Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 23, 2018
“Plan the best Chicago outdoor adventure with this Chicago nature report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”
Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!
Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.
Before I begin, I suggest that you visit Wolf Road Prairie between 10 and 4 on Saturday, August 25 for their Annual Prairie Fest. And maybe I’ll see you there! Visit the newly renovated prairie house, and take part in activities that will interest the entire family. And, best of all, take a guided tour through the prairie sparkling with gold! Click here for their website or visit their Facebook page.
The flower of the moment is the flamboyant rough blazing star that is beginning its spectacular three-week run. And you can still experience its much smaller cousin, the low-lying button blooms of cylindrical blazingstar, which has the deepest root of any prairie plant. (See how deep it goes in the illustration near the bottom of the post.) Now is the time to experience the quirky obedient plant that has pivoting snapdragon flowers that obediently stay put when you swivel it on its mysterious botanical hinge. Very cool! In many prairies, the towering golden blooms of prairie dock can be found. They’ll make you feel small and take your breath away. In open woodlands, you’ll still find the feathery skyward blooms sweet Joe-Pye weed and golden rays of woodland sunflower. And big bluestem and Indian grass are in full flower, but you’ll have to look closely at their top tassels. And then there are the goldenrods alongside the tallest plant in the prairie, sawtooth sunflower. It can easily tower twelve feet into the air. And you thought compass plant and prairie dock were tall!
NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.
Here’s are some of the highlights of what’s happening in Chicago nature:
This is another wonderful week for Chicago’s wildflowers. Visit Wolf Road Prairie for the Annual Prairie Fest on Saturday, August 25 and take a guided tour to experience prairie dock, tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and various goldenrods. Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Bluff Spring Fen are bursting with rough blazing star and cylindrical blazingstar. Lake in the Hills Fen is also showing off its golden bling along with the royal rough blazing star, which is having a better than normal year at this preserve. You can also find this beautiful plant in great numbers at Shoe Factory Road Prairie Bluff Spring Fen, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Pembroke Savanna. Prairie dock, compass plant, and sawtooth sunflower are festooned with golden sunflowers upon skybound stalks. They can be seen at many preserves across the region, including Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Springbrook Prairie. And, finally, the woodland of Somme Prairie Grove is wild with sweet Joe-Pye weed, woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, and tall ironweed.
PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND
THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Come for their Annual Prairie Fest on Saturday, August 25 between 10 and 4 And take a guided through the golden prairie where you’ll find tall coreopsis and forests of prairie dock prairie dock and sawtooth sunflower. Look around for the tallest prairie dock plant. I found at nine-footer! Then search for the tallest sawtooth sunflower. There are definitely some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and rough blazing star. And, in the oak savanna, you’ll see woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: The woodland surrounding the preserve is gorgeous, featuring a grand display of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, tall ironweed, and sweet Joe-Pye weed. Under the sun. peruse the panoply of prairie plants, including goldenrods, obedient plant, rough blazing star, round-headed bush clover, the lovely cream gentian, prairie dock, flowering spurge, and prairie dropseed. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are turning yellow, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of brown seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: See the fantastic show of rough blazing star and obedient plant that bloom alongside the remaining purple blossoms of cylindrical blazingstar. Also, present are western sunflower, flowering spurge, and nodding wild onion. Under the trees, you’ll also find a dense display of woodland sunflower. Note: Bluff Spring Fen is located nearby.
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: The flowers of cylindrical blazing star and the fresh prominent blooms rough blazing star are putting on a glorious display atop the big kame (take the out-and-back trail) and on either side of the path of the “switchback” kame. Also in the purple mix is the rarely seen white goldenrod. It looks nothing like a goldenrod and almost exactly like an aster, which is why it was once part of the aster family. This is why science is so great. If they get it wrong, they fix it. They don’t continue the myth. Under the oak canopy, you’ll find towering sweet Joe-Pye weed and the aptly named bottlebrush grass. Located at the moist base of the opening kames, golden sunflowers grow atop tall stalks of cutleaf coneflower, cup plant, tall coreopsis, and wingstem. Other sun-loving flowers of mention are flowering spurge, spotted Joe-Pye weed, swamp milkweed, compass plant, and shrubby cinquefoil. Note: Shoe Factory Road Prairie is not far away.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: Rough blazing star is beginning to flower, which will keep this preserve on our list for weeks to come. There’s also a sparkling show of flowering spurge in the savanna, along with large false foxglove and western sunflower.
Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: Purple rough blazing star is blooming in a mix of beautiful field goldenrod, western sunflower, and the understated round-headed bush clover The landscape is also dotted with thinning white blooms flowering spurge.
Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: Gold, purple, and white is the theme. Goldenrods and prairie dock highlight this vast landscape with their gilded blossoms. Blooms of amethyst arise from spotted Joe-Pye weed and emerging rough blazing star, which is quickly stealing the show. And pearly white blooms of tall boneset on the kames and flat-topped aster in the wetter areas add sparkle to the landscape.
RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: Rough blazing star is blooming. And, you’ll also find the rare and sublime cream gentian alongside prairie dock, tall coreopsis, compass plant, flowering spurge, and pasture thistle.
Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The main show is taking place in the small patch of dolomite prairie on the eastern half of the preserve where rough blazing star, little bluestem, and white goldenrod bloom most delicately. Yes, you read it correctly. white goldenrod. It looks like a white aster and can be found at other preserves, like Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen. Blooming tassels of Indian grass and big bluestem dominate the eastern half of the preserve, alongside switch grass, Canada wild rye, and prairie dropseed. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.
Spears Woods in Willow Springs: Visit for the woodland of fluffy sweet Joe-Pye weed and woodland sunflower that surround Hogwash Slough, my favorite Chicago wetland. And check out Boomerang Slough for swamp rose mallow along the bank. A hike through the prairie will provide you with a diverse display of wildflowers, including ironweed, prairie dock, tall coreopsis, flowering spurge, compass plant, and early goldenrod. Note: Theodore Stone Preserve is only a few miles away.
Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau Canyon, Pilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.
Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail, Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.
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.
Wolf Road Prairie
Bluff Spring Fen
Shoe Factory Road Prairie
Somme Prairie Grove
Lake in the Hills Fen
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Theodore Stone Preserve
Rough Blazing Star
Large False Foxglove
Big Bluestem Grass
Prairie Dock & Compass Plant
Swamp Rose Mallow
Ferns & Canyon Tours
Sultry Summer Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough (That’s a mouthful!)
Prairie Root System
* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.
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.