A Nature Walk With: Flora And Fauna Of Appalachia

More than a decade ago my mother and I took a driving trip through New England. The fall colors in the mountains were the most glorious scenery I have ever seen. Michael Whittemore grew up able to see those beautiful sights every day.

Now Michael lives in Ohio and has the Appalachian Mountains to explore. His blog shares some of his adventures with us and has pictures with vibrant colors to tantalize us. It seems that we are now ready for a nature walk with Flora and Fauna of Appalachia.

01. Welcome to Nature Center Magazine. We are all anxious to learn a little bit about you. Tell us what your blog is all about.

My blog is a journal of my experiences with nature as well as an ever-growing field guide of flora and fauna from across the country. As a student, I’ve been fortunate to take advantage of not only distant paid internships, but also volunteer experiences, backpacking trips, and the like.


02. Everyone has their own unique story about what gave them the idea to start blogging. What is yours?

My advisor and dendrology instructor had recently created a blog. With my strong passion for nature and photography, I thought it’d be fun to follow suit and share my experiences with others. My blog has acted as my journal specific to my experiences with nature. It has given me an opportunity to write more as well as keep track of all my favorite experiences through pictures and commentary.


03. What do you enjoy about nature and what benefits do you derive from it?

Nature has been ingrained in me from a very young age through weekend camping trips with my father and old stories of how my grandfather, part Cherokee Indian in descent, was an avid woodsman. Despite growing up in a suburban setting near Boston, nature has always made sense to me. Prior to graduating high school, my family and I had moved over 10-times. So, nature always provided stability through fishing and hiking experiences. Nature has helped me become the person I am today. As a spiritual and independent person, a walk through the woods not only provides relaxation, but guidance as well.


04. Each of us has our own way of being with nature. Some people hike, some take pictures, and some climb trees. How do you experience nature?

I am probably the most active outdoor enthusiast I know. If I’m not photographing plants, backpacking in search of new areas, or mountain biking, you can find me running on the scenic bike path near campus. I live and breathe nature indoors and outdoors. Photography has been a hobby of mine for years. I take my SLR camera everywhere I go. I began as a normal point-and-shoot photographer; though, I’ve since become increasingly more interested in pictures of plants as you can probably tell through my blog.


05. Tell us about the most exciting or scary nature related thing that ever happened to you.

In 2010, I worked for the Forest Service throughout a large, well-kept tract of woods. It had been logged before but I had seen many plants, animals, and communities that I had never seen before because of how isolated the forest was from humans. One weekend day, I decided to hike along a ridge-top in search of new plants and vista views. Finally reaching the top, I heard a loud, steady rustling in a nearby bush. I had known that the area was known to have the largest remaining population of timber rattlesnakes in Ohio but I wasn’t expecting to find one, let alone such a large snake. Me being curious, I approached the snake within ten feet before it snapped towards me. It’s rattle was beating almost as quickly as my heart! Though, I retreated no sooner than it took me to snap a few quick photos of the large snake.


06. If you were to take us on a nature tour of your area where would you take us first?

Ohio is one of the most diverse states as far as ecosystem variety. Fens, bogs, prairies, high-quality streams, and lush woodlands are scattered throughout, let alone the diverse lake systems such as alvars and islands. Species richness of the temperate forests here are comparable to the smoky mountains. For example, you may find tropical and subtropical plants in the same woods as conifers. Generally, I am most interested in forests; though, I’d probably take you to Gallagher fen. Fens are just so unique and full of disjunct, northern species you wouldn’t ever imagine being found in a southern state like Ohio. Gallagher fen is a secluded nature preserve home to many rare plants. I’ll never forget the feeling of nostalgia when I visited this particular area.

Describe what we would see.

A trip to any fen in Ohio would yield an abundance of some of the most rare plants in Ohio. While I visited Gallagher fen, a fellow friend and botanist, Andrew Gibson, and I spotted a new country orchid record on our way out - October lady’s tresses (Spiranthes ovalis). Other rarities include over 30 state-listed plants.


07. If you could visit any nature spot in the world, what would it be? Tell us why.

As of right now, I’ve heard incredible stories of the Bruce Peninsula in Canada. They say various species of lady’s slippers (Cypripedium spp.) grow by the thousands along roadsides. “The Bruce” is well known to botanists nationwide for its rich diversity of rare plants, especially orchids.


08. Each blogger has gained their own insight into writing a blog. What have you learned that you would like to share with other bloggers?

First of all, I tell all my classmates and fellow nature enthusiasts that blogging is a sort of “Linkedin” online resume for nature lovers. I have met so many people around the state of Ohio and abroad who not only share the same interests as me, but are part of my network now. Blogging gives people an opportunity to show what they know as well as how well they can write - two important qualities in the workforce. I’ve also learned a great deal through other blogs.


09. Where can our readers find you? Give us the name and a link to your blog. If you have more than one to share, we would all like that too.

“Flora and Fauna of Appalachia”
http://ecologyofappalachia.blogspot.com/


10. Is there anything we have not discussed that you would like to add?

Thank you!

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Michael, the honor is ours. Thank you for taking a nature walk with us and sharing your thoughts. Everyone please take a look a Flora ans Fauna of Appalachia for yourselves.  You will enjoy the blog and learn a little something and it will not hurt a bit.


Do you write a nature related blog and you'd like to be interviewed by Nature Center Magazine? Click the link and let us know who you are and that you'd like to be featured in a Nature Walk: Interview Me.

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