Saturday, June 29, 2013

Milkweed Munchers

The Common Milkweed can be seen throughout most of Kentucky and is found on many Kentucky State Parks. Lake Cumberland does have milkweed plants in various areas of the park. The milkweed is a native plant.  Many people see the milkweed as a nuisance plant, but to the insect world it is their life line. 

As you can see the milkweed has numerous pods of buds on the plant.  As they mature and blossom they become an essential food source for many insects that are a very important part of pollination of other plants too. Keeping a healthy balance in nature is the key to ensuring the existence of food sources for everyone.

The Common Milkweed is a very beneficial to the insect world of nature.  The milkweed provides food and nourishment to numerous types of insects especially Monarch butterfly larvae, Swallowtail butterflies, Bumblebees, Honeybees, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Black Carpenter Ants, and the beautiful Snowberry Clearwing Hawk Moth.  These are just a few insects that depend on the milkweed plant for food.

Here you can see the Snowberry Clearwing Hawk Moth sipping nectar from the beautiful purple blossoms.  Once the pods are in full bloom they provide a substantial food source for the moth.

Here we see the bumblebee and hawk moth dining together.  It is not unusual to see four to five bumblebees on one blossom.  The huge purple balls of nectar attract almost any hungry insect present.

So when you sneeze and snarl...remember the importance of the milkweed plant in nature.

For more information on the common milkweed plant visit the following websites:

Written by:  Kathy Myers- Volunteer
Photos by:   Kathy Myers- Volunteer

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Black Rat Snake, Friend or Foe?


Usually when most people see a snake of any kind the first response is a shrill scream to KILL IT, KILL IT!  One thing we humans need to learn though is that all snakes are not the same.  While we should in most cases try to avoid killing any snake, understanding snakes could accomplish that in many cases.

Always remember to never attempt to touch or pick up a snake unless you have been trained in proper snake identification and handling.  Knowing the difference in venomous and non-venomous snakes is essential  in the wild and could save your life.

At Lake Cumberland State Resort Park, Robert Myers, the park naturalist captures a black rat snake each year to use in his snake programs. In the programs he covers snake facts/myths and behaviors.  The programs give guest a chance to see and touch a snake but in a controlled setting and with someone who knows and understands the snake and uses proper safety precautions.

The black rat snake is a very timid type snake.  They usually can be picked up correctly with no problems from the snake, with the exception of getting squirted with a little musk that has a very foul odor and taste.  The musk release is their way of protecting themselves from predators that might want to eat them. 

The black rat snake loves to dine on rodents, usually mice, but they will consume chipmunks, moles, lizards, frogs,  and other small mammals.  The black rat snake is a constrictor which means they bite their prey and then squeeze it until it suffocates before they eat it.

The black rat snake climbs very well in the trees. They are also  good swimmers,  which also allows the to get to various hunting locations easily.  Black rat snakes are often found around barns, houses, grain silos, and old buildings because of the food source present.  They have been known to be a farmer's best friend for killing mice and rats which damage, destroy, and carry diseases. 

Actually, you might find this snake in most locations where a food source is available.  The point to remember is that the black rat snake is non-venomous, non- aggressive, is helpful around farms and homes, and is only searching for food, so before grabbing the hoe or stick to KILL IT...step back and give it a chance to move on away.

To learn more about the black rat snake you can visit these online websites:

Written by : Kathy Myers- Volunteer

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nature's Spring Delicacy

In early to mid April depending on the spring temperatures, rainfall, and sunshine many Kentucky natives hit the woods in search of a spring delicacy that has been enjoyed for generations, the morel mushroom.  The morel mushroom is a sought after delight by many not just by those from Kentucky, it is featured on many cooking shows which boast its delicious flavor.


 There are several names morel mushrooms are known by such as:  dry land fish, johnny jump ups, and many more.  The morel is found in wooded areas in the eastern United States around tulip poplar trees, white ash,white pine, elm, sycamore, and apple trees.  After a good spring rain when temperatures range in the mid 60s to 70s, and the sun pops out...the morels
" POP UP"!

