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Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/18/2020

Posted by on 5:12 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/18/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 18, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

September is “The Month of Gold,” when goldenrods and sunflowers radiate across Chicago’s prairies and savannas. So, I’m going to make this easy for you. Go to Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Spears Woods for the spectacular shows of the towering sawtooth sunflower. As you hike the trails, they loom above and around you as if you’re passing through a tunnel. Bring along your tape measure to find the tallest one. I recently found some thirteen-footers on the north half of Wolf Road Prairie!

Of course, the goldenrods are blooming everywhere around Chicago. The best display is taking place at Lake in the Hills Fen, with its grand panoramic view. INTERESTING NOTE: Goldenrod does not provoke allergies. The pollen cannot be inhaled because it’s too heavy and simply drops to the ground.  The real culprit is common ragweed, which blooms at the same time. Many of the asters are now flowering, marking the end of the blooming season. There are so many asters and goldenrods that it’s really hard to identify them all. Click here for a complete (pdf) list of local asters and goldenrods.

The large and conspicuous plants are stealing the show, right now, which is why you’ll have to look carefully to find the gems hidden at your feet. In particular, September is also the season of gentians: prairie, bottle, cream, and fringed (our Plant of the Week).

For a greater appreciation of our native habitats, don’t just look at the plants. Touch and smell the plants. (But don’t eat them unless you know what you’re doing.) Run your fingers across the soft tan tassels of Indian grass and atop the rough, sometimes smooth, leaves of our many sunflowers. Tickle your hand as you pass through a cloudy plume of prairie dropseed. And while you’re there, stop and pay attention to its rich fragrance of slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Receive the strong and refreshing fragrance of mint from the faded gray flowers of mountain mint and brown seeds wild bergamot. The black seeds of yellow coneflower smell like licorice, while the dark brown seeds of purple prairie clover give off my favorite good smell in Chicago nature—a transfusion of lemons and carrots. So, what is my favorite bad smell? That would be the brown, teardrop seed ball of foxglove beardtongue. When in bloom, the white snapdragon flowers have no appreciable smell. But beginning around the end of August, the seeds smell exactly like vomit. Some say, “moldy socks.” Either way, it’s fabulous!

And, right now, you can see white snakeroot in the shade of our woodlands and savannas. It is a poisonous plant that’s responsible for “milk sickness” that killed thousands of people in the 1800’s, including Abe Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. You may smell it and touch it, BUT DON’T EAT IT! The poison was spread through the milk of cows that ingested the plant. On a more uplifting note, the active ingredient eupitorin in white snakeroot may have anticancer properties.

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”)

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (9/17-): Wow! And I mean, “Wow!” For an unforgettable experience that will have you remember the year 2020 for something good, get out to Wolf Road Prairie to dive into the deep sea of golden sawtooth sunflower. For the best diving experience, take the narrow southbound trail behind the prairie house that’s located on Constitution Avenue at the north end of the preserve. (Normally, our directions have you park at the kiosk along 31st Street on the south end.) Immediately, the trail immerses you in swaying waves of towering sunflowers and grasses. Take your tape measure to find the tallest sunflower. The literature states that they can grow as high as thirteen feet, but the tallest I’ve ever found was twelve feet tall. That is, until last weekend when I found a handful of thirteen-footers along the northern trail! That’s taller than two of me. (See picture below.)

Mike MacDonald and a 13-foot sawtooth sunflower at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Mike MacDonald and a 13-foot sawtooth sunflower at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Along your hike to the south end, you’ll experience the grasses of Indian grass and big bluestem plus several flower species that include the pearly tall boneset, which can be found in large patches, cream gentian, pasture thistle, rough blazing star, round-headed bush clover, and the goldenrods of stiff, tall, and grass-leaved.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (9/17-): This is your last chance for the year to experience the sea of sawtooth sunflower in the prairie’s undulating terrain. Mixed within the golden floral panorama and the flavescent tones of autumn’s calling are several species of goldenrod and aster, tall boneset, and a nice expanse of false aster. This preserves offers several “rooms,” each with its own personality. At one moment you’re in a prairie. The next, you’re overlooking a serene wetland through an open woodland. There’s no place like Spears Woods.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake In The Hills (9/14-): Our scout Jim rated this preserve a “Wow!” for its expansive displays of tall boneset and goldenrod across the rolling panorama.  One of the most alluring qualities of this preserve is it endlessness. Goldenrods (including tall grass-leaved, field, and white, which looks just like an aster) are exploding throughout the fen, frequently intermixed with the off-white blooms of tall boneset. In addition, the maroon waves of Indian grass serve as a dramatic backdrop. In the soggy sections to the west, you’ll find the fading blooms of fading spotted Joe-Pye weed. And to the south, don’t miss the towering yellow blossoms of sawtooth sunflower. When you enter the preserve through the maze-like fencing, I suggest first taking a left and hiking the short looping trail that ends right back at the entrance. If you’re adventurous, take the longer trail (making a right at the entrance) leading into the southern section of the fen, and walk all the way to “Barbara’s Bench,” a resting stop paying tribute to the late Barbara Wilson, who dedicated much of her life to the stewardship and protection of this preserve. On your journey, you’ll encounter multiple dense patches of tall goldenrod and boneset, sawtooth sunflower, and the occasional flowering stalks of rough blazing star. If you visit in the early morning, there’s a good chance you’ll experience rolling fog hovering over the bowl of the fen, and possibly other magic. On Jim Yassick’s recent visit, he experienced a discussion between two owls on the trail between the parking lot and the main entrance! Please let us know about your own personal miracles from here at “The Lake” or any other preserve on our list.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (9/14+): Golden blooms of sawtooth sunflower and many species of goldenrod are exploding across the oak savanna in keeping with September’s theme. This preserve is known for its floral variety, which includes several kinds of aster, rough blazing star, and the glorious fringed, cream, and bottle gentians that grow low in the sunny areas. In addition, red and brown hues from big bluestem and Indian grass help to augment the colors from the asters and gentians. Finally, don’t miss the dramatic rising of rattlesnake master “skeletons” in the open prairie. During the summer, it’s safe to touch their prickly flower heads. But right now, they’re extremely sharp and will probably leave one of its bony seeds in your finger.

NOTE: If you visit Somme in the early morning, we suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (9/14-): As the foliage of the summer prairie is transforming into the rusts, browns, reds, and golds of autumn, yellows of sunflower and goldenrods sparkle across the preserve. As you enter the fen from the kiosk and hike the short trail to the curving creek, take note of the captivating sea of spotted Joe-Pye weed. While fading, the purple blossoms still show a hint of their youthful selves. Under the trees, you’ll find asters, and goldenrods, and the poisonous white snakeroot. Under the sun, the grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass show off beautiful tones of reds, rusts, and browns. The seep in the bottom of the bowl is the most enchanting spot, right now, featuring a beautiful mixture of shrubby cinquefoil, grass-leaved goldenrod, assorted sunflowers, and gentians, including cream, bottle, and fringed. Finally, keep an eye out for the beautiful great blue lobelia, which is scattered across the preserve,

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin (9/15=.): This pretty prairie-on-the-lake is a “Go!” for the fringed and prairie gentians amidst a scene with a smattering of golden sawtooth sunflower and several species of goldenrod. You’ll also find rough blazing star, swamp thistle, and a variety of asters. And seas of beautiful grasses are changing color into their autumn tones.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham (9/17-): The foliage of the prairie is beginning to don autumn’s warm tones of reds, rusts, and browns, acting as a canvas to vibrant yellow blooms of the goldenrod alongside the remaining rays of tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and sneezeweed. Copious amounts of the pearly tall boneset can be seen in many locations along with an occasional mix of asters.

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (9/14-): Go for the fine displays of field goldenrod and sweet everlasting. Rough blazing star is also blooming, though much subdued this year.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (9/17-): The golden hues of sunflowers and goldenrods beautifully combine with the reds and browns tones of the grasses. However, much of the floral color can only be seen from a distance where sawtooth sunflowers blanket the far western portion of the preserve. Along your hike, look carefully at your feet for cream and bottle gentian.

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (Unscouted. Last scouted on 9/2.): Even though we didn’t scout this preserve, you can expect to find abundant blooms of sawtooth sunflower and goldenrod.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns
Miller Woods is leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: FRINGED GENTIAN

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

The gorgeous fringed gentian blooms in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find this beautiful blooms at locations that include Chiwaukee Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

PHOTO SECTION

Sawtooth Sunflower

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

Bottle Gentian

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Here at Powderhorn Prairie in Chicago, bottle gentian survive under the shadow of the dense late-summer prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into

Rough Blazing Star

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year. Click here for a complete (pdf) list of local asters and goldenrods.

Cardinal Flower and Great Blue Lobelia

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne at Montrose Beach Dunes in Chicago, Illinois.*

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne at Montrose Harbor in downtown Chicago.

Grasses of Big Bluestem & Indian Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and goldenrod.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and field goldenrod.*

Rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Feathery plumes of Indian grass and rough blazing star festoon the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Wolf Road Prairie

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Sawtooth sunflower blooms in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Pembroke Savanna

Field goldenrod and rough blazing star bring an air of autumn to the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

Field goldenrod and rough blazing star bring an air of autumn to the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

Lake in the Hills Fen

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

At this time of year, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hill Fen.

