Please read this...Adventures in learning about something new
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of fen communities. I had never heard of the Hine's emerald dragonfly.
Now, I know at least a little bit, with the emphasis on "little," about fen communities and the Hine's emerald dragonfly.
On Tuesday evening, February 21, your intrepid journalist decided to attend a program which was presented at Stinson Memorial Library in Anna that was called "Fen Communities of Missouri and the Hine's Emerald Dragonfly." I like the outdoors. I like the critters that crawl around and walk around and fly around outdoors. I figured it would be fun to try to learn something new about the world around us.
Last week's program was sponsored by the Illinois Native Plant Society's Southern Chapter, and featured a presentation by guest speaker Bruce Henry.
Henry, who lives is Anna, is a regional natural history biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. The native plant society explained in a news release about last week's presentation in Anna that Henry also serves as the Missouri recovery lead person for the federally endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly.
The pre-event news release shared that the Hine's emerald dragonfly "has very restrictive habitat requirements, and in Missouri they are limited to quality calcareous Ozark fen communities. Bruce spends the summer surveying Ozark fen communities across the Missouri Ozarks looking for unknown populations of (the) Hine's emerald dragonfly, as well as inventorying the unique and sometimes rare flora found in these neat wetland communities."
As noted in the opening paragraph, I pretty much knew less than nothing about fen communities and the Hine's emerald dragonfly. In the opening comments during his presentation, the guest speaker said: "Hopefully, you learn something today."
Well, I can tell you with complete confidence, that after attending last week's program at Stinson Memorial Library, I now know a teeny, tiny bit more about fen communities and the particular dragonfly which calls such places home.
At this point, I am going to attempt to share with you some of the things which I think I learned at the program, which might sound like a bit of a science lesson. If you happen to be knowledgeable about fen communities and the Hine's emerald dragonfly, please forgive me if there are errors.
A fen is a wetland natural community fed by calcareous groundwater. Calcareous is a fancy word for limestone. Limestone, by the way, often has fossils. I'm just saying. The fossils connection will resurface in a bit.
There are two major classifications of fens: glaciated fens and Ozark fens. The types of fens include marl (kind of a limestone gravel), prairie, deep muck, forested and mixed gradations.
The Hine's emerald dragonfly has been federally endangered since 1995 and is only found in a few locations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Missouri. If I understood what I thought I understood, you won't find any of the dragonflies in Union County, but you could find some in Reynolds County in Southeast Missouri. You also won't find any fens in Union County. There aren't any. Want to see a fen? Head to Southeast Missouri, or, maybe, to Northern Illinois.
I also learned that the dragonfly spends the early part of its life, as a larvae, in holes dug by another critter, called the devil's crayfish.
The highlight of the presentation, at least for this fossil hunter, may have come during discussion which followed the presentation. One of the folks in the audience mentioned another kind of dragonfly which was around at the time of the dinosaurs and was described as a "living fossil." The speaker recalled a time when one of those living fossils had landed on his shoulder. "They did that to dinosaurs," the gentleman observed.
At the risk of sounding way too philosophical, let me just say that I came away from the program pondering the interconnectedness of the world around us. Who would have thought of a baby dragonfly growing up in a nursery operated by a crayfish?
One last thing...as the program was wrapping up, another one of the folks in the audience, who apparently was visiting Stinson Memorial Library for the first time, commented that "this is a neat venue." I can only agree, especially when the library is the place to learn something new.