I'm certainly no bigger botanist type than the next guy, but providing botanical information and signage along trails is just a downright good idea.
The first time I ever saw it was along the Longleaf Trace, the wonderful, Hall of Fame rail-trail out of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Provided by a local parks agency with the support of volunteer flora buffs, the clear and simple species identification signs give the trail user a great awareness of the landscape they are passing through and, by extension, a stronger appreciation of the trail and its surrounds.
Before that day, I wouldn't have known a Sweetbay Magnolia, Parsley Hawthorn, Tulip Poplar or Supplejack if I fell over one. Now I would. More than that, the signage made me realize what a diverse botanical landscape this was, and pressed upon me the idea that America's diminishing wilds need to be preserved.
So it was great to read this week about Identification of Flora on Rail Trail (IFORT), a group of volunteers who document and take pictures of wildflowers on the Pere-Marquette Rail-Trail, another Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Hall of Famer, in central Michigan.
"Last winter, we talked about the idea of photographing and documenting wild flowers on the rail trail. Now, a lot of interest in wild flowers maintains an understanding of what's out there because wild flowers are very important for supporting native animal life," volunteer leader Judy Page told the Midland Daily News. "Ultimately, we hope to develop a website for people who want to know what's on the Rail-Trail."
Last summer 17 IFORT volunteers took pictures of wildflowers on the rail-trail from Midland Park to Sanford. Flowers spotted include the northern bedstraw and toadflax.
"I hope we can attract quite a few (volunteers)," Page says. "The more volunteers we have, the more of the trail we can cover."
Learn more about IFORT at the group's facebook page.