Duneland group leads Hobart nature hike
HOBART — Robin Gomez said their participation Saturday in a hike at the Stewart Mattix Prairie was a fun day for her four children.
It turned out to be educational, as well, as they tasted the minty flavor of some leaves, learned why spiderwort is also called snotweed, spotted a swallowtail caterpillar on a flower and grew excited when they spotted a deer at the western edge of the prairie.
“Every day’s an educational day,” Robin Gomez, of Hobart, said as she carried 11-month-old Olive on her back and watched as Hazel, 3, and brothers Greyson, 8, and Jack, 5, received a first-hand lesson on the plant and wildlife in the prairie.
They were among a group of participants in the Sierra Club-Duneland Group in Hobart’s day hike of the Hobart Marsh.
In addition to the Steward Mattix Prairie, located behind George Earle Early Learning Center on North Wilson Street, hikers also toured Greiner Nature Preserve by Ridge View Elementary School on West Old Ridge Road, McCloskey Burr Oak Savanna on West 49th Avenue and Hobart Prairie Grove on the Oak Savanna Trail.
They had lunch at John Robinson Park on Liverpool Road.
Jen Woronecki-Ellis, secretary of the Dunelands Sierra Club, said the club holds a different hike every month but this was the first time the group was sponsoring a hike of the Hobart Marsh.
“This is what a native prairie would look like,” David WoroneckiEllis said.
Hobart naturalist Sandy O’Brien led the group on the first of the four walks, pointing out different species of plants and wildlife and providing some history along the way.
She showed the thick, sticky sap that comes out of spiderwort, giving it its nickname, snotweed.
“This is how the plant adapts to life in a dry, hot prairie. It makes the plant tougher,” O’Brien said.
She said the colors are constantly changing in the prairie with the change in blooming flowers. On Saturday’s hike, white, yellow, blue and deep magenta popped through the green grasses. In another week, O’Brien said, the colors would change to yellow and lavender as yellow coneflowers and bergamont bloom.
O’Brien said the Stewart Mattix Prairie, owned by the School City of Hobart and named after a former school principal and football coach, is about 22 acres that was probably farmed at one time. She said it’s been under annual burn management since about 1996.
“If it wasn’t burned, there wouldn’t be anything here but brush,” she said.
Greyson Gomez, 8 , (far right) shows a caterpillar he found to mom Robin Gomez, sisters Olive, 11 months, and Hazel, 3, and brother Jack, 5, at a hike Saturday of the Stewart Mattix Prairie sponsored by the Duneland Sierra Club.