Morels can be difficult to see due to the camouflaging affect with the winters leaf coverage on the forest floor yet they do have very distinctive features.  Seasoned eagle eyed morel hunters seem to have an astute radar for locating the hard to see rascals. It takes a dedicated hunter to find these tasty delights.

Like all mushroom hunting and eating you must be very careful because there are impostures that can be deadly.  The morel, while unlike most mushrooms,  even with its distinctive characteristics you still must use caution  because there are "fake morels".


 All true morels must have hollow stems from the bottom to top of the inside of the mushroom.  When you slice a morel in half it should be hollow just like the picture.

The fake morels have lumpy almost brain like shapes which is not typical of a morel. They also do not have a hollow stem, they have a cottony fibrous stem.   If you look at the stem of the fake morel you can see it has almost a white pithy inside which is a big indicator that you have a fake morel and can be very dangerous if eaten.
Your state parks welcome you to visit and try to find a morel mushroom in the wild.  Observation is welcomed,  but please remember that what is on the park...stays on the park.  We want our guests to have a positive experience learning more about the natural wonders that fill our parks, so look but do not touch!  Happy hunting!  

Written by:  Kathy Myers

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tree Vandalism

How many times have you walked down one of the many state park trails and find this type vandalism on massive beech or hickory trees?  We see it much too often, huge gashes and carvings in the tree bark.

 The overall health of the forest depends on the care of the trees by humans and nature.  When people take sharp instruments and gouge into the sensitive bark of a tree it is about the same as carving on a person's skin.  Trees have no one to patch them up and treat the wounds so to speak, because that is essentially what they are...wounds. Once the tree has been carved, these wounds do not heal.  The scars remain until the tree dies.  These wounds leave the tree susceptible to numerous pathogens from insects to fungal infections, and various tree diseases.

The inner bark or "phloem" of the beech tree is very thin.  When the phloem is damaged from carving near the trunk of the tree it can alter the natural course of water uptake and nutrient supply from the tree to the root system, such as would accumulate and disperse through photosynthesis. Tree carving is a huge detriment to the overall health of trees.

Beech trees play a vital role in the ecosystems of our parks as well as  non park related forests.  They provide food and shelter for wildlife, plus the root systems help prevent soil erosion and  help keep natural land formations in tact.

The next time you are walking a nature trail at one of Kentucky's state parks take time to enjoy all the beautiful trees, but please if you must leave your mark, sign our guest book and keep our trees beautiful and alive.

Written by : Kathy Myers LCSRP Volunteer
Photos by:  Brooke Barenfanger LCSRP Volunteer

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Signs of Spring Blossoming at Lake Cumberland S.R.P


I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,      
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they        
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
 In such a jocund company:
 I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
 What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;                                    
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.                                    

Friday, February 15, 2013

Disc Golf Anyone?

 Winter, spring, summer, or fall is always a great time for a round or two of disc golf.  Lake Cumberland S.R. P. has a challenging 18 hole disc golf course that is great for the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran.

You can bring your own discs,  or you can check them out free at the front desk at Lure Lodge.   We also have specialized disc and bags you can purchase at our gift shop or country store. 

With temperatures in the forties and fifties it is the perfect time to make reservations for one of our Wildwood cottages or lodge rooms and settle in for a few days of disc golf.  Fresh air and sunshine does a body good!

For more information about our disc golf course and lodging call 1.270.343.3111.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Foraging on a Wintery Day

As the snow fell today at Lake Cumberland, wild turkey's were making their way from one hillside to the another foraging for some of falls leftovers.  With the temperature hovering around thirty degrees and snow falling it is a perfect time to see lots of wildlife on the parks, especially turkey and deer.
 The weather outside may be cold, but what better opportunity to visit our park, see wildlife up close, get some great pictures.  For those who love to hike on these wintery days, the trails are open and waiting.  We have Baugh Branch Trail and Lake Bluff Trail which are both perfect for getting in that brisk winter hike, and taking in all the spectacular wildlife along the way.