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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
July 12, 2018

“Plan a Chicago outdoor adventure with this Chicago wildflower report
filled with news and info to discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
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First, I’d like Jim Yassick as our newest Nature Scout. And though it’s not required, it doesn’t hurt that he’s an accomplished photographer. Please scout for us. We can really use the help, even if you only take pictures with your cell phone. Click here to learn more about being on our enthusiastic and supportive team of nature lovers. Nature newbies are welcome. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn in such a short time!

 

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

Purple prairie clover is the star of the week, stealing the show at Bluff Spring Fen,, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove. Its fresh scent is a blend of carrot and lemon—my favorite (nice) smell in Chicago nature. But it shares the stage with many newly flowering plants, including Culver’s root, rattlesnake master, rosinweed, compass plantrattlesnake master, and the fragrant yellow coneflower, wild bergamot, and mountain mint. Wolf Road Prairie looks spectacular. With so many different species in bloom, the preserve is giving a lesson in biodiversity. Gensburg-Markham Prairie is now covered with wild quinine. I’ve never seen so much. And, not far from there, visit Kickapoo Prairie for Tinker Toy rattlesnake master and the golden blooms of compass plant. This is also your last chance to experience a beautiful native plant that most people only associate with the desert: prickly pear cactus. 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 worth the trek.

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND 

 

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: Many flowers are blooming, including a sublime display on the north side of the savanna. There, you’ll be immersed in the purples of leadplant combined with the oranges of butterfly weed, the pearly whites of wild quininerattlesnake master, and mountain mint, the lavenders of wild bergamot, the golds of black-eyed Susan and compass plant, and a rich texture of jade foliage from the grand heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock and the stringy bob hairdo of prairie dropseed. In the southern half of the preserve, our star of the week, purple prairie clover, is blooming in dense populations alongside many other flowers that create a beautiful bouquet.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Visit this week to see the biodiversity of a prairie. There are so many different kinds of flowers, including the white blossoms of wild quininerattlesnake master, and Culver’s root, the golden bouquets of rosinweed, yellow coneflower, and compass plant, and the beautiful orange Michgan lily. And spiderwort is still blooming in the morning hours.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Purple prairie clover is blooming in profusion, replacing the shrivelling pale purple coneflower, leadplant, and prairie coreopsis. Staying with the hues of purple, you’ll find nice stands of common milkweed and swamp milkweed alongside 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 sparkles 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.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: This week, I rated the experience as “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood.” This tiny hill prairie is exhibiting two kinds of clover: purple prairie clover and, the less common, white prairie clover. But both are fading. The white flowers of wild quinine and rattlesnake master brighten the landscape, along with a handful of golden blooms atop towering compass plant.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham: Visit for the ivory landscape with much of the prairie immersed in wild quinine. Yes, there are other flowers blooming here, but you hardly notice them amidst the sea of white.

Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale: Grand displays of two flowers make this preserve worth attending: the latticework of rattlesnake master, with its white molecular-like flower heads, and the forest of compass plant and its golden blossoms.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: This is on this week’s “Go, if you’re in the neighbood” list because we were only able to scout it last week. This is a great preserve to visit with or without wildflowers, even though there are many to see. You should still find the final blooms spiderwort. And prickly pear cactus may still be flowering in the savanna and the sand prairie. There’s also a nice smattering of common milkweedbutterfly milkweed, and hairy puccoon under the oaks of the savanna. The fragrant pink and yellow pasture rose are almost gone, flowering just inches from the ground. I recommend dropping to your knees to smell its divine fragrance . (I do, at least once a day when we’re together.)

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.

COMING SOON: PRAIRIE & MARSH BLAZING STAR

 

PHOTO SECTION

Wolf Road Prairie

The July prairie explodes with diversity here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

This image was made later in July at Wolf Road Prairie, but every plant shown is currently blooming except for the tall purple spikes of prairie blazing star.*

 

 

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’s forming in the prairie at Bluff Spring Fen. Just as blooms of leadplant and coreopsis fade, purple prairie clover rises to take their place.*

 

 

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.*

 

Here, at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois , we see the large, deeply lobed leaf of compass plant among a sea of purple prairie clover.*

At Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois, compass plant stretches out its deeply lobed leaves in a sea of purple prairie clover.*

 

Gensburg-Markham Prairie

The summer sun goes down on wild quinine and marsh phlox as nonstop tollway traffic rolls past its eastern aorder. Each hour of each day, people drive by, unaware of the natural treasures they’d discover by taking the West 159th Street exit.*

The summer sun goes down on wild quinine and marsh phlox as nonstop tollway traffic rolls past its eastern aorder. Each hour of each day, people drive by, unaware of the natural treasures they’d discover by taking the West 159th Street exit.*

 

 

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.

 

A common snapping turle trudges through the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline on its way to the Dead River at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

At Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois, a common snapping turtle trudges through the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline on its way to the Dead River, about a thousand turtle steps away.*

 

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.*

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.*

 

Come to Bluff Spring Fen early on a July morning and you might experience a chromatic expanse of purple prairie clover.

Come to Bluff Spring Fen early on a July morning and you might experience a chromatic expanse of purple prairie clover.*

More Flagrantly Fragrant Flowers

“Lavender in color and mint in fragrance” describes wild bergamot. “Whimsical with an aroma of anise” describes yellow coneflower. Both are native to the prairie, and both are healers. Known as pioneer species, they are among the first plants to colonize disturbed or degraded areas. Their presence improves soil quality while allowing other plants to move in, leading to greater biodiversity.*

“Lavender in color and mint in fragrance” describes wild bergamot. “Whimsical with an aroma of anise” describes yellow coneflower. Both are native to the prairie, and both are healers. Known as pioneer species, they are among the first plants to colonize disturbed or degraded areas. Their presence improves soil quality while allowing other plants to move in, leading to greater biodiversity.*

Purple prairie clover and mountain mint steal the show in this area of Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

White-flowered mountain mint releases its refresh scent at Somme Prairie Grove and many other local preserves.*

 

Compass Plant

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

This bloom of compass plant reaches for the sky.*

 

Landscape of Compass Plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

A landscape of compass plant at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

 

 

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake master

Rattlesnake master is a wonderful Chicago prairie flower that looks like something you’d find in Arizona or Texas. To experience rattlesnake master, visit Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next few weeks.*

 

 

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.*

 

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.

 

* 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.

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