Spring is here! Well…almost. Serious planning for the annual Wildflower Foray begins in midwinter, and planners are brainstorming year-round. The results are always worthwhile, but this year's schedule is especially ambitious. Twenty-nine different hikes and programs in Brown and Monroe Counties are scheduled on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 27, 28, and 29. The 2012 Wildflower Foray includes something for every nature lover, with hikes and programs led by area naturalists, educators, and nature enthusiasts.
The Foray has grown from a one-day count to a three-day event designed to mix pleasure and education with the serious business of monitoring and documenting area wildflowers and habitat. It's a celebration of nature and the arrival of spring, with a serious underlying purpose: to monitor wildflowers and wildflower habitat to get a broad view of change over time. Programs this year include wildflower and birding hikes, an evening owl program by the Indiana Raptor Center, a boat trip on Lake Monroe, and wetlands walks. Other activities include a "For Kids Only" nature photography workshop, an Art Trek sketching hike, and "wildflower yoga." And that's just for starters!
I've been involved with Wildflower Foray for almost twenty years, and one of the things I find most exciting is the new, young faces that show up each year to join veteran "Forayers" eager to share their love of nature. Twenty years ago, I didn't know much about wildflowers but found a community of people eager to pass on what they knew. Lately, experts are raising concerns about children, teens, and young adults more interested in video games and the latest smartphone apps than in spending time outdoors. If one antidote for "nature deficit disorder" is experiencing nature first-hand in a fun and engaging way, the Wildflower Foray may be part of the cure.
Sadly, one veteran "Forayer" who inspired new generations won't be with us this year. Bill Zimmerman (1937-2011) was a gifted artist best-known for his meticulously detailed bird illustrations. The variety of plant and animal life incorporated in Bill's paintings revealed his depth of love and knowledge. The real discovery on Bill's Wildflower Foray hikes wasn't learning to identify a new bird, it was experiencing Bill's other and more important gift, his ability to share his passion with novices and experts alike. The Yellowwood tree blossom and Black-throated Green Warbler featured in the 2012 Wildflower Foray logo echo a 1984 Zimmerman print representing Brown County State Park. Several hikes and a Saturday evening program will honor Bill in ways he would most appreciate: by sharing and experiencing the beauty of southern Indiana forests he loved.
This collaborative event is organized jointly by staff members and volunteers from Brown County State Park, Monroe Reservoir, T.C. Steele State Historic Site, Yellowwood State Forest, Hoosier National Forest, and Monroe County Parks and Recreation. Other contributors include BirdCountry.US, Bloomington Parks and Recreation, DNR Nature Preserves, Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserves, Sycamore Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Sassafras Audubon Society, Brown County Garden Club, and South Central Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (SCINPAWS). The event is supported by area civic organizations.
For information and hike schedules call T.C. Steele State Historic Site at (812) 988-2785, or check the Wildflower Foray web site at <www.tcsteele.org/links.asp> (click on the Foray logo). Pre-registration is required for some hikes and programs.
—Submitted by Andrea deTarnowsky