The golden blooms of stiff goldenrod and shrubby cinquefoil turn the seep of this fen aglow at Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills, Illinois.*

The golden blooms of stiff goldenrod and shrubby cinquefoil turn the seep of this fen aglow at Lake in the Hills Fen.*

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/11/2020

Posted by on 5:37 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/11/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 11, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

 

THANK YOU TO ZEKE WEI AND JIM YASSICK FOR KEEPING THIS ENTERPRISE RUNNING AND COMPOSING THESE REPORTS WHILE I’VE BEEN RECOVERING FROM HEART SURGERY!

 


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


 

WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

September is “The Month of Gold,” when goldenrods and sunflowers radiate across Chicago’s prairies and savannas. So, I’m going to make this easy for you. Go to Wolf Road Prairie and Spears Woods for the spectacular shows of sawtooth sunflower. As you hike the trails, they loom above and around you as if you’re passing through a tunnel. Bring along your tape measure to find the tallest one. I recently found some thirteen-footers on the north half of Wolf Road Prairie!

Now is also your last chance to experience stunning shows of rough blazing star at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Pembroke Savanna, Bluff Spring Fen, and Theodore Stone Preserve. And of course, goldenrods are blooming everywhere around Chicago. NOTE: Goldenrod does not provoke allergies. The pollen cannot be inhaled because it’s too heavy and simply drops to the ground.  The real culprit is common ragweed, which blooms at the same time. Many of the asters are now flowering, marking the end of the blooming season. There are so many asters and goldenrods that it’s really hard to identify them all. Click here for a complete (pdf) list of local asters and goldenrods.

The large and conspicuous plants are stealing the show, right now, which is why you’ll have to look carefully to find the gems hidden at your feet. In particular, September is also the season of gentians: prairie, fringed, cream, and bottle (our Plant of the Week).

For a greater appreciation of our native habitats, don’t just look at the plants. Touch and smell the plants. (But don’t eat them unless you know what you’re doing.) Run your fingers across the soft tan tassels of Indian grass and atop the rough, sometimes smooth, leaves of our many sunflowers. Tickle your hand as you pass through a cloudy plume of prairie dropseed. And while you’re there, stop and pay attention to its rich fragrance of slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Receive the strong and refreshing fragrance of mint from the fading flowers of mountain mint and wild bergamot. The seeds of yellow coneflower smell like licorice, while the seeds of purple prairie clover give off my favorite good smell in Chicago nature—a transfusion of lemons and carrots. So, what is my favorite bad smell? That would be the brown, teardrop seed ball of foxglove beardtongue. When in bloom, the white snapdragon flowers have no appreciable smell. But beginning around the end of August, the seeds smell exactly like vomit. Some say, “moldy socks.” Either way, it’s fabulous!

And, right now, you can see white snakeroot in the shade of our woodlands and savannas. It is a poisonous plant that’s responsible for “milk sickness” that killed thousands of people in the 1800’s, including Abe Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln. You may smell it and touch it, BUT DON’T EAT IT! The poison was spread through the milk of cows that ingested the plant. On a more uplifting note, the active ingredient eupitorin in white snakeroot may have anticancer properties.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

 

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”)

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (9/2=): Wow! And I mean, “Wow!” For an unforgettable experience that will have you remember the year 2020 for something good, get out to Wolf Road Prairie to dive into the deep sea of golden sawtooth sunflower. For the best diving experience, take the narrow southbound trail behind the prairie house that’s located on Constitution Avenue at the north end of the preserve. (Normally, our directions have you park at the kiosk along 31st Street on the south end.) Immediately, the trail immerses you in swaying waves of towering sunflowers and grasses. Take your tape measure to find the tallest sunflower. The literature states that they can grow as high as thirteen feet, but the tallest I’ve ever found was twelve feet tall. That is, until last weekend when I found a handful of thirteen-footers along the northern trail! That’s taller than two of me. (See picture below.)

Mike MacDonald and a 13-foot sawtooth sunflower at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Mike MacDonald and a 13-foot sawtooth sunflower at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Along your hike to the south end, you’ll experience the grasses of Indian grass and big bluestem plus several flower species that include the pearly tall boneset, which can be found in large patches, cream gentian, obedient plant, pasture thistle, rough blazing star, round-headed bush clover, and the goldenrods of stiff, tall, and grass-leaved.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (9/10=): Wow! Spears Woods is exploding with yellow as seas of sunflowers (sawtooth and long-bracted tickseed) flow across the undulating prairie terrain. There’s also a beautiful alabaster expanse of false aster in the western prairie. Yes, there are other flowers, as well, like tall coreopsis, grass-leaved goldenrod, ironweed, slender false foxglove, and pasture thistle, but their occasional appearances are overpowered by the golden floral panorama and the flavescent tones of autumn’s calling. This preserves offers several “rooms,” each with its own personality. At one moment you’re in a prairie. The next, you’re overlooking a serene wetland through an open woodland. There’s no place like Spears Woods.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake In The Hills (9/7=): After nearly 6 months of wildflower blooms throughout the region, “The Lake” is finally elevated to “GO” status. One of the most alluring qualities of this preserve is it endlessness. And right now, the wildflower blooms are on par with the grandeur. Goldenrods (including tall grass-leaved, field, and white, which looks just like an aster) are exploding throughout the fen, frequently intermixed with the off-white blooms of tall boneset. In addition, the maroon waves of Indian grass serve as a dramatic backdrop. In the soggy sections to the west, you’ll find the fading blooms of fragrant spotted Joe-Pye weed. And to the south, don’t miss the towering yellow blossoms of sawtooth sunflower. When you enter the preserve through the maze-like fencing, I suggest first taking a left and hiking the short looping trail that ends right back at the entrance. If you’re adventurous, take the longer trail (making a right at the entrance) leading into the southern section of the fen, and walk all the way to “Barbara’s Bench,” a resting stop paying tribute to the late Barbara Wilson, who dedicated much of her life to the stewardship and protection of this preserve. On your journey, you’ll encounter multiple dense patches of tall goldenrod and boneset, sawtooth sunflower, and the occasional flowering stalks of rough blazing star. If you visit in the early morning, there’s a good chance you’ll experience rolling fog hovering over the bowl of the fen, and possibly other magic. On Jim Yassick’s recent visit, he experienced a discussion between two owls on the trail between the parking lot and the main entrance! Please let us know about your own personal miracles from here at “The Lake” or any other preserve on our list.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (9/5=): This preserve is the richest and most biologically diverse preserve in the state, but we love it because it fills our hearts with joy. Be on the lookout for omnipresent displays of western sunflower, rough blazing star, white goldenrod, the butter-colored blooms of large flowered false foxglove, and the aging but still beautiful flowering spurge. Our intrepid scout Charlie recommends casually walking the trails during the cool morning hours to avoid the rowdy beachgoers and COVID-19 spreaders without masks.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (9/5+): Somme Prairie Grove is known for the simultaneous blooms of many species, and that’s what you’ll find right now, including many golden blooms consistent with September’s theme. Sawtooth sunflower will blow your mind. Other notable golden bloomers are  stiff and grass-leaved goldenrod, and tall coreopsis. Look for the glorious fringed, cream,and bottle gentians hiding at ground level in the sunny areas. In addition, red and brown hues from big bluestem and Indian grass help to augment the colors from the asters and gentians. On occasion, you’ll run into purple stalks of rough blazing star and the much rarer savanna blazing star. The stalks between flower head and stem are longer on the savanna version. You’ll also find the hinged pink blooms of obedient plant, the buttery trumpet-shaped blooms of large flowered false foxglove, and the bushy green flower heads of round-headed bush clover. Under the trees, there are pleasing numbers of the anise-scented sweet coneflower. Finally, don’t miss the dramatic rising of rattlesnake master “skeletons” in the open prairie. During the summer, it’s safe to touch their prickly flower heads. But right now, they’re extremely sharp and will probably leave one of its bony seeds in your finger.

NOTE: If you visit Somme in the early morning, we suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (9/5-): There’s a lot to see across the preserve, from savanna and kames to prairie and seep. GO for the rich yellows of sunflowers and goldenrods along with the autumn tones and splashes of pink. As you enter the fen from the kiosk and hike the short trail to the curving creek, take note of the captivating sea of spotted Joe-Pye weed. While no longer in peak condition, the fragrant purple blossoms are still gorgeous. Also in this area are touches of gold from assorted sunflowers. Under the trees of the oak savanna, you’ll find fading, but still dramatic, displays of cutleaf coneflower and wingstem, cup plant, and good numbers of brown-eyed Susan. Atop the big kame, you’ll find rough blazing star. As you emerge from the savanna, you’ll have a great view of the bowl that contains the prairie, the seep of the fen, and distant kames. Stop here, and soak up the purple hues of the grasses and golden sparkles of flowers. The grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass provide beautiful tones of reds, rusts, and browns. The seep in the bottom of the bowl is also a glorious place, and features beautiful displays of shrubby cinquefoil, grass-leaved goldenrod, assorted sunflowers, and gentians, including cream, bottle, and fringed. As you emerge north from the bowl, you’ll climb up the “switchback” kame. Once there, you’ll see a few new blooms of rough blazing star contrasted with the aging remains of cylindrical blazing star. Following the trail to the east a few hundred feet will lead to a nice patch of western sunflower, but if you descend westward instead and turn left towards the flowing stream, you’ll find a nice patch of goldenrods overlooking the curvy creek. Finally, keep an eye out for the beautiful great blue lobelia, which is scattered across the preserve,

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (9/5+): Go for the fine displays of field goldenrod and sweet everlasting. Rough blazing star is also blooming, though much subdued this year.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham (9/6=): The foliage of the prairie is beginning to don autumn’s warm tones of reds, rusts, and browns as a backdrop to the vibrant yellow blooms of the many goldenrods alongside rays of tall coreopsis, long-bracted tickseed sunflower sawtooth sunflower, and sneezeweed. Copious amounts of the pearly tall boneset can be seen in many locations, while slender false foxglove, pasture thistle, ironweed, rough blazing star, big bluestem, and blue vervain add splashes of white, pink, purple and blue to the prairie canvas.

