Master Gardeners visit Ciha Fen Preserve
On Tuesday, Aug. 27, 10 Washington County Master Gardeners and one guest traveled to Johnson County to visit the Ciha Fen Preserve. This fen near Sutliff (north of Solon) is a nutrient-poor fen and it is only one of two located in Iowa.
A nutrient-poor fen takes literally eons to form. Fed by groundwater seepage, the water bubbles to the surface through buried sand and gravel left behind by glaciers. Over time, this process forms peat soils.
There are 80 acres of sand prairie, wetlands and savanna where over 225 native species have been identified to date, many of them classified as rare, endangered or threatened. This land is also home to a few animals that are listed on Iowa's list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need as well as many species of reptiles including turtles, frogs and salamanders.
Oak savannas tower above and the southern half is partially forested with some magnificent, open-growth white oaks and black oaks. Birds of all kinds call it home. The Ciha Fen is a beautiful natural place and the Johnson County Conservation Board is working hard to keep it in its natural state. Visitors are allowed to walk the timber and prairie areas but are reminded that this is a delicate place and to treat it with care for future generations to enjoy.
The Washington County Master Gardeners plan to return to the fen in the spring of 2014 to view and photograph the array of wildflowers and wildlife.
After touring the fen the group ate at the Sutliff Bar and Grill, followed by a short business meeting, and then took a stroll across the historic Sutliff bridge.
For more information on the Master Gardener program contact Washington County Extension at 319-653-4811 or <www.extension.iastate.edu/washington>. A Master Gardener training is being offered in Washington with registrations due Sept. 9, 2013.