Chicago Nature Now! Alert
Labor Day Edition
August 31, 2018
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This Labor Day weekend is fantastic for wildflowers! The flamboyant rough blazing star that is making its multi-week run at several prairies and oak savannas. And, in most prairies, you’ll find the towering sunflower blooms of sawtooth sunflower and the floating yellow blossoms of tall coreopsis. The goldenrods are also making their presence known. NOTE: The goldenrods do not and cannot cause allergies. The pollen is so heavy that it drops to the ground and, therefore, cannot float through air to be breathed in. Now is the also time to experience the quirky obedient plant. Its pivoting snapdragon flowers obediently stay put when you swivel them on their mysterious botanical hinges. In open woodlands, you’ll still find the feathery skyward blooms sweet Joe-Pye weed alongside the golden rays of woodland sunflower and brown-eyed Susan. The grasses are beautiful at this time of year, as big bluestem and Indian grass display their tasseled tops. These grasses can rise as high as eight feet into the air. And, finally, the sublime blues of bottle gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Powderhorn Prairie. Learn more about this plant in the Photo Section (below).
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:
Prairie dock, tall coreopsis, 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. The savanna is also rich with various blooms.
PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND
THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: The dramatic show of rough blazing star takes over the entire preserve, with the densest blooms happening in the sand prairie. Also blooming is stiff sunflower, western sunflower, large false foxglove, and showy goldenrod. The feathery blooming plumes of Indian grass are gorgeous, as well.
Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: The preserve flaming with gold and purple flowers. Tall goldenrod and sawtooth sunflower dominate the yellows while dense stands of rough blazing star provide the purple. Pearly white blooms of tall boneset can also be found on the kames.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: See the fantastic show of rough blazing star and obedient plant Also flowering is stiff sunflower. western sunflower, white goldenrod, and beautiful stands of Indian grass. Under the trees, you’ll also find a nice display of woodland sunflower. Note: Bluff Spring Fen is located nearby.
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: The pretty displays of rough blazing star makes this preserve worth the trip. You can find them atop the big kame (take the out-and-back trail) and on either side of the path of the “switchback” kame. 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 spotted Joe-Pye weed, swamp milkweed, and shrubby cinquefoil. Note: Shoe Factory Road Prairie is not far away.
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Visit the prairie for tall coreopsis and forests of sawtooth sunflower. Look around for the tallest sawtooth sunflower. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and rough blazing star.
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.
RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:
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. Tall tasseled 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.
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.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie
Lake in the Hills Fen
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Theodore Stone Preserve
Wolf Road Prairie
Rough Blazing Star
Large False Foxglove
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.