 

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin (Unscouted. Last scouted on 8/29.): This gorgeous preserve-by-the-lake is predicted to be “Go, if in the neighborhood,” right now. We predict that you’ll see the golden Kalm’s St. John’s wort alongside the purples of prairie and fringed gentian. In addition, goldenrods, western sunflower, sawtooth sunflower, a smattering of rough blazing star should still be blooming.

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (Unscouted. Last scouted on 9/2 with the following report.): Middlefork Savanna is named after the rare tallgrass savanna along the middle fork of the Chicago River, but the prairie is the reason to go this weekend.  Our dedicated scout Zeke reported that, while there are abundant blooms of sawtooth sunflower and black-eyed Susan growing in the prairie at the moment, it was the tubular, crimson blooms of cardinal flower, the deep purple blossoms of ironweed, and the delicate pink petals of obedient plant that stole his heart.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (9/7+): The golden hues of sunflowers and goldenrods beautifully combine with the reds and browns tones of the grasses. However, much of the floral color can only be seen from a distance where sawtooth sunflowers blanket the far western portion of the preserve. Along your hike, look carefully at your feet for cream and bottle gentian.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns
Miller Woods is leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: BOTTLE GENTIAN

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Here at Powderhorn Prairie in Chicago, bottle gentian survive under the shadow of the dense late-summer prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Sawtooth sunflower blooms in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

Rough Blazing Star

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Fringed Gentian

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year. Click here for a complete (pdf) list of local asters and goldenrods.

Cardinal Flower and Great Blue Lobelia

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne at Montrose Beach Dunes in Chicago, Illinois.*

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne at Montrose Harbor in downtown Chicago.

Western Sunflower

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of Indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

The Grasses of Big Bluestem & Indian Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and goldenrod.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and field goldenrod.*

Rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Feathery plumes of Indian grass and rough blazing star festoon the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Wolf Road Prairie

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

In one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie, towering sawtooth sunflower blooms in endless fields of gold and alongside pink obedient plant and alabaster blossoms of tall boneset .*

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Pembroke Savanna

Field goldenrod and rough blazing star bring an air of autumn to the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

Field goldenrod and rough blazing star bring an air of autumn to the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

Lake in the Hills Fen

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

At this time of year, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hill Fen.

The golden blooms of stiff goldenrod and shrubby cinquefoil turn the seep of this fen aglow at Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills, Illinois.*

The golden blooms of stiff goldenrod and shrubby cinquefoil turn the seep of this fen aglow at Lake in the Hills Fen.*

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/03/2020

Posted by on 8:51 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 09/03/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 3, 2020
Labor Day Edition

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

Asters! Asters! Asters! That’s the theme of this weekend’s show in many of the preserves throughout the Chicago region. While many people assume that asters are merely the diminutive daisy-like flowers that bloom in late-summer and early-fall, there are actually many other species of flowers that belong to the aster family, particularly the many goldenrods (tall goldenrod is our plant of the week) and towering sunflowers that we all enjoy this time of year. Indeed, the season of gold is upon us, and it’s sure to take your breath away, no matter which of our featured preserves you choose to visit, and there are many:  Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake In The Hills, Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham, Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, and Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin.  Be safe and enjoy the Labor Day weekend!

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”)

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (9/1+): Somme Prairie Grove is known for the simultaneous blooms of many species, and that’s what you’ll find right now. Our dedicated scouts were quite excited to report that the most notable bloomers this week are both stiff and grass-leaved goldenrod, tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and the glorious cream and bottle gentian, all of which can be found throughout the preserve, but most prolifically in the prairie. In addition, red and brown hues from big bluestem and Indian grass help to augment the colors from the asters and gentians. On occasion, you’ll run into purple stalks of rough blazing star, the delicate pink petals of obedient plant, large flowered false foxglove, and the bushy green flower heads of round-headed bush clover. Under the trees, there are pleasing numbers of the anise-scented sweet coneflower, its butter-yellow leaves contrasting nicely with the dark chocolate central core. Yum. Finally, don’t miss the dramatic display of rattlesnake master “skeletons” located in the open prairie.  While long past bloom, these decaying cadavers of nature prove that even death is beautiful at Somme Prairie Grove!

NOTE: If you visit Somme in the early morning, we suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (9/1=): There’s a lot to see across the preserve, from savanna and kames to prairie and seep. Our tireless scout Mike reported, “GO for the rich yellows of sunflowers and goldenrods along with the autumn tones and splashes of pinks”.  As you enter the fen from the kiosk and hike the short trail to the curving creek, take note of the captivating sea of spotted Joe-Pye weed. While no longer in peak condition, it’s fragrant purple blossoms are still gorgeous. Also in this area are touches of gold from assorted sunflowers. Along the savanna, you’ll find fading but still dramatic displays of cutleaf coneflower and wingstem, cup plant, and good numbers of brown-eyed Susan under the trees. Also, look closely for the poisonous white snakeroot. It is responsible for “milk sickness”, a deadly disease encountered during early settlement by Europeans. Cows that ate the plant secreted a poison into their milk.The cattle themselves developed a disease called “trembles” for its chief symptom. In 1818, Abe Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died from a brief agonizing bout of milk sickness. On a more positive note, research has shown that the active ingredient eupitorin in white snakeroot may have anticancer properties. On top of the big kame, rough blazing star is just starting, and intermixed with the last remaining blooms of cylindrical blazing star. As you emerge from the savanna, you’ll have a great view of the bowl that contains the prairie, the seep of the fen, and distant kames. Stop here, and soak up the purple hues of the grasses and golden sparkles of flowers. The grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass provide beautiful tones of reds, rusts, and browns. The seep in the bottom of the bowl is also a glorious place, and features beautiful displays of shrubby cinquefoil, grass-leaved goldenrod and assorted sunflowers. As you emerge north from the bowl, you’ll climb up the “switchback” kame. Once there, you’ll see a few new blooms of rough blazing star contrasted with the aging remains of cylindrical blazing star. Following the trail to the east a few hundred feet will lead to a nice patch of western sunflower, but if you descend westward instead and turn left towards the flowing stream, you’ll find a nice patch of goldenrods overlooking the curvy creek. Finally, keep an eye out for the beautiful great blue lobelia which is scattered throughout the preserve.

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (8/21+): While IBNP might be labeled the richest and most biologically diverse preserve in the state, we love it because it fills our hearts with joy.  Be on the lookout for omnipresent displays of western sunflower, rough blazing star, white goldenrod, the glorious chromatic blooms of large flowered false foxglove, and the aging but still beautiful flowering spurge.  Our scout Charlie recommends to casually walk the trails during the cool morning hours to avoid the rowdy beachgoers and Covid-19 spreaders not wearing masks.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham (8/31=): Overall, the abundant yellows blooms of stiff and grass-leaved goldenrod steal the show at this luscious urban prairie, while tall coreopsis, long-bracted tickseed sunflower and sneezeweed play important supporting roles. And more yellow is on the way. But fear not – there’s plenty of other color as well: whites, pinks, purples, blues and greens, with the latter now starting to change into the fall hues of reds, rusts, and browns. Copious amounts of the pearly white tall boneset can be seen in many locations, while slender false foxglove, pasture thistle, ironweed, rough blazing star, big bluestem, and blue vervain add splashes of white, pink, purple and blue to the prairie canvas. Eat your heart out, Picasso!

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (8/29+): At this idyllic locale, all the excitement is happening in the prairie, and once again, the golden aster flowers are taking center stage, most notably, tall coreopsis, grass-leaved goldenrod, rosinweed, sawtooth sunflower (just starting), and long-bracted tickseed sunflower, whose name is partially derived from the way its seeds stick to clothing. But that’s not all. Augmenting all of those golden hues comes the purple blossoms of ironweed, slender false foxglove, and prickly pasture thistle, set against a backdrop of reddish Indian grass and big bluestem. All of the colors, hues and textures of this panoramic paradise are foreshadowing an exciting chromatic climax as autumn draws near.

