Posted in Flowers, Hiking, Northeastern Ohio, Park review

Fowler Woods State Nature Preserve

Fowler Woods is a 187-acre, state nature preserve located in Richland Coundy in northeast Ohio. Originally the preserve featured a handicap-accessible, 1 ¼-mile boardwalk, but in 2014 much of the boardwalk was closed to the public due to safety concerns.  The boardwalk passes through mature forest, buttonbush swamps, and an area that was once farmland, but is now reverting to forest. Sadly the lower, wetland region within this area that is now barred to the public.  The preserve used to be one of the best sites in Ohio for viewing spring wildflowers, but since only a fraction of the boardwalk is now accessible to the public, many species of wildflower are no longer within sight.

This part of the boardwalk passes through a buttonbush swamp; this area is now off-limits.

Below I’ll share some of our old photos of the preserve that include areas no longer open to the public, as well as a number of spring wildflowers that bloom at the preserve. As to why the boardwalk has been partially shut down, officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are concerned that the public may be in danger from the diseased ash trees. Apparently the state doesn’t plan on removing diseased trees near the boardwalk, so it is feared that falling limbs from these trees might hurt visitors to the preserve.

Mature emerald ash borer. It is actually the larval form of this insect that destroys ash trees.

This is an ash tree that was destroyed by the larvae of the emerald ash borer. To the left is a cross section of the trunk. To the right is a view of the wood just underneath the bark.

Although emerald green, the little bug below is not the emerald green ash borer. It is the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, and I seem to spot it on trails all over Ohio, including at Fowler Woods.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

From the parking lot of Fowler Wood, it is easy to see the trailhead. By following it a short ways you come to a kiosk at the point where it joins with a boardwalk that makes a loop through the preserve. However last year gates have been erected on the trail that prevent access to a majority of the loop.

Parking lot and trailhead for the Fowler Woods State Nature Preserve
The sign next to the gate says that the section of trail beyond this point is off-limits due to diseased ash trees.

At the kiosk there is a map that shows the portion of the loop that remains open to the public.

Originally this trail was a loop. Park officials have blocked off part of the loop due to risk of diseased ash trees collapsing on the boardwalk.

Here are some of the spring flowers that we have viewed in the park in the past. Even though the habitats of some of these flower might no longer be near that portion of the boardwalk that’s open, I thought it would be a nice preview of what wildflowers will soon be blooming in Ohio.

Below are two wildflowers having yellow blooms. Although the flowers look similar, you can see the foliage is quite different.

Hispid Buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus)
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) with foliage

The flower below rests on the ground under the foliage. It’s flesh-colored petals are thought to attract flies that eat carrion and that emerge from underground in the spring.

Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

The pretty foliage below is produced by Sharp-lobed hepatica. The flower appears earlier in the year.

Foliage of Sharp-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba) — The plant bloomed earlier this spring.
Purple Cress (Cardamine douglassii) — also known as Purple Bittercress

Below is Ohio’s state flower, the large-flowered trillium. It usually starts out white and turns a pink color as it ages.

Large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Unlike the above trillium, the flower of the drooping (or nodding) trillium hangs down, often descending below the plant’s three leaves.

Drooping Trillium (Trillium flexipes)
Drooping Trillium (Trillium flexipes); also known as Nodding Trillium or Declining Trillium.

This species also comes in a maroon color.

Drooping Trillium, maroon form (Trillium flexipes). I took this by turning my camera upside down underneath the plant’s leaves.
Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata) unfurling

Below is a plant known as “Bishop’s cap”. The flowers are extremely tiny, but beautiful.

Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla)
Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla)
Bishop’s Cap (Mitella diphylla)
Rue Anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides)

I’m not sure which of the above flowers will be visible from the shortened boardwalk, but I do remember seeing violets and jack-in-the-pulpit relatively near the parking area.

Common Blue Violet (Viola papilionacea)
Yellow Violet
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

In addition to a lovely display of spring wildflowers, the preserve is also known as one of the few places in north central Ohio where the veery live. Their song is described as “haunting”. You can hear it on this page at All About Birds.

Photo courtesy of Inez N McFee, illustrator for the book Little Friends in Feathers (c) 1921; license: CC BY 2.0

These birds are known as “Veery”.

Because of the preserve’s buttonbush swamps and vernal pools, there are many amphibians that make their home in Fowler Woods. But due to the presence of mosquitoes, you might want to liberally apply DEET, or time your visit for early spring or late autumn.

Boardwalk passing over water
Eastern American Toad (Bufo americanus americanus)
Additional information

  • Address: 7815 Olivesburg-Fitchville Road, Greenwich, Ohio 44837
  • Directions: The preserve is located 13 miles north of Mansfield in Richland County. Take State Route 13 to Noble Road, go east on Noble Rd approximately 1¼ miles to Olivesburg-Fitchville Road, then south to the preserve’s parking lot on the west side of the road.
  • GPS Coordinates: 40.97355, -82.4699
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions

More on Richland County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

3 thoughts on “Fowler Woods State Nature Preserve

  1. Just walked the whole boardwalk 3/19/2020 it’s open all the way around the loop. There are a few areas that the boards are missing but it’s still passable on foot but not wheelchair accessable.

  2. It’s been a long time since my family and I have been to Fowlers Woods. It’s a shame some areas are closed off. However, there is a place in Ashland County (actually it’s on the Huron County/Ashland County line) called Crall Woods. It’s part of the Ashland County Park District. The forest floor is covered in large white trilliums, red trilliums (I even found a pink trillium last year) flox and many other various wildflowers. It’s quite stunning. The trails are large and well maintained, plus the park district is enlarging the park.

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