by Rick Forrester
With the arrival of spring, everything comes to life along our trail! The Little Miami Park encompasses 50.5 miles of trail and approximately 404 acres of land in Ohio. As such, we have the opportunity to see many of the official State flora and fauna.
State Animal: The White-tailed deer (photo above), seen constantly on the trail especially at dusk. I almost ran into one jogging one evening. I’m not sure who left the most pellets on the trail—him or me!
State Bird: The Cardinal was adopted as the state bird in 1933. They are year-round residents in the park with a clear, strong song and brilliant red plumage.
State Flower: Red Carnation. You won’t see these on the trail! This flower was adopted in memory of President William McKinley who always wore one on his lapel.
State Wildflower: Ah, that’s more like it! It’s Trillium Grandiflorum (above), and is found all through the park. This perennial with three leaves and a central flower stalk of 3 white petals is also known as White Trillium or Wood Lily. You’ll see it blooming April to June in part or full shade.
State Fossil: Isotelus (left), also known as the Trilobite. The Caesar Creek spillway nearby is a great place to look for these 440-million-year-old creatures that lived in the marine environment that once covered Ohio.
State Gemstone: Flint, which is not really a rock but a variety of quartz, a mineral. It’s found embedded in the sedimentary bedrock underlying our park. Flint was used by Native Americans in and around the park for knives, spear points, and arrowheads, and later used by settlers for flintlock guns and for millstones. For a great experience, head up to the Native American Fort Ancient Museum a mile off the trail on Route 350 at mile 23.5 to see a host of native American artifacts.
State Insect: No, it isn’t the Emerald Ash Borer! It is the Ladybug, chosen for its markings and its habit of eating insect pests. There are both native and introduced ladybugs. The Asian Ladybug was introduced into the US to help control pests, but soon became one itself. Similar to the native ladybugs, the Asian ladybug has a black arch over a flattened circle that sits against the wings. The arch runs up to the eyes creating an “M” or “W” pattern.
State Beverage: If you are thinking it has something to do with all the micro-breweries along the Park, you are in for a surprise. It is…. Tomato Juice! So, when refreshing yourself in the local restaurants, instead of raising an IPA or Stout, raise a Tomato Juice!
State Reptile: If you’ve ever run on the trail and seen a Black Racer snake sunning herself on the asphalt, you have just seen the state reptile. They are non-poisonous and are extremely helpful around the house and farm as they eat significant numbers of rats, mice, and other pests. Do you ever see a snake and jump out of your skin for a second, and then calm down and enjoy the beauty of these creatures? Fear of snakes is called Ophidiophobia, by the way.
State Tree: You know this one! The Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra). It’s a member of the horsechestnut family and found throughout the park primarily in shady, moist, well-drained slightly alkaline soils. On a curious note, buckeye wood is used in making artificial limbs. The seeds are not safe to eat, but if you make the classic chocolate/peanut butter buckeyes, you will have a wonderful treat.
Enjoy your Park and the State!