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (9/2=): Middlefork Savanna is named after the rare tallgrass savanna along the middle fork of the Chicago River, but the prairie is the reason to go this weekend.  Our dedicated scout Zeke reported that while there is abundant blooms of sawtooth sunflower and black-eyed Susan growing in the prairie at the moment, it was the tubular, crimson blooms of cardinal flower, the deep purple blossoms of ironweed, and the delicate pink petals of obedient plant that stole his heart.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake In The Hills (8/31+): After nearly 6 months of wildflower blooms throughout the region, “The Lake” is finally elevated to “GO” status. One of the most alluring qualities of this preserve is its magnitude – whenever I’m there, I have a feeling that its rolling hills go on forever. And right now, the wildflower blooms are on par with its grandeur. Goldenrod (both tall and gray) is exploding throughout the fen, frequently intermixed with the off-white blooms of tall boneset. In addition, the red-hued stalks of Indian grass serve as a dramatic backdrop. My personal favorite is the cute, diminutive gray goldenrod, which grows only a foot or so off the ground. Look for it in the rocky sections of the fen, frequently growing amongst beautiful patches of flowering spurge and sometimes the purple blooms of rough blazing star. In the soggy sections to the west, you’ll find the fading blooms of fragrant spotted Joe-Pye weed. And to the south, don’t miss the towering yellow blossoms of sawtooth sunflower. When you enter the preserve through the maze-like fencing, I suggest first taking a left and hiking the short looping trail that ends right back at the entrance. If you’re adventurous, take the longer trail (making a right at the entrance) leading into the southern section of the fen and walk all the way to “Barbara’s Bench”, a resting stop paying tribute to Barbara Key, a devout nature lover and also the preserve’s namesake. On your journey, you’ll encounter multiple dense patches of tall goldenrod and boneset, sawtooth sunflower, and the occasional flowering stalks of rough blazing star. For extra credit, see if you can locate a lone patch of the low leafy rosettes of ethereal prairie smoke. If you visit in the early morning, there’s a good chance you’ll experience rolling fog hovering over the bowl of the fen, but you may experience other miracles as well. For example, on my last visit, I was immediately thrust into a heated discussion between two owls, whose Morse code-like banter was suggestive of nocturnal birds of prey having relationship troubles. And all of this occurred on the trail between the parking lot and the main entrance! Please do let us know about your own personal miracles from “The Lake”.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (8/29+): This Great Depression era prairie features some nice blooms, and because of its floral diversity, the preserve just makes the “GO” list this week. Keep an eye out for large clusters of the pearly white tall boneset, which is perhaps the most dominant flowering forb at the moment. For splashes of pinks, purples and reds, you’ll find obedient plant, pasture thistle, rough blazing star, Indian grass and big bluestem. Adding to the mix are round-headed bush clover and rosinweed.  And just starting out is sawtooth sunflower and stiff goldenrod, with MANY more on the way.

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie Wisconsin (8/29=): This gorgeous preserve by the lake garners a “go, if in the neighborhood” status after being left off the list for several months. The main contributors include various goldenrods, some very nice patches of western sunflower, a smattering of rough blazing star, and the fading blooms of flowering spurge. On Sunday, our scout Charlie was enamored by the large quantity of active butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: TALL GOLDENROD

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

PHOTO SECTION

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

Obedient Plant

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

Rough Blazing Star

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Rough blazing star glows in the morning light at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Gentian

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.

Indian Grass

Rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Rough blazing star and Indian grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Cardinal Flower and Great Blue Lobelia

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne at Montrose Beach Dunes in Chicago, Illinois.*

Great blue lobelia and cardinal flower in the panne.

Western Sunflower

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Big Bluestem Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Jim

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/27/2020

Posted by on 10:48 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/27/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 27, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

 

When you wake up in the morning and look outside your window, do you notice the light is getting better?  It is because the time is closer to sunrise.  Well your wake up time does not change, the sunrise is getting later and later.  You probably also notice sunset is getting earlier and earlier.  All these are reminding us summer is coming to an end.  Is the chicagoland wildflower bloom also coming to an end?  Absolutely not.  At least there are two more major events that are coming.  The first should come this weekend and will last one to two weeks through the labor day weekend.  If you followed our post last year, you know it will be rough blazing star.  It is one of my favorites.  You will be able to find it at several preserves that we feature at this website.  This year has been fantastic.  From my own experience, it is one of the best years.  I had a great time almost at every trip in the early morning when it is all quiet except the singing of the birds, the wind is not moving except the morning fog, the light is soft except after the sun comes above the top of the oak trees, and no city crowd except the deers.  This weekend, though not confirmed, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion will look nice with the starting rough blazing star, western sunflower, and white goldenrod.   The next on the list will be Bluff Spring Fen.  You will find rough blazing star,  goldenrod, and spotted Joe-Pye weed that form a colorful painting when looking from a distance.  Somme Prairie Grove  still looks great with woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed in the Savanna, and the fresh cream gentian in the open prairie area.  Finally, do not forget all kinds of native prairie grasses are also strong right now.    

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

 

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”)

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (8/28+): Though not scouted this week, I predict this place will look nice this weekend and will get even better in the labor day weekend.  Here is the report from the same week in 2019: “Wow! If you only have time for one preserve, this Labor Day weekend, this is the place to visit. Blooms are everywhere, and certainly worth making a trip to Zion. The black oak savanna offers omnipresent displays of western sunflower, rough blazing star, and white goldenrod (they look like asters), along with remaining blooms of flowering spurge and large flowered false foxglove. And like the savanna, the sand prairie is offering a beautiful show of rough blazing star, western sunflower, and white goldenrod. It is this preserve’s grandest display of the year. And that’s saying a lot!

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (8/25+): Though not scouted this week, I am pretty sure there are a lot to see across the preserve, from savanna and kames to prairie and seep.  Go check it out in the morning if you feel like taking a nice walk in nature.  Here is the report from the same week in 2019: “Along the savanna, you’ll find golden wingstem, cutleaf coneflower, and brown-eyed Susan alongside sweet Joe-Pye weed, bottlebrush grass, nodding wild onion, cow parsnip, jewelweed, spotted Joe-Pye weed, and a few specimens of pasture thistle. (Our native thistles can be identified by the the whitish color under their leaves.) As you emerge from the savanna, you’ll have a great view of the bowl that contains the prairie, the seep of fen, and distance kames. Stop here, and soak up the purple hues of the grasses and golden sparkles of flowers. The grasses are prominent this time of year, with big bluestem lining many trails along with the occasional flourish of Canada wild rye. Don’t miss the glorious “forest” of tall compass plant that occupies the southwest corner of the preserve. The seep in the bottom of the bowl is also a glorious place. You’ll find goldenrod, shrubby cinquefoil, and more spotted Joe-Pye weed. As you emerge north from the bowl you’ll climb up the “switchback kame.” It’s now offering the best flowering experience in the preserve. You’ll find flowering spurge, cylindrical blazing star, nodding wild onion, and a beautiful display of rough blazing star. As you descend westward, turn left towards the creek, and you’ll find goldenrods, great blue lobelia, cutleaf coneflower, spotted Joe-Pye weed, and more. If you don’t make the left turn and continue straight, you’ll find sublime blooms of blue bottle gentian along the trail.

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (8/28=): Jim counted over a dozen species in bloom last week.  Do not be surprised to find more over there this weekend.  As you enter the preserve and start to traverse the trail towards the woodland, don’t miss the gorgeous emerald mop hairdos of prairie dropseed that appear to clutch at your ankles in a desperate attempt to grab your attention.  During your walk, you’ll encounter the fading Tinker-Toy blooms of rattlesnake master, the redolent orbs of nodding wild onion. the flowering yellow tassels of big bluestem grass, and the intoxicating scent of mountain mint.  But that’s only the beginning.  The woodland is still looking great with golden woodland sunflower alongside towering and flowering sweet Joe-Pye weed and the tall ironweed and brown-eyed Susan.  As you exit the woodland and enter into the open savannah, you’ll encounter compass plant, different kinds of goldenrods.  Do not miss the fresh cream gentian that are hidden below the tall grasses.  There are lots of them throughout the open savanna.  They seem to glow at dim light after sunset or before sunrise.  rough blazing star is starting to bloom and scattered throughout the open savanna.  Keep an eye out for the iconic and delicate bottlebrush grass , which prefers shady areas, but may be found just about anywhere throughout the preserve.  At the very beginning or end of the day, I just love how its tiny bristles catch the low-angled rays of the sun, bringing them to life!

NOTE: If you visit Somme in the early morning, we suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

 

 

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hogkins:  Though not scouted this week, I think there is a good potential for a very nice rough blazing star show here at the eastern dolomite prairie.  The plants here looked pretty clean and nice earlier in the year when we visited this site.  You should also find white goldenrod in the same gravelly area. If you’re in the area, take a walk to experience the tall grasses that give the tall grass prairie its name.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (8/28+): Though not scouted this week, I predict it is still a little early to see the rough blazing star show over here.  Here is the report from the same week in 2019: “September is my favorite time to visit this dreamy sand savanna. There’s something special about the softer light and flavescent tones of the understory. On Wednesday, the preserve was preparing for its biggest show of the year: the dramatic display of rough blazing star. Their purple flowers are starting to provide color, while the goldenrods are exhibiting their golden hues. You’re also bound to find more yellows in the form of large flowered false foxglove and western sunflower. The plumes of the elegant round-headed bush clover provide added texture and whimsy as they bob in the wind. And flashes of white can be found in the last blooms of flowering spurge and the senescing blossoms of spotted bee balm.

