water quality and wildlife habitat.     Raleigh City website

      Construction has begun on  the  Walnut Creek Wetland Center, as reported in NandO on February 11.   The center is the culmination of efforts led by Norman Camp to rehabilitate and protect the wetlands of Raleigh’s Southeast.   This topo map shows the area. The new building, shown below, was designed by Frank Harmon, and will stand six feet above the ground and have a minimal ecological footprint.  An earlier post describes some amenities of this section of greenway.

                         walnut-center-side_1_1                         walnut-wetlands-center-front_1_1



    The groundhog definitely saw his shadow, but early signs of spring abound in Raleigh.  Above is henbit between Hodge Road and Crabtree.  Below are red maples blossoms in Oakwood.  There is some cold air coming, so there will be some casualties – though our well-mulched garden parsley and “spinach under glass” on the deck are doing great!



     One of the exciting things about Raleigh Nature is the wonderful reader input, and I need to follow up and post about more of it.  There’s always a tension between getting around to it and doing it justice.  Here are a few smoldering issues on my draft posts:

First and most behind: responding to the multiple inputs about Lassiter Mill and Raleigh mill history.  From David’s great pics of the upper water, to the amazing Lassiter mill drive wheel images sent by Jimmy, and the history and memories in the comments, we need to return to this subject soon!  I recently got a fascinating inquiry from Carol about the infilled Lake Boone, and the natural springs that fed it, and I want badly to follow that up.  I very much appreciated the mistletoe tips from Meredith, and dream of my “pecans and mistletoe” map of Raleigh!  Scott, a well-known author, my old friend Joe, and Tommy, a songwriter from my past, all greatly helped my still-unfinished exploration of the Pigeon House Branch system and the expensive new Fletcher Water Park that feeds into it.  We’ve been blessed with an explanation of Raleigh Swamp’s waters by Mark, who engineered it, and we’ve been sobered by the plea for resolution from Deborah concerning Ward Transformer’s lifetime of ecological crimes against our area.    I look forward to sharing Patti’s wonderful hawk story, and keeping Michiel in the Netherlands all caught up on Raleigh’s natural scene.  Mentioning these highlights, many thanks to all who have written or commented.  It really helps the work!


Oakwood maple

Oakwood maple

     Chris Crew and Matthew Brown just wrote a wonderful article about Oakwood wildlife for our neighborhood newsletter.They are neighbors at the bottom of the slope at whose crest I reside. Between my house and theirs almost every inch is controlled by humans, and the water flowing downhill is piped or culverted.  Below their house, toward Brookside and Glascock, the land opens up just a bit and has some natural edges. As a matter of fact, Chris is uncovering  the section of Grassy Branch in his backyard, and that’s another topic on my to-do list.  Just across the road, though, is Oakwood Cemetery, a significant oasis for many living things.  According to their article, our neighborhood boasts a huge variety of species. Among many bird species they describe, the cedar waxwing invasion for berries and the long-standing nest of red-tail hawks stood out.  Foxes, possums, and a substantial population of raccoons are described.  There are excellent nature lore tips regarding the colors of 5-lined skinks and owl sounds.  I wish the newsletter were online, but if you have a friend that’s a resident, check it out.  Way to go, Matthew and Chris!

PS:  Hope ya’ll like the revised sidebar.

PPS: Matthew very kindly posted the article referred to above HERE.

September 14, 2008

Visual Thoughts

Filed under: About & reflection, Exotica, Nature Lore — Tags: , , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:59 pm

Heavy Skies

Heavy Skies by D L Ennis at Visual Thoughts

 Looks like a painting, right?  But it is a photograph – not mine, of course, but an example of the amazing stuff over at Visual Thoughts, a fellow blog which doesn’t easily mesh with the other resources on my side bar but still belongs and is cherished on my blogroll.  D L Ennis posts about life and art and very much whatever, but if you’re in the mood or have a need to drink in a direct connection with nature, go to this unique blog: nature is there, coming through loud and clear.  Through some very artistic human eyes.

Looking Up

     Here is another image from Visual Thoughts.  The flower had ole D L stumped. Later, when I showed it to Cara she knew exactly what it was and went to look it up.  Meantime, I saw a comment by Jan had identified it as lycoris radiata, or red spider lily.  Cara knew it as outdoor amaryllis, for the single stem’s dramatic (and leafless) emergence.  We didn’t get to have the fun of informing D L , but I found Jan’s blog, which is lovely.  Just one of the wonderful things you may find at D L Ennis’s Visual Thoughts. Check it out!

