Navigation Menu

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
June 28, 2018

“Plan your Chicago nature adventure with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

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

 

Here’s what’s happening in Chicago nature:

Last week’s top 3 preserves still have very good blooms at Belmont PrairieBluff Spring Fenand Somme Prairie Grove.  Actually throughout the summer, these places have non-stop shows of different wildflowers and plants.  Pale purple coneflower may have just passed the peak at these preserves but is still good for visit.  The show is turning to leadplant, prairie coreopsis, New Jersey tea, and all kinds of milkweeds.  Joining the top group for this week is Miller WoodsAccording to last year’s record, the precious sand savanna can be covered with New Jersey tea right before July 4th time frame.

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO NATURE TRIP THIS WEEKEND

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: If you followed our alert last week to visit this intimate remnant prairie that’s nestled within a quiet neighborhood of Downers Grove, I bet you were not disappointed.  It is really a good experience of the beautiful symphony of color and texture.  This week, the grand display of pale purple coneflower is still going on, but may have just passed peak.  The blue bloom of scurfy pea is still at peak, blended with New Jersey teablack-eyed Susan, and butterfly milkweed.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Foxglove beardtongue and large shows of pale purple coneflower should have passed the peak.  Taking the stage now should be leadplant in large coverage at the central prairie and kames.  You should be able to find large quantities of purplish common milkweed and patches of orange butterfly weed.  One of the kames at the center of the preserve should have some good quantity of yellow prairie coreopsis.

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.  Various milkweeds, purplish common milkweed, orange butterfly weed, and purple milkweed, have just started to bloom.  They will be awesome next week at this restored preserve.  They are good food sources for butterfly and bees, so you can find lots of them over here.  Other flowers that are also blooming here include leadplantprairie sundrop, foxglove beardtonguewhite wild indigo.  Many of the special species are not in large coverage, but it is really fun to find them in the preserve.

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 or next week, yellow prairie coreopsis may start to bloom in large coverage in the prairie.  Just outside the fence, there is good display of pale purple coneflower and black-eyed Susan on the slope.

Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) in Gary, Indiana was not scouted this week.  According to our record last year, this precious sand savanna should be covered with large quantities of white and tender New Jersey tea right before July 4th.  If it happens again this year as nature tends to repeat every year, it will be fantastic.

 

COMING SOON: PURPLE PRAIRIE CLOVER

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Somme Prairie Grove

It was a very dry year in Chicago, yet you wouldn’t know it from looking at this scene. The purple plant in this panorama is leadplant, which can search for water fifteen feet below the arid surface. Other drought-tolerant species seen here include prairie dropseed and wild quinine, in the front; and farther out, prairie dock, compass plant, and rattlesnake master.*

The purple plant in this panorama is leadplant, which can search for water fifteen feet below the arid surface. Other drought-tolerant species seen here include prairie dropseed and wild quinine, in the front; and farther out, prairie dock, compass plant, and rattlesnake master.*

 

Belmont Prairie

Belmont prairie is special because it is home to an unusually high number of blooming wildflowers and fascinating plant species. During the month of June, this remnant prairie puts on a most impressive floral display: the celebration of the pale purple coneflower.Mixed amongst the coneflowers, the bright-colored grasses crisscrossing the center of the frame are porcupine grass. Its long spear-like seeds miraculously drill themselves into the earth in a counter-clockwise motion that you can actually watch.*

Belmont prairie is special because it is home to an unusually high number of blooming wildflowers and fascinating plant species. During the month of June, this remnant prairie puts on a most impressive floral display: the celebration of the pale purple coneflower. Mixed amongst the coneflowers, the bright-colored grasses crisscrossing the center of the frame are porcupine grass. Its long spear-like seeds miraculously drill themselves into the earth in a counter-clockwise motion that you can actually watch.*

Miraculous Porcupine Grass and Its Spinning Seed!

Porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea, previously known as Stipa spartea, for anyone who cares) is a particularly fun and interesting plant because of its fascinating seed. The common name refers to its long needles, which apparently resemble the spines of a porcupine, though I think the needle-like fruit best resembles a six- to seven-inch spear. The seed head represents the blade, and the long shaft is known as the awn. As the javelin-shaped fruit falls from the plant, the heavy seed head leads the way and embeds its sharp tip into the soil. As the awn dries, it twirls counter-clockwise until the shaft becomes so tightly wound that the implanted seed head begins to drill into the ground. Humidity and moisture have the opposite effect on the awn, causing it to uncoil, allowing rain or heavy dew to straighten it out. As the awn unwinds, the seed is left in place. The drilling process resumes when the environment dries out, and the cycle repeats until the seed is deposited as far as three to four inches beneath the surface, where the awn decays and the grain germinates. Seeds of porcupine grass can’t help but drill, so much so that they’ve been known to cause fatal wounds in animals. Hence, trust me when I tell you that putting them in your pocket is a big mistake.

The seeds of porcupine grass are long sharp needles that fall off the plant and slowly drill themselves into the soil. See my video here.

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

 

Butterfly milkweed (or butterfly weed) blooms in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Butterfly milkweed (or butterfly weed) can bloom in several of Chicagoland’s prairies and savannas around this time, including Bluff Spring Fen, Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and, here, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

 

The Dead River, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, is the only remaining river in Illinois that flows into Lake Michigan. The name comes either from deep pools of quicksand hidden along the banks that devour unsuspecting hikers or from water that remains still and barely flows. On this sapphire morning, the latter was true.*

The Dead River, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, is the only remaining river in Illinois that flows into Lake Michigan. The name comes either from deep pools of quicksand hidden along the banks that devour unsuspecting hikers or from water that remains still and barely flows. On this sapphire morning, the latter was true.*

 

 

Pasture Rose at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve & Bluff Spring Fen

Pasture Rose in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve. The fragrance of pasture rose is transcendent—a spiritual experience. Over several weeks in late spring, it blooms barely inches from the ground. During that time, whenever we’re together, I partake in a sacred ritual. I drop to my knees and bow in reverence, nose to petal.*

The fragrance of pasture rose is transcendent—a spiritual experience. Over several weeks in late spring, it blooms barely inches from the ground. During that time, whenever we’re together, I partake in a sacred ritual. I drop to my knees and bow in reverence, nose to petal.*

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.*

 

Behold! Morning in a Chicagoland prairie. This fine June day awakens to a magnificent panorama of pale purple coneflower, leadplant, and stiff coreopsis.*

Behold! Morning in a Chicagoland prairie. This fine June day awakens to a magnificent panorama of pale purple coneflower, leadplant, and stiff coreopsis.*

 

 

At Bluff Spring Fen, in the golden light of morning, wild quinine, stiff coreopsis, and leadplant overlook the foggy fen from atop the reconstructed kame and the remnants of Healy Road Prairie which was miraculously transplanted here from six miles down the road.*

At Bluff Spring Fen, in the golden light of morning, wild quinine, stiff coreopsis, and leadplant overlook the foggy fen from atop the reconstructed kame and the remnants of Healy Road Prairie, which was miraculously transplanted here from six miles down the road.*

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

Atop this hill prairie, deep-rooted leadplants combine with the happy yellow faces of coreopsis as they shine through the dissipating fog.

Atop this hill prairie, deep-rooted leadplants combine with the happy yellow faces of coreopsis as they shine through the dissipating fog.*

 

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

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my  next report on Thursday, July 6 (in rough order of urgency):

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.

Do you find this website useful? Do you benefit from our many hours of weekly scouting? Then please help keep it going by donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book.

—Mike, Zeke

 

© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.