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: ROUGH BLAZING STAR

 

As the sun rises over the dune, rough blazing star, flowering spurge, and western sunflower grow densely in the protection of a swale at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

As the sun rises over the dune, rough blazing star, flowering spurge, and western sunflower grow densely in the protection of a swale at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

ROUGH BLAZING STAR

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, a single stalk of prairie dock rises above the fog and the purples of rough blazing star and little bluestem grass.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, a single stalk of prairie dock rises above the fog and the purples of rough blazing star and little bluestem grass.*

 

 

WESTERN SUNFLOWER

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

 

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

 

Cylindrical Blazing Star

In August, cylindrical Blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

Cylindrical blazing star blooms in the sand savanna, here at Indiana Dunes National Park, and at other preserves that include Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

Nodding Wild Onion

In late July, pink blooms nodding wild onions are the highlight of Lockport Prairie.*

The drooping pink blossoms of nodding wild onion are just beginning to flower. The display is often quite dense at Lockport Prairie, but it depends on the year.*

Canada Wild Rye

The plume of Canada wild rye covered drenched in morning dew at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

In the morning, this plume of Canada wild rye and all the plants of the prairie become drenched in morning dew. Wear your rain gear!

 

Big Bluestem Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Mountain Mint 

Mountain mint and prairie blazing star flower in the July prairie at Spears Woods in Willow Springs.*

Inhale the invigorating white flowers of mountain mint that grow here at Spears Woods and at many other preserves on our list.*

Compass Plant

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

The golden flowers of compass plant beginning to blooming atop a stalk that reaches for the sky.*

 

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plant at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville.*

Compass Plant, Prairie Dock, and the Glorious Green Glow

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

Light shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts their shadows.*

Green glow describes leaves that glow a bright green from sunlight shining through them. Here, we see a special kind of green glow that results in a shadow play, as sunlight shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts its distinctive silhouette.*

Bluff Spring Fen

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

 

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen.*

 

In August, cylindircal blazingstar covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Cylindrical blazing star is now blooming on the big kame and northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Somme Prairie Grove

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflower surrounds this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

Here, at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois , we see the large, deeply lobed leaf of compass plant among a sea of purple prairie clover.*

Here at Somme Prairie Grove we see the deeply lobed leaves of compass plant splash above a sea of purple prairie clover.*

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun. Here, we can see an August celebration of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, sweet Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed.*

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun. Here, we can see an August celebration of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, sweet Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed.*

 

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Zeke

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/21/2020

Posted by on 12:34 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/21/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 21, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

The summer wildflower season is still going strong, and once gain, the best flower shows are happening at Somme Prairie Grove and Bluff Spring Fen, where you’ll find a fanfare of color from myriad flowering species, but particularly from the happy, yellow blooms of woodland sunflower and the purple fragrant flower heads of  spotted Joe-Pye weed (our Plant of the Week).  On top of that, cylindrical blazing star is blooming across the region, along with flowering spurge, yellow coneflower sweet Joe-Pye weed and nodding wild onion.  Finally, you don’t miss the miniature yellow flowers of big bluestem, which is now blooming in most of the preserves on our list.  

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”)

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (8/18=): Somme is one of my “desert island” preserves, expertly maintained by its talented stewards and volunteers.   By my lazy count, there are over a dozen species in bloom at the moment.  As you enter the preserve and start to traverse the trail towards the woodland, don’t miss the gorgeous emerald mop hairdos of prairie dropseed that appear to clutch at your ankles in a desperate attempt to grab your attention.  During your walk, you’ll encounter the fading Tinker-Toy blooms of rattlesnake master, the redolent orbs of nodding wild onion. the flowering yellow tassels of big bluestem grass, and the intoxicating scent of mountain mint.  But that’s only the beginning.  The woodland is looking great with golden woodland sunflower alongside towering and flowering sweet Joe-Pye weed and the start of tall ironweed and brown-eyed Susan.  As you exit the woodland and enter into the open savannah, you’ll encounter the last remaining blooms of wild quinine and rattlesnake master, along with compass plant, yellow coneflower, more mountain mint and flowering spurge.  Keep an eye out for the iconic and delicate bottlebrush grass , which prefers shady areas, but may be found just about anywhere throughout the preserve.  At the very beginning or end of the day, I just love how its tiny bristles catch the low-angled rays of the sun, bringing them to life!  Coming very soon – early goldenrod and rough blazing star.

NOTE: If you visit Somme in the early morning, we suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (8/16=): This preserve has been at the the top of our list for several weeks now.  This week is no different.  And with August comes an an added bonus.  August is typically the foggiest month of the year at Bluff Spring Fen, due to the sultry days and cool nights. It’s not at all uncommon to experience dense early morning fog that gently lifts with the rising sun.   If you’re lucky, you may experience an ethereal fog tap-dancing over of the absolutely epic throng of  spotted Joe-Pye weed growing right along the curving creek just after you enter the preserve at the main trail.  The view this morning moved me to tears.  As you cross the troll bridge (whose troll was unusually ornery today), the trail winds through an oak savanna, complete with fluffy sweet Joe-Pye weed, pale Indian plantain, bottlebrush grass, woodland sunflower, yellow coneflower, and a few remaining American bellflower.  If you take the narrow out-and-back trail on your left to the top of the large kame, you’ll be treated to a hillside full of blooming cylindrical blazing star.  And from the top of the kame, the view of sweet Joe-Pye weed growing at the base of the hillside is gorgeous.  Don’t forget to look east for a beautiful view of the “bowl” of the fen illuminated by the rising sun.  On foggy mornings, the view leaves me with a sense of great peace.  As you leave the savanna, I recommend making a right turn into the open prairie and moving counter-clockwise around the fen.  Be careful not to walk headlong into the wonderful bristled heads of Canada wild rye, for if you do, it will feel like being smacked in the face by a janitor’s wet mop!  To the west, don’t miss the glorious “forest” of tall compass plant pointing heavenward – take the trail at the “Y” to see them up close and personal.  Returning to the main trail, head east through a dense stand of big bluestem grass, giving off fragrant slivers of  yellow pollen.  The next dramatic display along your way happens at the main seep in the center of the bowl.  Be careful on the narrow boardwalks that take you through the bowl as they can be difficult to navigate due to the dense, green understory.   Once in the bowl, you will find nice patches of spotted Joe-Pye weed. I personally like the way the early morning sun illuminates this area of the fen.  Continue up the brae to the “switchback” kame which is yielding some nice patches of cylindrical blazing star.  On the kame, you may notice the stems of the next kid on the block: rough blazing star, which should be blooming in the coming days/weeks.  At the top of the kame, head west towards the savanna until you reach an intersection – go left until you see a small creek with stepping stones.   Patches of early goldenrod are emerging in this area and should be blooming very soon.  Continue along, staying left when you reach the kame and follow the trail to your right until you’ll find yourself where you first began.

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake In the Hills (8/14=): The best area to visit is very close to the main entrance.  Make a right as you enter the fen and follow the trail until it leads slightly downhill, then briefly uphill.  This rocky area has very nice displays of flowering spurge mixed in with cylindrical blazing star, nodding wild onion, and fresh blooms of early goldenrod and tall boneset.  In the coming weeks, tall goldenrod and showy goldenrod will be growing en masse.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (8/14): Nice patches of sparkling flowering spurge along with smaller groups of round-headed bush clover, slender dayflower, and Cleland’s evening primrose can be found throughout the preserve.  But the most notable bloomer this week comes from spotted bee balm (also known as spotted or dotted horsemint.) Take a moment to bend down and smell it by gently wafting the minty aroma towards your olfactory organ – the nose knows!

PLANT OF THE WEEK: SPOTTED JOE-PYE WEED

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

PHOTO SECTION

Yellow Coneflower

Yellow coneflowers bloom in the mesic prairie in the western half of Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins.*

Yellow coneflowers bloom in the mesic prairie in the western half of Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins.*

Flowering Spurge

In August, the white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

In August, the white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Cylindrical Blazing Star

In August, cylindrical Blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

Cylindrical blazing star blooms in the sand savanna, here at Indiana Dunes National Park, and at other preserves that include Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

Nodding Wild Onion

In late July, pink blooms nodding wild onions are the highlight of Lockport Prairie.*

The drooping pink blossoms of nodding wild onion are just beginning to flower. The display is often quite dense at Lockport Prairie, but it depends on the year.*

Canada Wild Rye

The plume of Canada wild rye covered drenched in morning dew at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

In the morning, this plume of Canada wild rye and all the plants of the prairie become drenched in morning dew. Wear your rain gear!

