The day dawned absolutely gorgeous; it was a great day to go to Mt. Kessler. The area has been used for years by hikers and bicyclists and winds its way through Rock City, an area with large sandstone palisades sporting fossils to stop and admire, as well as newly emerged wildflowers. A number of broad winged hawks whose flight patterns and high pitched calls suggested they might be establishing territory for nesting were seen; one even perched on a bare branch where Joe Neal observed a small snake in its talons. A pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers had just about completed their nest, rimmed in lichens. The trail winds through a forest that supports sugar maples, as well as chestnut oaks that Dr. David Stahle of the University of Arkansas has identified as being >200 years old. The trail was made prettier by the blooming redbuds and black cherries. Present for the hike were Joe Neal, Joan Reynolds, Terry Stanfill, Deb Bartholomew, and Frank and Mary Reuter. The trail was busy with hikers and bike riders as well, though. Joan and I lagged behind the group, looking for all the newly emerged plants as a complete inventory will be conducted by Theo Witsell, starting later in the month. Joan was determined to document all those species that might not be around for Theo to observe in a few weeks, so we went slow! So slow, in fact, that we met our group coming back down the trail without having reached the anticipated shale slide that was our goal. But, the slow pace paid off. Joan spotted two large brain Gyromitra mushrooms, and a few trout lilies that looked suspiciously like prairie trout lily (Erythronium mesochoreum) that Theo has been finding at other locales this spring. Both Erythronium albidum (white trout lily) as well as Erythronium rostratum (yellow trout lily), once misidentified in Arkansas as E. americanum, have previously been documented on Mt. Kessler.
Article by ANPS member Burnetta Hinterthuer