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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
May 31, 2018

“Plant the best Chicago outdoor getaways and nature walks with Chicago nature news and info that helps you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

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This week’s highlights to help you plan a Chicago outdoor adventure or nature walk this weekend:

The event of the week is taking place in the black oak savannas of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, specifically at Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach, where breathtaking displays of blue wild lupine interspersed with yellow hairy puccoon and it’s slightly more golden brother, hoary puccoon. (See my picture of the gorgeous savanna landscape (below) from Monday, Mary 28, along with an image of a mother deer and her fawn.) These oak savannas, and others, will continue to flower with various species into September because of their open, light-sharing canopies. However, the woodlands have dense canopies that only allow light to reach the ground through mid-May. This means that they have now reached the end of their floral displays. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go for a walk in the woods during the summer months. Just, don’t expect to see many flowers. Instead, head to the oak savannas and, of course, the prairies.

Speaking of oak savannas, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve is also offering wild lupine, yellow hairy puccoon, hoary puccoon, and downy phlox. And our northern-most prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, is a dream with its breathtaking display of white and pink shooting star! Alongside the shooting star, you’ll find the flavescent blooms of hoary puccoon, golden Alexander, wood betony, and yellow star grass. And Ohio spiderwort is blooming big at Fermilab Prairie . But, the flowers melt in the heat of day. So, you need to get there before noon or earlier to experience the flowers. See my story about spiderwort.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY OR NATURE WALK:

Miller Woods is possibly putting on the event of the week with its gorgeous display of wild lupine mixed in with great amounts hoary puccoon and hairy puccoon. While you’re there, make your way to see wonderful plants to Tolleston Dunes and West Beach. If you weren’t already convinced that Chicago offers national-park quality blooming events, this one that will forever change your mind.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion is putting on a nice show of wild lupine, hairy puccoon, hoary puccoon, and downy phlox. And, in about a week, the sand prairie should be overflowing with sand coreopsis.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin offers finest display of shooting stars in the region, though not as prolific as other years. Alongside the shooting stars, look for birdfoot violet, hoary puccoon, wood betony, yellow star grass , and wild lupine along the edges. While you’re visiting this preserve, it’s worth a trip to Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, which is getting ready to explode with wild lupine.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook offers nice displays of shooting stars and blue flag iris. Golden Alexanders are blooming under the trees.

Fermilab Prairie in Batavia has been fully burned, leaving the ground free of last year’s growth and now you can really see the flowers. Right now, come to see a wonderful blue display of Ohio spiderwort as it combines with incoming white wild indigo and the big leaves of prairie dock and compass plant.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates is rated as “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood,” with golden Alexander, fading hoary puccoon, and sparking downy phlox.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (near Kankakee) went UNSCOUTED. Please visit, and let us know what’s going on.

 

PHOTO SECTION

Wild Lupine (and other surprises) in Our Black Oak Savannas (Sand Savannas)

Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.*

On Monday, May 28, I awoke at three in the morning to get this picture. Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.

 

Mother white-tailed deer and her fawn at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.

At the end of my Monday morning photo session, a mother white-tailed deer and her fawn allowed me to capture their relationship. The fawn kept bounding around, carefree, as the mother stayed on alert. One frequent interaction was when the mother licked the fawn’s anal area and, potentially, eating any feces that would attract a predator to the odor. You’d think mom’s bad breath would then become at problem!

 

Biodiversity is about the many, not the few. Here, it’s springtime in the savanna, where blue lupines share precious space with hoary puccoon. But, as the season advances, both will fade, making room for an array of other species, in a cycle where each has its time in the sun and then returns to the soil.*

Biodiversity is about the many, not the few. Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, it’s springtime in the savanna, where blue lupines share precious space with hoary puccoon. This kind of display is still about a week away at this preserve.*

 

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

 

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner world of wild lupine.

Somme Prairie Grove

Golden Alexander brightens the oak savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.

This is a scene from last year, as golden Alexander brightens the oak savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

The purple flowers of American vetch dot the savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.

This is the scene from last year, as purple flowers of American vetch dot the open savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

A phalanx of bue flag iris towers over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois*

A phalanx of blue flag iris towers over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois*

Shooting Stars at Chiwaukee Prairie

Shooting stars

 

 

Springtime wildflowers bloom in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.*

Springtime wildflowers bloom in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Here, we can see shooting star, wood betony, hoary puccoon, and yellow star grass.*

Ohio Spiderwort

Ohio spiderwort in the morning light at Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Ohio spiderwort comes to life in the morning light, but soon fades to a liquid in the heat of the day. To see this remarkable plant in bloom, you must visit in the morning hours. If you show up late in the day, you’ll find buds with purple liquid inside. Read more about spiderwort by clicking here.

The Wonderfully Large Leaves of Compass Plant & Prairie Dock

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

Common Blue-eyed Grass

Common blue-eyed grass

Find this gorgeous flower in the prairies and savannas, like Chiwaukee Prairie, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Pembroke Savanna, Fermilab Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

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

 

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

 

© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.