Duneland group leads Ho­bart na­ture hike

Post-Tribune - - Local - BY KAREN CAFFARINI Post-Tri­bune cor­re­spon­dent

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.

| KAREN CAFFARINI/FOR SUN-TIMES ME­DIA

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.

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