As winter gives way to spring, the wildflowers begin to wake up for the season, creating a blanket of color on the forest floor. When the trees begin to leaf out, these spring ephemerals then begin to die back. Once summer takes hold, the tree canopy is full, allowing just dappled sunlight to reach the forest floor until fall.
“In the summer and fall, colors take you by surprise in the woodland,” Caldwell said, adding that you’ll catch glimpses of yellow and red among the green during summer at Raccoon Grove.
When the leaves begin to fall in late autumn, they are helping create ideal conditions for the cycle to begin anew the next year.
“In the winter, the leaves fall and create a protective blanket for all the plant life,” she said.
While spring is the season most often associated with Raccoon Grove because of its abundance of wildflowers, Caldwell said her most treasured moment there occurred in summer. While walking in the preserve’s woodlands scouting plants one day, Caldwell stopped dead in her tracks because she was so awed by the beauty of the moment.
“It looked otherworldly,” she said. “The sun was overhead, and it was shining through on the forest floor.”
The soft glow of the sunlight highlighted the lushness of the woodlands. “I just had a moment,” she said. “It was just beautiful.”
Caldwell said that moment made her think of all the habitat that has been lost to development and agriculture in our area through the years.
“I was standing on hallowed ground,” Caldwell said, adding that the experience was a great example of how habitat restoration can return our local lands to what they looked like at presettlement times.