By: Josh Doty of Foto-Foraging
Spring is here. If you have been hiding from the snow and cold temperatures, it is now time to venture outdoors again. There is so much to see, even if you only have a chance to go to your local park or even your own backyard.
The Nature Treasure Hunt
The Nature Treasure Hunt is a quest to explore, discover, document, learn and share (Instagram #naturetreasurehunt, #ventureoutdoors) nature with others. It is a year-long activity that will provide exercise, fresh air, strong family/friend bonding moments, opportunities to discover and learn, and many memories.
Warning: Once you begin, you may not be able to stop!
Unique Treasures in Nature
- Leopards, Tigers and Zebras roaming wild in Pennsylvania. Find them in the woods and fields during the day and loitering around your porch light at night. Document these moths during National Moth Week – July 21-29, 2018.
- Pennsylvania has at least two types of forest millipedes that glow in the dark when you shine a UV Light (black light) on them (Scientific Names: Euryurus leachii and Apheloria virginiensis). Can you find them?
- Pennsylvania also has multiple mushrooms that are bioluminescent, producing their own light (similar to the firefly). Learn what they are and track them down.
This treasure hunt is constantly changing. The same plot of land can yield new experiences every day as new clues are written and new treasures are hidden. Nature is full of anticipation, waiting for the next treasure to reveal itself. Maybe one of you will be there to see it and share it with everyone else.
Join the Nature Treasure Hunt
- Organize a gathering of friends and family or explore in solitude.
- Go hiking with a goal for specific treasures or start with a blank page.
- Share the photo on Instagram using #naturetreasurehunt and #ventureoutdoors.
- Observe what others have found and learn from their observations
- Join local organizations, meet the experts and participate in outdoor adventures (Ex. Venture Outdoors, Western PA Mushroom Club)
- Did you know that there are trees covered with blossoms in the dead of winter? (See Witchhazel Trees, Hamamelis virginiana).
- What about the plant that actually self-heats so that the snow covering it will melt away and reveal a red flower? (See Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus)
- Did you know that there are colorful mushrooms in the woods even during the gray winter months? (Examples)
…Winter is over this year, find them next year.
Get Started on the Nature Treasure Hunt
- Try to find something that you have never seen before, and show others what you have found.
- Try to learn about something you have seen your whole life, but walked past and ignored. Teach others what you have learned!
Option #1: Try to find three or more shades of violet flowers during one hike this spring. Photograph and share.
Option #2: Locate five different wild spring flowers and photograph them. Share your photos on Instagram so everyone can enjoy them.
Option #3: Go for a hike and photograph what you see. Share your photos and learn from local naturalists.
Option #1: Make a Photo Collage – Photograph and learn about nine plants found in Pennsylvania woods. Organize your photos into a collage and share it on Instagram. Examples: Spice Bush, Garlic Mustard, Mayapples, Bloodroot, Stinging Nettle, Rattlesnake Plantain, Yarrow, Bear Corn, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, etc.
Option #2: Document as many different colors of mushrooms as you can find during the next six months. Try to learn their names by talking with local naturalists. Share your photos on Instagram.
Option #1: Try to find all three kinds of morel mushrooms in Pennsylvania (yellow, black and half-free) in one season. You have to be quick. They only show themselves for a couple weeks per year. Hint: It’s time to hit the woods for this treasure when the temperatures during the day are consistently 60-70 degrees and the temperatures at night are 40-50 degrees. The soil temperatures need to be close to 50-60 degrees.
Option #2: Find a blue mushroom, a Spicebush Caterpillar AND a fruiting PawPaw tree.
Begin posting on Instagram using #naturetreasurehunt and #ventureoutdoors and share your photos and your knowledge with the world as you venture outdoors during the next 12 months.
About the Author:
Josh Doty, a native of Western Pennsylvania, became interested in nature at an early age. Seeds of curiosity were planted during Boy Scout nature hikes and the nature “treasure hunt” began. Nature photography combined with research was a logical next step and provided a way to document and share observations with other people. “Foto-foraging” is a term that he coined to describe this activity. His study has centered on mushrooms and their ecosystem. Josh hopes to inspire people from all generations to begin to notice and appreciate the nature surrounding them and learn something new every day. He has participated in and led mushroom walks and foraging hikes in Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio and various parts of Europe. Follow his adventures on Instagram or his website.