June 29, 2008

Nature news around the town

Filed under: About & reflection, Greenways & Parks, Nature Lore, North Raleigh — Tags: — raleighnaturalist @ 10:57 pm

This post was originally published on May 18, 2008

The Wakefield Ecology Club

I made my first public appearance as The Raleigh Naturalist by presenting to the Ecology Club at Wakefield Middle School! I took my naturing vest, bursting with loupes, dissection kits, pocket guides and other paraphernalia. I took my naturing briefcase, more of a suitcase with topography maps, geology binder, park guides and my hand-built tree scrapbook. I also had my camera bag and hat. I gave a show and tell with all of that and talked to them about founding an Ecology Club at Enloe and also about my daughter Lily’s Envirothon work there (much more recently!).

This is my walking cabinet of nature resources. I am mostly done color coding the watersheds on the large map. The vest weighs 13 pounds.

The Wakefield Ecology Club was a great group of kids, led by Ms. Cindy Bowling, who invited me. They meet each week and perform recycling chores at Wakefield, plus try to learn more about their environment from guests. They knew lots of great stuff about conservation, invasive species, and native wildlife. We played a quiz game and I rewarded them with conservation goody packets put together by Lily last summer as a service project. All of the students showed excellent interest in the issues. The Wakefield MS campus is lovely. Below are some nature images from their campus.

These blackberries will taste good soon! Below is a rockfall with some really nifty “man-made conglomerate” – some nice high-iron stone encased in concrete.


More Nature News

The News and Observer just teemed with good nature news this week. Durant Park has become a part of the Piedmont Birder’s Trail. Repairs have finally been completed on the section of Greenway between Capital Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue. This stretch of greenway was also featured in a “best greenways” survey by Joe Miller. Links below.

Piedmont Bird Trail

Middle Crabtree Greenway opens!

Favorite Greenways

Triangle Greenways Guide


Flower Power!

Filed under: Central Raleigh, Gems & Surprises, Nature Lore — Tags: , , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 10:23 pm

This post was orginally published April 22, 2008.


A sitarist at downtown’s Earth Day festivities and Sunday night’s rainbow.

Flower Power!!  Here are some local beauties to follow up on the Asheville post.

 Purple dead-nettle at Lassiter Mill.  Leaves can be just as pretty as petals.

(I originally called this henbit).

front yard volunteers. bluebells of a sort? 

Lady Banks blossom on ferns

Buttercups beside Hodges Road


Atamasca Lily stand on Buckeye Trail.

Happy Spring, Katie & Russ!

Greening Raleigh – a continuum to the past

Filed under: About & reflection — Tags: , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 8:07 pm

This post was originally published Jan. 30, 2008.

Blue-eyed Grass

Noam Chomsky gave a nice talk Sunday that made me proud and (like always) made me think. He stated that many important social movements in America had germs in the sixties, but became important and effective in the seventies – women’s rights, the environment…not a new observation, but it reminded me that this blog has its real beginnings at Enloe High School in 1970, when I founded an Ecology Club there. We sent our student body president to a Governors Task Force of the time, and she and I got interviewed on WPTF radio. Chomsky says generating the conversation in the public mind is the essential tool available to the left, so I felt I could claim an early start in the continuing process of raising awareness and pushing for policies that protect, preserve, and provide public access to natural areas and wildlife. My own awareness goes all the way back to 4th grade, when my teacher Thelma Jones taught us nature and farm lore, and graciously spent personal time on our private Science Club. She burned into my soul that it would be sacrilege to pick or destroy blue-eyed grass (pictured above) – my first knowledge of an endangered species or that such a thing could be.


My “about” statements make it clear I am not an activist. But I hope this blog and its links are a positive force in the greening of Raleigh. Now there are really wonderful people doing much more direct work. Sue Sturgis is doing great work at the Southern Institute, Boylan Heights is still battling for Dix Hill, and most appropriate of all for this post – a local high school student is organizing and lobbying for Richland Creek! All of these and more are on my sidebar. More can be found at my Environmental Ed. links. (Teaching EE to high schoolers is my highest form of activism). Beauty is truth, said Keats, and even if the beauty is chaotic (see our Lady Banks below), there is always light to reach for. Let’s keep on reaching!

the Lady Banks rose that climbs our pecan trees

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