Big Bluestem Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Mountain Mint 

Mountain mint and prairie blazing star flower in the July prairie at Spears Woods in Willow Springs.*

Inhale the invigorating white flowers of mountain mint that grow here at Spears Woods and at many other preserves on our list.*

Compass Plant

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

The golden flowers of compass plant beginning to blooming atop a stalk that reaches for the sky.*

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plant at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville.*

Compass Plant, Prairie Dock, and the Glorious Green Glow

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

Light shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts their shadows.*

Green glow describes leaves that glow a bright green from sunlight shining through them. Here, we see a special kind of green glow that results in a shadow play, as sunlight shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts its distinctive silhouette.*

Bluff Spring Fen

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen.*

In August, cylindircal blazingstar covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Cylindrical blazing star is now blooming on the big kame and northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Somme Prairie Grove

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflower surrounds this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

Here, at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois , we see the large, deeply lobed leaf of compass plant among a sea of purple prairie clover.*

Here at Somme Prairie Grove we see the deeply lobed leaves of compass plant splash above a sea of purple prairie clover.*

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun. Here, we can see an August celebration of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, sweet Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed.*

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun. Here, we can see an August celebration of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, sweet Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed.*

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Jim

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/13/2020

Posted by on 7:15 am in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/13/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 13, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

Dear friends of chicagonaturenow, the man and steward behind the website and the weekly report, Mike MacDonald, was in hospital due to multiple blockages to his heart last week. Mike noticed the first symptom while he was scouting at Spear Woods, one of his favorite preserves featured on the website. The good news is he had a successful bypass surgery last Wednesday and is now recovering at home. Here is a post from Mike at his Facebook group:

“UPDATE: 8/8, Sat.)
I will be released back into the wild, today (Sat.). They’ll open my cage into my natural habitat, and I’ll scurry away with Cordy. I’m being released 1 or 2 days earlier than most patients. Thank you for the warm thoughts and well-wishes! ❤❤❤❤
I actually had Cordy bring my book and CNN postcards in the hospital to turn the staff and doctors onto Chicago nature!”

My name is Zeke, and I am one of the first subscribers and volunteer scouts for ChicagoNatureNOW! (CNN). It has been almost 5 years since Mike started posting the weekly reports on Chicagoland wildflower shows during the bloom seasons from April through September. I had been completely connected with the Chicagoland nature at those precious nature preserves that Mike explored and featured on this website. Every year, I had some new findings. And this year has been the best. I feel so much joy and excitement when I visit the sites when the conditions and time is right. This experience is so different from what many people see in a garden or park. It is the wild nature at its most beautiful condition that was developed through millions of years. We almost lost them, but now they are being restored and maintained by many volunteers who have deep love with nature. It does take some time and training to learn how to enjoy the best part. For example, ChicagoNatureNow.com provides weekly report on wildflower blooms so that you know where is the best show each week.

We only have a handful volunteer scouts and there is a large area to cover, so please consider joining our scouts team (click here). It does not have to be a task or job. Simply report a few words with some cell phone pictures after you happen to visit one of the featured sites and share that in the Facebook group. Please also consider donation using the link above to help Mike carry on the mission. Mike has been scouting most of the preserves and reporting every week at the website. It is a lot of work. The website itself has cost, but he provides all these works to the public for free so that more Chicagoans can get connected with the best local native nature.

This week we did not get many scouting reports back, but it is so easy for me to predict what is going on in our best quality woods and prairies. This is the time of the summer when you can observe the best biodiversity and show after show of different wildflower species. You may not know exactly what you will encounter, but chances are you will encounter something exciting. The secret is that you have to go to the good quality preserves, not the random ones you can find at your neighborhood as many poor quality prairies had been disturbed by invasive weeds. Go to Bluff Spring Fen to experience a “national park level” show of spotted Joe-Pye weed. Its grand display is the best we observed in years in the area. Somme Prairie Grove is consistently putting up a show of woodland sunflower with the sweet Joe-Pye weed in the background. It should be at peak condition right now.

TIP: I recommend visiting grasslands at the beginning or the end of the day when it’s much cooler and the sunlight is beautiful. Prairies are treeless expanses with no escape from the sun. It’s a challenge to appreciate the prairie in the blinding light of ninety-degree afternoon.

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (8/10=): This preserve now reaches the top of our list due to the “national park level” display of spotted Joe-Pye weed. You cannot miss it as it is right along the curving creek just after you enter the preserve at the main trail. It has a large coverage with good density of flowers. In a cloudy day or at low light condition in early morning or late evening, the color of the flower is more saturated, with good contrast with the green leaves, wetland grasses, and the oak trees in the far background. There are also many things going on in the woods right after you pass by the creek. You’ll find yourself protected within the embrace of majestic oaks in the savanna. Quickly, you’ll see the fluffy, tall sweet Joe-Pye weed, pale Indian plantain, bottlebrush grass, woodland sunflowers, and some remaining American bellflower. The stand of sweet Joe-Pye weed upon the kame is absolutely stunning. Continuing under the protection of oaks, take the narrow out-and-back trail on your left to the top of the large kame. Once at the gravelly peak, you’ll experience a unique view of the preserve and the blooming cylindrical blazing star, nodding wild onion. As you pass the savanna, I recommend making a right turn into the open prairie and moving counter-clockwise around the preserve back to this spot. Along the counter-clockwise route, you’ll experience the wonderful bristled heads of Canada wild rye, which will soak you with dew in the mornings. You’ll also find a glorious “forest” of tall compass plant to the west. Take the trail at the “Y” to see them up close. Returning to the main trail, you’ll head east through a dense stand of big bluestem grass, which was giving off fragrant plumes of pollen as we passed through it. The next dramatic display along your way happens at the main seep in the center of the bowl. (Turn left at the end of the “transplant kame,” and carefully traverse the narrow trail over the boardwalk. Soon, you’ll arrive at the main seep.) Our scout did not check the fen area, but if you visit, please let us know what you find (find the scouting link at the top of the report). As you continue to the north, there’s a narrow boardwalk that’s hard to see. Take care and continue up the brae of the “switchback” kame where you’ll see an beautiful display of cylindrical blazing star. This plant has the deepest root of any prairie plant. (See an illustration of root depth at the very bottom of this article.) On the kame, you’ll also notice a plant with white balls dotting the vertical stems. That’s rough blazing star which will start blooming in a couple of weeks. At the top of the kame, head west towards the savanna. Soon, you’ll reach an intersection that you’ll take to the left and across a small creek with stepping stones. Continue along, staying left when you reach the kame. You’ll come around the kame to your right and you’ll find yourself where you began your journey into the sun.

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (8/12=): This preserve continues providing a vibrant mix of color. It is one of the best quality nature preserves in Chicagoland, all because there is a good team of volunteers who maintain the place. You can always find something exciting going on at this time of the summer over here. It never disappoints me. The major bloom is still the spectacular legions of bright and happy woodland sunflowers and the fluffy mauve blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed. The two supplement each other very well under the trees. You can also find many smooth ironweed in the woodland. The whimsical Tinker-Toy blooms of rattlesnake master are coming to an end, but many kinds of goldenrod are coming up nicely and all over the open savanna area. Under the sun, you can still find many mountain mint, wild quinine, flowering spurge, compass plant, prairie blazing star, brown-eyed Susan, nodding wild onion, blue vervain, big bluestem grass , and the gorgeous emerald mop hairdos of prairie dropseed. And keep an eye out for the iconic bottlebrush grass.

NOTE: I suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

This week, we did not scout Middlefork Savanna and Gensburg-Markham Prairie. You can check last week’s report in the blog section to see what was going on at this time of the summer at those places. As I said above, there should always be something going on now as these are good quality preserves. If you do visit this weekend, please let us know what you see.

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (8/10): We did not scout this preserve this week. Here is last year’s report as a reference: “This intimate remnant prairie is rich in blooms. Walk slowly to absorb the special moments. The main players are flowering spurge, early goldenrod, rattlesnake master, and, to a lesser extent, prairie blazing star. The flowering and towering big bluestem grass runs throughout the preserve, especially along one trail where it feels like you’re walking through a tunnel. Notice the wondrous foliage of prairie dock and compass plant that glow a bright green in the low sun. See Photo Section for a picture of the leaves.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (8/5/): We did not scout this preserve this week. Here is a report around the same time 2 years ago: “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much prairie dock in one place. As you enter the oak savanna from the 31st Street trail head you’ll pass through a beautiful expanse of woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the prairie, you’ll find towering stalks of prairie dock. Look around for the tallest prairie dock plant. I found at nine-footer! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including flowering spurgerosinweed, compass plant, and early goldenrod.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (8/10): We did not scout this preserve this week. Here is a report from last year: “The site offers a varied terrain and a mix of habitats that bring interest and an added dimension to your visit, and there are good blooms of many flowers: flowering spurge, nodding wild onion, mountain mint, blue vervain, early goldenrod, and still some butterfly weed. In a week or two, the sand prairie will be exploded with rough blazing star.
NOTE: Trust me when I tell you to GO EARLY IN THE DAY to avoid the noisy beachgoers and COVID-19 spreaders without masks. Also, the trail that extends along the Dead River may be covered with water and prohibit your journey. Consider bringing along some high boots if you intend to hike that section.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Unscouted. Last scouted on 7/11): This is the usual time to see some potentially dramatic displays of partridge pea and flowering spurge. We need help scouting the southern preserves. Consider joining our elite group of volunteer scouts.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: WOODLAND SUNFLOWER

