Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 6, 2018
“Plan the best Chicago nature walks 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. We’d love to hear about your adventures! You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.
This week is when blooms of asters emerge in our woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, a signal that autumn is near. The flamboyant rough blazing star is ending its multi-week run at several prairies and oak savannas. And, in most prairies, you’ll find the towering sunflower blooms of sawtooth sunflower alongside the floating yellow blossoms of tall coreopsis. And, of course, 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 inhaled. 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, prairie gentian, and fringed gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Bluff Spring Fen, Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Chiwaukee Prairie. Learn more about gentians 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:
Sawtooth sunflower rises above the prairie with skybound stalks. Tremendous shows are being held at Wolf Road Prairie and Spears Woods, but the flower can also be appreciated Belmont Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Springbrook Prairie. And finally, Somme Prairie Grove offers many flowers in bloom, including some of the gentians.
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 The pinkish blooms of native thistles are joined by fabulous purple expanses of rough blazing star on the kames and fringed gentian near the fens’ soggy seeps. Pearly white blooms of tall boneset can also be found on the kames. This preserve is easily accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths. Anytime I visit this vast preserve, I feel like I’ve gotten away from civilization.
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: A spectacular golden show of skybound sawtooth sunflower is now taking place. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and various blooms of aster.
Spears Woods in Willow Springs: Wow! The golden flowers are remarkable, with panoramas of sawtooth sunflower and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. (See Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates to the prairie trail head.). You also be welcomed by the tall, elegant big bluestem and Indian grass that provides tones of auburn and brown. And pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, most notably sawtooth sunflower and tall coreopsis. Along your way, you’ll find asters, like the sky blue aster, and the rare savanna blazing star. Look for the gentians, too: the gorgeous cream gentian, bottle gentian, and prairie gentian. As is common during the late-summer months, you’ll travel through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass. When the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are flavescent, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of blackening seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Check out the Somme Prairie Grove web page for how to access this preserve.
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.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: This was a “Go” last week. This week, many of the blooms have faded or disappeared. Still, you can find a decent display of rough blazing star and goldenrods. While you’re here, consider taking a hike in the large prairie beyond, where you’ll find expanses of tall grasses and sawtooth sunflower.
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.
Lake in the Hills Fen
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Wolf Road Prairie
Theodore Stone Preserve
Shoe Factory Road Prairie
Rough Blazing Star
Asters, Asters, Asters!
Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie
Large False Foxglove
Ferns & Canyon Tours
Sultry Summer Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough (That’s a mouthful!)
* 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.