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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
July 6, 2018

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

 

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Here’s are some of the highlights of what’s happening in Chicago nature:

Before I begin, thanks to Zeke for taking over the reins for the past two weeks while I was visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. Except for the tundra, the wildflowers pale in comparison to what we have in Chicago. The tundra display with miles of rugged, diminutive wildflowers was wonderful, especially amidst the backdrop of the mountains. But, the rest of the park did not offer the density of wildflowers that I’ve grown used to at home.

ChicagoNatureNOW! is about alerting people to “national park quality blooming events” that are happening around the region. However, in most national parks, which are located in the mountains of the west, wildflowers are mainly found after the snow has melted in June and only last into August. Here, flowers explode in great quantities from mid-April through the beginning of September. Our prairies and savannas put on floral shows all summer long. Each week or two, a performance will end just in time for a fresh cast of colorful actors to take the stage to begin a brand new show. Sometimes there will be a short lull or quiet transition between shows, but it’s still usually pretty great.

Many of our preserves are currently in this kind of transition, moving from late-June flowers, like leadplant and prairie coreopsis,,to the early-July blossoms that include purple prairie cloverCulver’s root, wild bergamot, prickly pear cactus, yellow coneflower, rosinweed, and rattlesnake master. But it is also your moment to see a beautiful native plant that most people only associate with dry desert climates: eastern prickly pear cactus. Yes, Chicago has a cactus, and you can find its transcendent yellow blossoms at several sandy preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature PreserveMiller WoodsPowderhorn Marsh  & Prairie, and Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve. It’s definitely worth the trek.

As I mentioned, you’ll find cactus at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve along with many other flowers. Somme Prairie Grove is showing off a nice late display of purple leadplant and orange butterfly weed on the knobs in the northeast corner of the savanna. And you’ll find many other species flowering throughout your hike. And the fresh-scented blooms of purple prairie clover is just starting at the relatively approximate preserves of Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Bluff Spring Fen. Purple prairie clover is my favorite (nice) smell of any Chicago flower. (Remember, I love the uncanny (bad) vomit smell of the seed of foxglove beardtongue). Learn more about the smell in the Photo Section below.

 

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO NATURE TRIP THIS WEEKEND 

 

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: Leadplant is about to explode in the northeast corner of the open savanna. It’s a glorious bouquet when mixed with butterfly weed , wild quinine, rattlesnake master, and the grand heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock. Along your hike, you’ll find many other species, as well, including common milkweed and purple milkweed. And, along the western trails, look for the forthcoming purple prairie clover. Even if it’s not flowering, you can still smell its scent by putting your nose against gray oval inflorescence (flower head).

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: This is a perfect place to find blooming prickly pear cactus in the savanna and the sand prairie. There’s also a nice smattering of common milkweedbutterfly milkweed, and hairy puccoon under the canopy of the black oak savanna. Fragrant pink and yellow pasture rose grows just inches from the ground. I highly recommend dropping to your knees to smell its divine fragrance . (I do, at least once a day when we’re together.) This is a great preserve to visit with or without wildflowers.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: This tiny hill prairie is exhibiting two kinds of clover: purple prairie clover and, the less common, white prairie clover. You’ll also see fading blooms of June’s leadplant and prairie coreopsis. And the white flowers of wild quinine and rattlesnake master brighten the landscape. The purple prairie clover looks good now and will probably peak next weekend.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: “Go if you’re in the neighborhood.” As blooms of pale purple coneflower and prairie coreopsis fade, a new show is beginning with the appearance of purple prairie clover blooming throughout the preserve’s prairie. Staying with the hues of purple, you’ll find nice stands of common milkweed and swamp milkweed, along with splashes of orange butterfly milkweed. New gold flowers are popping up, like rosinweed, yellow coneflower., black-eyed Susan, and the towering stalks of compass plant. You’ll also see splashes of white atop waist-high blooms of flat-topped wild quinine. And don’t forget to kneel to catch the fragrance of pasture rose found at the northeast kame. Next weekend, the clover will be at peak.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: Ranked as “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood.” This intimate remnant prairie that’s nestled within a quiet neighborhood of Downers Grove, You’ll find orange butterfly milkweed, and the golden flowers of compass plant, yellow coneflower, and rosinweed.

Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) in Gary, Indiana: We’ve assessed the preserve to be “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood.”  There are large quantities of ivory New Jersey tea and many other flowers. You may even find some prickly pear cactus as you hike towards the beach.

 

COMING SOON: MORE 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.*

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.*

 

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus at Sandy Preserves Around the Region

Eastern prickly pear cactus blooms in late June in sandy preserves around the Chicago area.*

Blooms of eastern prickly pear cactus can be found in late June in sandy preserves around the Chicago area, like Illinois Beach Nature PreserveMiller WoodsPowderhorn Marsh  & Prairie, and Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve.*

Purple Prairie Clover and It’s Remarkably Fresh Scent (see caption for details)

A bee flies over to purple prairie clover at Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve in Elgin, Illinois.*

This flower emanates my favorite (nice) smell in Chicago nature with the fresh scent of carrots and lemon. Here, a bee flies over to purple prairie clover at Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve in Elgin, Illinois.*

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. 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. You can find this flower at preserves like Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and Bluff Spring Fen.*

Miraculous Spiderwort, with Flowers that Melt, are Still Blooming!

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

Spiderwort in the morning light at Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove and at every savanna and prairie that we feature. A flower will open up in the morning and then melt in just a few hours. So, the morning is the time to see the flowers in bloom. Learn more here.

 

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.*

 

There’s hardly a dull moment in Bluff Spring Fen’s prairie. Just as blooms of leadplant and coreopsis fade, purple prairie clover rises to take their place.*

This is a view that is beginning to form at Bluff Spring Fen. There’s hardly a dull moment in Bluff Spring Fen’s prairie. Just as blooms of leadplant and coreopsis fade, purple prairie clover rises to take their place.*

 

* 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.

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

 

© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.