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

PHOTO SECTION

American Bellflower

Sweet Joe-Pye weed, American bellflower, and woodland sunflower put on a show in the woodland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

The beautiful blue American bellflower blooms alongside sweet Joe-Pye weed and woodland sunflower, here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook and other local woodlands.*

Cylindrical Blazing Star

In August, cylindrical Blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

Cylindrical blazing star blooms in the sand savanna, here at Indiana Dunes National Park, and at other preserves that include Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

Nodding Wild Onion

In late July, pink blooms nodding wild onions are the highlight of Lockport Prairie.*

The drooping pink blossoms of nodding wild onion are just beginning to flower. The display is often quite dense at Lockport Prairie, but it depends on the year.*

Prairie & Marsh Blazing Star

Spears Woods’ finest show takes place in the August prairie, when blazing stars shoot toward the sky, leaving behind yellow flames of early goldenrod.*

In late July and early August, the spectacular purple blooms of marsh and prairie blazing star turns the prairie ablaze. They are the first of the blazing stars to flower in the summer, followed by cylindrical, savanna, and then rough blazing star. Both marsh and prairie blazing star can easily reach five feet tall The only way to differentiate them is to decipher this coded message from the Illinois Wildflowers website:, “Prairie blazingstar has floral bracts (phyllaries) that are strongly recurved, while the floral bracts of marsh blazingstar are appressed together and relatively smooth.” Huh? Even my magic decoder ring can’t decipher this message.
The flowers on these plants bloom from the top downward, which is helpful for photographers (and our scouts) to know if the flowers are coming or going. 
You can experience one or both of these magnificent plants in most of our prairies on our list of showcase preserves.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie is famous for its late July fanfare, when the fields ignite with white sparks of flowering spurge and purple torches of marsh blazing star.*

Gensburg-Markham Prairie is famous for its late July fanfare, when the fields ignite with white sparks of flowering spurge and purple torches of marsh blazing star. Right now, there aren’t nearly as many, but it’s still very nice.*

Canada Wild Rye

The plume of Canada wild rye covered drenched in morning dew at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

In the morning, this plume of Canada wild rye and all the plants of the prairie become drenched in morning dew. Wear your rain gear!

Big Bluestem Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake master

Rattlesnake master is a whimsical Chicago prairie flower that resembles Tinker Toys, or molecular structures, or something you might find in Arizona or Texas. The plant gets its name because some Native Americans brewed a tea from the root as an antidote for rattlesnake venom. To prevent bites, some chewed on the root, then spat on their hands before handling a rattlesnake. Of course, I’m interested to know if this really works. What’s more, the research may not even require a flight to the desert. That’s because, believe it or not, the rare and endangered eastern massasauga rattlesnake lives right here in the Chicago area. So, if you perform the experiment, please get back to me with the results, either you or next of kin. To experience rattlesnake master, visit Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next few weeks.*

Culver’s Root

Culver's root blooms en masse at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

Culver’s root is blooming en masse at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester and at other prairies across the Chicago area.*

Mountain Mint 

Mountain mint and prairie blazing star flower in the July prairie at Spears Woods in Willow Springs.*

Inhale the invigorating white flowers of mountain mint that grow here at Spears Woods and at many other preserves on our list.*

American Lotus at Tomahawk Slough

American Lotus at Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois

American Lotus at Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs.

Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois teeming with American lotus.

Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs teems with the grand American Lotus. You an reach the wetland by first parking at the far end of Pulaski Woods parking lot and then walking a short distance along the trails.

Compass Plant

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

The golden flowers of compass plant beginning to blooming atop a stalk that reaches for the sky.*

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plant at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville.*

Compass Plant, Prairie Dock, and the Glorious Green Glow

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

Light shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts their shadows.*

Green glow describes leaves that glow a bright green from sunlight shining through them. Here, we see a special kind of green glow that results in a shadow play, as sunlight shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts its distinctive silhouette.*

Gensburg-Markham Prairie

The summer sun goes down on wild quinine and marsh phlox as nonstop tollway traffic rolls past its eastern border. Each hour of each day, people drive by, unaware of the natural treasures they’d discover by taking the West 159th Street exit.*

The summer sun goes down on wild quinine and marsh phlox  as nonstop tollway traffic rolls past the eastern border of Gensburg-Markham Prairie. Each hour of each day, people drive by, unaware of the natural treasures they’d discover by taking the West 159th Street exit.*

Wolf Road Prairie

The July prairie explodes with diversity here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

This image is fairly representative of what you’ll see, right now, at Wolf Road Prairie: wild bergamot, wild quinine, rattlesnake master, rosinweed, Culver’s root, and prairie blazing star, and early goldenrod.*

On this mysterious summer morning at Wolf Road Prairie, white spikes of Culver’s root extend into the outer reaches and, like a dream, disappear into the fog.

On this mysterious summer morning at Wolf Road Prairie, white spikes of Culver’s root extend into the outer reaches and, like a dream, disappear into the fog.

Bluff Spring Fen

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen.*

Blazing star blooms at the seep of the fen at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Marsh blazing star blooms at the seep of the fen at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

In August, cylindircal blazingstar covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Cylindrical blazing star is now blooming on the big kame and northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Somme Prairie Grove

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflower surrounds this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

Here, at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois , we see the large, deeply lobed leaf of compass plant among a sea of purple prairie clover.*

Here at Somme Prairie Grove we see the deeply lobed leaves of compass plant splash above a sea of purple prairie clover.*

Spears Woods

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed. You can also experience this towering plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Somme Prairie Grove,, and other woodland habitats.*

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/06/2020

Posted by on 10:23 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Wildflower Report & COVID-19 Nature Outings – 08/06/2020

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 6, 2020

Weekly Wildflower Report

“Chicago’s Best Nature Outings, Outdoor Adventures,
Wildflower Walks, Nature Hikes, & Weekend Getaways!”

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!


During the COVID-19 pandemic,
we’re working hard to bring you opportunities to find peace!

PLEASE DONATE TO HELP US CONTINUE OUR MISSION.


WE NEED MORE SCOUTS!
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING.


PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED OUTDOOR ACTIVITY:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence. Behave as you would in any house of worship:

  • No foraging. And don’t pick flowers or plants or remove anything from a preserve.
    • Our preserves are small and rare. That’s why Chicago has grocery stores and flower shops.
    • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
  • Stay on the trails.
  • Walk, don’t run.
    • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
  • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
  • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would I do this in a house of worship?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • WEAR A MASK to protect others. Act as if you are infected because you very well could be.
    • Respect Science: Science doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Nature: Nature does what it’s programmed to do. It responds to provocation and, like science, doesn’t care what you think or do.
    • Respect Each Other: People DO care about what you do, especially when it affects them. If you don’t respect others, they won’t respect you.
  • WATCH YOUR DISTANCE by giving each other at least TEN feet of space because a breeze can carry the virus.
    • Don’t obstruct people’s progress by blocking trails or gathering around trailheads or intersections.
    • When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.

WE NEED SCOUTS, ESPECIALLY IF YOU LIVE SOUTH.
CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT VOLUNTEERING!

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR GETAWAY:

 

We’re experiencing another dramatic week of blooming in our prairies, savannas, woodlands, and wetlands. The summer is exploding with gold, purple, lavender, and white. Our Plant of the Week is woodland sunflower which you can find at many savannas across the region. The best is at Somme Prairie Grove, where you can find the yellow sunflower is exploding in the woodland with tons of sweet Joe-Pye weed in the background.  You can also find all kinds of goldenrod over there.  Last week’s floral stars, prairie blazing star and marsh blazing star, are beginning to fade in some places. When flowering in great numbers, the experience is the highlight of the summer season. Spears Woods is usually the best place to find them in great densities, though it varies from year to year.  While last year it had the best show, this year you barely find any blazing star over there.  That’s nature for you.  But hey, there is always something new that comes up after others pass by.  Cylindrical blazing star is now blooming, It maybe a little early. This plant has the deepest root of any prairie plant.  Experience it now at Bluff Spring Fen.

Our famous pioneer species, wild bergamot and yellow coneflower, are reaching the end of their fragrant run.  You can see them blooming almost everywhere at this time of year, even along the road. Experience good displays of both flowers at Somme Prairie Grove and Bluff Spring Fen.  Big bluestem is starting to bloom, but their tiny flowers are easy to miss when more conspicuous flowers attract our attention. Look for this iconic prairie grass at most, if not every, prairie on our list. And finally, the dramatic aquatic American lotus should still be flowering. The pale yellow blossoms resemble those of a water lily, but they’re much larger—up to eight inches wide atop stems that can reach six feet high. And that isn’t all. The circular leaf is gorgeous and enormous, up to two and a half feet in diameter! See the Picture Section below for images of American lotus (and where to find it) along with the many flowers featured in this report.

 

TIP: I recommend visiting grasslands at the beginning or the end of the day when it’s much cooler and the sunlight is beautiful. Prairies are treeless expanses with no escape from the sun. It’s a challenge to appreciate the prairie in the blinding light of ninety-degree afternoon.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SUMMER WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

Before visiting a preserve, visit the website for the landholder first. Click here for some resources.

