Chicago Nature Now! Alert
June 21, 2018
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From April to September, there are non-stop shows at the best of Chicagoland nature preserves. If you have a chance to visit the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum at Chicago, in the permanent exhibition at the 2nd floor, you will find hundreds of years ago, Chicagoland was mostly covered by the beautiful prairie and woodland, which was mentioned in numerous books that were published hundreds of years ago. Now 99.9% of those beautiful lands were replaced by agricultural fields and cities. Many of the 0.1% that were left have been protected and restored by conscious volunteers and nature lovers so that we, our children, and our children’s children can see how beautiful Chicagoland nature looks like thousands of years ago. What we are trying to bring to you here is the weekly update on best places to visit from the good quality preserves. It does take some time and learning, and even luck, for someone to develop the connection with fine nature. I ensure you the journey is well worth it.
When visiting the preserves, please be conscious of all the precious and tender plants by staying on the trail. It took years of many volunteers’ effort to restore the area. We need to be respectful of their works and nature itself. Note that these good quality preserves are not like the typical parks. The trails are mostly narrow (most time just for one person to walk on) so that there is little human impact on the land. As you cannot avoid bugs outdoor in the tall grass in the summer, I recommend wearing long pant and socks or using insect repellent.
Here’s what’s happening in Chicago nature:
This week, the preserves with the best blooms are Belmont Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, and Somme Prairie Grove. The first two preserves offer impressive displays of pale purple coneflower among other fascinating blooms, while the latter has many plants in flowers. The miraculous species called spiderwort is still blooming, but you will only find them blooming in the morning. By the afternoon, the flowers will have melted into a purple liquid! Learn more here. The kooky grass of the week is porcupine grass. Its long needle-like seed drills itself into the soil at a speed that you can actually watch. See my blog post and video. And then there’s foxglove beardtongue. In fall, it’s seed smells exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit! See my video below. Now, read on to learn where to find these three miracles of Chicago nature.
Somme Prairie Grove has many flowers in bloom, including tuberous (or prairie) Indian plantain, purple milkweed, prairie sundrop, white wild indigo, butterfly weed, and more. Leadplant is just starting and, next week, will be putting on a spectacular show.
Spears Woods used to offer displays of foxglove beardtongue throughout the prairies in the past years. We did not get a chance to scout the area this week. Please let us know what you find if you visit by leaving comments at the bottom of the blog post.
PLAN YOUR CHICAGO NATURE TRIP THIS WEEKEND
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: Experience the beautiful symphony of color and texture, this week, at this intimate remnant prairie that’s nestled within a quiet neighborhood of Downers Grove. There is a grand display of pale purple coneflower, and supported by a cast of scurfy pea, butterfly milkweed, and porcupine grass. Spiderwort is fading fast, but can still be found flowering in the during the morning hours. However, as the day warms, the flowers shrivel and turn to liquid.
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Your walk begins in the intimate oak savanna under the warm embrace and protection of majestic oaks. Soon, the trails emerge into the open prairie, where you’ll find foxglove beardtongue and large shows of pale purple coneflower. Porcupine grass can also be found here, as well as the milkweeds of orange butterfly weed and purplish common milkweed. As you walk deeper into the preserve, notice the grand emergence of leadplant on the southeast kame and possibly prairie coreopsis on the northeast kame. Next week, they will be fabulous!
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There are so many different species of colorful flowers in bloom, right now. It’s like taking a fun course in biology. One of my favorite prairie plants is tuberous (or prairie) Indian plantain, which you can find soon after walking in. Along the way, you’ll also find another lovely plant—the yellow prairie sundrop. Foxglove beardtongue can be found, especially in the northwest corner of the preserve. On your way there, you’ll see a smattering of other blooming flowers, like white wild indigo. Then, there’s leadplant, which is getting ready to bloom. There are many other special species in bloom. To name a few: meadow parsnip, thicket parsley, Downy phlox, Pale Spike Lobelia, Veined Pea, Gray dogwood. Most of of the species are not in large coverage, but it is really fun to find them in the preserve.
Spears Woods in Willow Springs was not scouted this week. Foxglove beardtongue used to bloom across the prairies around this time. While you’re there, don’t forget to find your way to Hogwash Slough. Click here to visit the Spears Woods page to find the GPS coordinates for the prairie and the slough.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie is a nice place to visit, this week, if you’re in the neighborhood, which happens to be pretty close to Bluff Spring Fen. This week, there is not much going on within the preserve, but just outside the fence, there is good display of pale purple coneflower and spiderwort on the slope, leadplant and black-eyed Susan will join the show pretty soon.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Leadplant, Prairie Coreopsis, different kinds of Milkweeds
Pale Purple Coneflower & Foxglove Beardtongue
Watch this video from about this time a few years ago at Bluff Spring Fen:
Miraculous Spiderwort with Flowers that Melt!
Miraculous Porcupine Grass and Its Spinning Seed!
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Pasture Rose at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve & Bluff Spring Fen
Bluff Spring Fen
* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.
SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, June 28 (in rough order of urgency):
- Bluff Spring Fen: Status of leadplant, prairie coreopsis, pale purple coneflowers, milkweed, foxglove beardtongue, etc.
- Shoe Factory Road Prairie: Status of prairie coreopsis and leadplant. This should be fantastic.
- Somme Prairie Grove: Status of butterfly milkweed, purple milkweed, leadplant and other blooms. This is going to be great.
- Illinois Beach Nature Preserve: Status of butterfly milkweed, etc.
- Belmont Prairie: Status of pale purple coneflower, scurfy pea, and butterfly weed
- Miller Woods: Status of hoary puccoon, phlox, and any other flowers that are coming in.
- Fermilab Prairie: General status.
- Wolf Road Prairie: General status.
- Middlefork Savanna: General status.
If you’d like to help your neighbors discover national-park quality natural events around our homes, then become an official scout. Or, you can help by just sending us pictures and a text description from your visit. Another way is to post your pictures to Instagram using these essential hashtags: #ChicagoNatureNow and #NameOfPreserve.
© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.