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

 

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (8/4+): This preserve still tops our list because of the many plant species that provide a vibrant mix of color. The major new bloom is the spectacular legions of bright and happy woodland sunflowers and the fluffy mauve blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.  The two supplement each other very well under the trees.  You can also find many smooth ironweed in the woodland.  The whimsical Tinker-Toy blooms of rattlesnake master are coming to an end, but many kinds of goldenrod are coming up nicely and all over the open savanna area.  Under the sun, you can still find many mountain mint, wild quinine, flowering spurge, compass plantyellow coneflower, wild bergamot, prairie blazing star, brown-eyed Susan, nodding wild onion, blue vervain, flowering big bluestem grass , and the gorgeous emerald mop hairdos of prairie dropseed.  And keep an eye out for the iconic bottlebrush grass.

NOTE: I suggest donning rainwear to avoid getting drenched in morning dew.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (8/1+): There is so much beauty this week! Still more than twenty flower species are blooming across the preserve, which is why it is the top of this week’s “Go!” list. As you enter the preserve, you’ll find yourself protected within the embrace of majestic oaks in the savanna. Quickly, you’ll see the fluffy, tall sweet Joe-Pye weed, pale Indian plantain, bottlebrush grass, starry campion, and some remaining American bellflower. The stand of sweet Joe-Pye weed upon the kame is absolutely stunning. At the troll bridge, where friendly trolls have helped to restore the adjacent wetland habitat, look to your right for a grand expanse of spotted Joe-Pye weed. Continuing under the protection of oaks, take the narrow out-and-back trail on your left to the top of the large kame. On your way up, look for a whimsical display of sprawling and whimsical bottlebrush grass. Once at the gravelly peak, you’ll experience a unique view of the preserve and the blooming cylindrical blazing starwild quinine, hoary vervain. As you pass the savanna, I recommend making a right turn into the open prairie and moving counter-clockwise around the preserve back to this spot. Along the counter-clockwise route, you’ll experience the wonderful bristled heads of Canada wild rye, which will soak you with dew in the mornings. You’ll also find a glorious “forest” of tall compass plant to the west. Take the trail at the “Y” to see them up close. Returning to the main trail, you’ll head east through a dense stand of big bluestem grass, which was giving off fragrant plumes of pollen as we passed through it.  The next dramatic display along your way happens at the main seep in the center of the bowl. (Turn left at the end of the “transplant kame,” and carefully traverse the narrow trail over the boardwalk. Soon, you’ll arrive at the main seep.) You should be able to find nice patches of pale Indian plantain mixed in with wild quinine, wild bergamot and yellow coneflower just outside the bowl.  In and around the alkaline water of the seep you’ll find the yellow blooms of shrubby cinquefoil. The plant looks like a low bush. As you continue to the north, there’s a narrow boardwalk that’s hard to see. Take care and continue up the brae of the “switchback” kame where you’ll see an beautiful display of cylindrical blazing star. This plant has the deepest root of any prairie plant. (See an illustration of root depth at the very bottom of this article.) On the kame, you’ll also notice a plant with white balls dotting the vertical stems. That’s rough blazing star which will start blooming in a couple of weeks. At the top of the kame, head west towards the savanna. Soon, you’ll reach an intersection that you’ll take to the left and across a small creek with stepping stones. Continue along, staying left when you reach the kame. You’ll come around the kame to your right and you’ll find yourself where you began your journey into the sun.

NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew.

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest: Due to the lack of volunteers, we did not scout this preserve, but nature tends to repeat itself pretty well, so we copied last year’s report (8/7/2019) here as a reference.  “Many dramatic plants are all blooming in large quantities. Our scout, Karen, counted twenty-one native plants in bloom! The most conspicuous and widespread are wild bergamot, cup plant, yellow coneflower, rattlesnake master, and rosinweed. Dramatic purples of prairie blazing star and ironweed add visual excitement. Skyward sawtooth sunflower and pale Indian plantain make an impression. And there’s much more to see: mountain mint, blue vervain, obedient plant, Culver’s root, prairie sundrop, nodding wild onion, and the gloriously red cardinal flower. In the wetter areas, you’ll find the gorgeous pink blooms of swamp milkweed, the bright pink blooms of spotted Joe-Pye weed, the spectacular purple spikes of pickerel weed, and the large pink blossoms of swamp rose mallow.”

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham: Due to the lack of volunteers, we did not scout this preserve, but nature tends to repeat itself pretty well, so we copied last year’s report (8/5/2019) here as a reference.  “Blooms of marsh blazing star are still looking good, while early goldenrod has reached peak color to add wonderful golden highlights to the dominant mixture of green and white. After entering the gate with the “dummy lock” (see preserve page for details), take the trail that goes to the left. You’re immediately greeted by yellow coneflower, nodding wild onion. some remaining wild bergamot, and a little bit of marsh phlox. After a few seconds, you’ll find a delicate display of prairie dock foliage mixed with prairie dropseed, yellow coneflower, and rattlesnake master. Soon following, you’ll discover stunning dense stands of rattlesnake master and wild quinine. As you hike around the preserve, you’ll see blooms of partridge pea, compass plant, along with a tall forest of the white-flowered pale Indian plantain located about fifty yards from the trail. The texture of the grasses look great. And the tassels of big bluestem are blooming. If you like to smell stuff. then this is the a good week for you.” 

NOTE: Under the summer sun, this prairie can feel hot and bright. For a more enjoyable time, visit in the morning or late-afternoon.

 

We need scouts, especially Southsiders!
Click here to learn about how you can help us share the beauty.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (8/1=): The floral color and diversity of the preserve is wonderful. Our directions for the preserve have you parking at the south end along 31st Street. From there, hike the sidewalk trails to the north. The preserve extends north for one-half mile, terminating at the newly renovated prairie house. The savanna is now putting on a performance of sweet Joe-Pye weed, woodland sunflower, and bottlebrush grass. In the open south prairie, you can still see purple torches of prairie blazing star rise beautifully above the alabaster tones of Culver’s root, rattlesnake master, wild quinine, and flowering spurge, and early goldenrod. The yellow coneflower and wild bergamot are mostly gone.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (8/3=): This is one of the most beautiful preserves in the region. And right now, most of the blooming is happening in the woodlands where feathery mauve blossoms of sweet Joe-Pye weed (our Plant of the Week) loom alongside golden rays of woodland sunflower, blue American bellflower, and the gorgeous bottlebrush grass. Adding to the bloom in the open Savanna area is flowering spurge.  Halfway between the eastern prairie trailhead and the shore of Hogwash Slough, there’s a beautiful view of Hogwash Slough and the colony of American lotus. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to see the lotus through the sedges and cattails that tower above the shoreline. Normally, the prairies teem with prairie blazing star to the point that it stuns the senses, but there are rarely any this year. Nature is mysterious, which is why we need to scout these preserves for every report. Consider giving your financial support to help you find peace during this trying time.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (7/23=): Help us scout this jewel of a preserve. You’ll find the floating white blooms of flowering spurge across the preserve, and maybe some other species.
NOTE: Trust me when I tell you to GO EARLY IN THE DAY to avoid the noisy beachgoers and COVID-19 spreaders without masks. Also, the trail that extends along the Dead River may be covered with water and prohibit your journey. Consider bringing along some high boots if you intend to hike that section.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Unscouted. Last scouted on 7/11): This is the usual time to see some potentially dramatic displays of partridge pea and flowering spurge. We need help scouting the southern preserves. Consider joining our elite group of volunteer scouts.

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: WOODLAND SUNFLOWER

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.

 

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

American Bellflower

Sweet Joe-Pye weed, American bellflower, and woodland sunflower put on a show in the woodland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

The beautiful blue American bellflower blooms alongside sweet Joe-Pye weed and woodland sunflower, here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook and other local woodlands.*

Cylindrical Blazing Star

In August, cylindrical Blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

Cylindrical blazing star blooms in the sand savanna, here at Indiana Dunes National Park, and at other preserves that include Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

Nodding Wild Onion

In late July, pink blooms nodding wild onions are the highlight of Lockport Prairie.*

The drooping pink blossoms of nodding wild onion are just beginning to flower. The display is often quite dense at Lockport Prairie, but it depends on the year.*

 

Prairie & Marsh Blazing Star

Spears Woods’ finest show takes place in the August prairie, when blazing stars shoot toward the sky, leaving behind yellow flames of early goldenrod.*

In late July and early August, the spectacular purple blooms of marsh and prairie blazing star turns the prairie ablaze. They are the first of the blazing stars to flower in the summer, followed by cylindrical, savanna, and then rough blazing star. Both marsh and prairie blazing star can easily reach five feet tall The only way to differentiate them is to decipher this coded message from the Illinois Wildflowers website:, “Prairie blazingstar has floral bracts (phyllaries) that are strongly recurved, while the floral bracts of marsh blazingstar are appressed together and relatively smooth.” Huh? Even my magic decoder ring can’t decipher this message.
The flowers on these plants bloom from the top downward, which is helpful for photographers (and our scouts) to know if the flowers are coming or going. 
You can experience one or both of these magnificent plants in most of our prairies on our list of showcase preserves.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie is famous for its late July fanfare, when the fields ignite with white sparks of flowering spurge and purple torches of marsh blazing star.*