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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
May 11, 2018

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

 

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

WOODLAND HIGHLIGHTS:

The Virginia bluebell is still the star of the week, but it now shares the spotlight with large-flowered trillium, wild geranium, and woodland phlox

The best springtime woodlands in our region reside to the south and west, which are featured on this website. But there’s are several nice woodlands to the north, as well. The blooming in the southern preserves usually run about a week ahead of those in the north. So, northern woodlands should still have flowers blooming that have already faded in the south.

Want to learn about local nature? Then scouting is for you!
Find out about volunteering as a scout by clicking here. 

The delicate ephemerals that normally bloom in April, like cut-leaved toothwort, rue anemonefalse rue anemone, spring beauty, spring cress, Dutchman’s britches, trout lily, and bloodroot, may still be found in preserves to the north. However, in the south, rue anemone and false rue anemone are the only species in this group that are blooming in any meaningful way. Red trillium is flowering in most preserves in the region. Bright jade foliage is also adding wonderful patterns and textures to the floral color. Umbrella-like leaves of mayapple are now up, along with spears of wild leek, the sprawling leaves of skunk cabbage, and the hearts of wild ginger. Look under the heart and you may find a maroon flower. And look under the mayapple‘s parasol for a large, waxy white flower. Again, the star-of-the-moment is still the Virginia bluebell, but it it won’t be around next week. So, go see the show, now, at O’Hara Woods Preserve, Messenger Woods, and Pilcher Park.

A new, flamboyant star on this week’s stage is the white, large-flowered trillium. It can be found in large amounts at Fermilab Prairie woodlandMessenger Woods, and at the Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In the north, you can experience this flower at Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, and Harms Woods in Glenview. Wild geranium and woodland phlox are also putting on shows at all of our showcased woodlands (below) and, quite possibly, at Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve in Darien. And the yellow blooms of large-flowered bellwort can be found in several large patches at Fermilab Prairie woodland in Batavia.

This is also a good time to notice the long emerald spears of wild leek, the plant that gives Chicago its name. In the late 1600s, Potawatomi Indians who traveled the area rivers were commonly heard to yell “Chicagoua!” after catching a strong whiff of chicagoua, or wild leek, growing prolifically along the wooded banks. Wild leek is part of the onion family, hence the Chicago nickname, “The Big Onion.”

PRAIRIE & OAK SAVANNA HIGHLIGHTS:

Look for the yellow blooms of wood betony, hoary puccoon, and golden Alexander. Experience the blues with birdfoot violet and blue-eyed grass. And watch for white and pink shooting star. All of these flowers can be seen, right now, at Shoe Factory Road PrairieBluff Spring Fen and Somme Prairie Grove also feature several of these flowers. Pembroke Savanna has gone unscouted because of its lack of propinquity. I suspect that birdfoot violet is bloom, possibly alongside sand phlox. If you visit, please let us know and take a few pictures for us to see.

 

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

WOODLANDS:

O’Hara Woods Preserve in Romeoville is my favorite place to experience Virginia bluebells, and this weekend will be peak bloom. The brilliant green leaves of skunk cabbage, mayapple, wild ginger, and wild leek (Chicago’s namesake) mix beautifully with the blooming flowers of other plants. Virginia bluebells

Messenger Woods in Homer Glen is another wonderful place to experience a vast sea of Virginia bluebells, as well as a wide array of other spring ephemerals. With its verdant carpet of foliage, this woodland exudes that fresh feeling of spring.

Pilcher Park in Joliet is a great spot for Virginia bluebells. They can be found along the banks of the meandering creek that cuts through the preserve. Begin your hike at the nature center, and you’ll be surrounded by a lush understory of spring wildflowers of many kinds. It is also the happy home of skunk cabbage. Look in the low, wet areas for their enormous leaves.

Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee offers great biodiversity with dense displays of spring flowers, including conspicuous displays of wild geranium and woodland phloxVirginia bluebells are fading and red trillium can be found everywhere. Lush, green leaves of wild leek and skunk cabbage add texture to the woodland floor, along with carpeted displays of mayapple and wild ginger, which are currently flowering. But you have to look under the leaf to see their bloom.  skunk cabbageSolomon’s seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and many other flowers can also be found at this quiet preserve to the south.

Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia: take a nature walk, this weekend, through this beautiful woodland next to the prairie to find grand displays of large-flowered trilliumlarge-flowered bellwort, and red trillium. Look for wild geranium, mayapplewild ginger, and more.

Black Partridge Woods in Lemont: This intimate preserve will steal your heart. Its bubbling, sparkling stream is the most beautiful in the region and the bluffs add another dimension to the fairy-tale feel. You’ll find many spring flowers and plants, including wild geranium, woodland phlox, skunk cabbage, wild leek, blooming mayapple and wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and shooting star. Accenting the emerald understory are the sparkling white flowers of rue anemone and false rue anemone. And there are also some fading patches of Virginia bluebells.

 

PRAIRIES:

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: A fine display of shooting star covers the northern face of the northeast kame. Then, walk east along the trail to find a beautiful patch of blue-eyed grass. The yellows of wood betony and golden Alexander are also flowering in the open prairie. Mayapple and skunk cabbage can be found in and around the canopy of the oak savanna. And, believe it or not, marsh marigold is still blooming in the soggy areas.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: This small hill prairie has several stunning blooms, right now, including sublime blue-eyed grass, and thick patches of wood betony, hoary puccoon, birdfoot violet, and golden Alexander. Flowering mayapples are located on the eastern slope.

If you can’t make it to our showcase preserves, try McKinley Woods/Fredericks Grove in Channahon, Johnson’s Mound in Elburn, Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, and Harms Woods in Glenview. You’re bound to find some great stuff.

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

The Sublime Virginia Bluebell

Virginia bluebell

Virginia Bluebells will blow your mind this weekend!

At O'Hara Woods in Romeoville, Illinois, the April sun rises to warm the springtime woodland brimming with Virginia bluebells.*

At O’Hara Woods in Romeoville, Illinois, the sun rises to warm the springtime woodland brimming with Virginia bluebells. While you’re there, take a deep breathe. The air is filled with the sweet scent of Froot Loops cereal.*

 

Come to Pilcher Park in April for the dramatic performance starring Virginia bluebells.*

Visit Pilcher Park now for the dramatic performance starring Virginia bluebells.*

 

April at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen features a breathtaking display of Virginia bluebells.*

At Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, sunlight filters through the thin green foliage of the foggy forest where a profusion of Virginia bluebells populate the woodland floor.*

 

Large-flowered Trillium is at peak bloom!

It's May, and large-flowered trillium radiate their beauty in the glow of the morning sun at woodland of Fermilab Natural Areas in Batavia, Illinois.

Earlier this week amidst a filigree of early meadow rue foliage, large-flowered trillium radiated their beauty in the glow of the morning sun at woodland of Fermilab Natural Areas in Batavia, Illinois.

 

White trillium carpet the woodland floor at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, Illinois.*

White trillium carpet the woodland floor at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, Illinois.*

In May, large-flowered white trillium cover the woodland floor at Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

At Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, I SUSPECT that the large-flowered white trillium is in bloom. Out scouts are still spread too thin to scout this location, this spring. If you’d like to volunteer to be an Official Nature Scout and help other Chicagoans fall in love with local nature, click here for information.*

 

Red Trillium can be found at almost every preserve in this week’s alert.

Red trillium and setting sun.*

Red trillium blooms as the sun sets at O’Hara Woods Preserve in Romeoville, Illinois.*

Shooting Star

Shooting stars

 

 

Shooting stars and woodland phlox at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois

Shooting stars and woodland phlox at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.”

Woodland Phlox 

In May, woodland phlox covers the bluffs at Black Partridge Woods.*

Woodland phlox covers the bluffs at Black Partridge Woods. They can also be found at the other featured woodlands, like Raccoon Grove and Fermilab Natural Areas.*

Wild Geranium

You can find wild geranium at all featured woodlands. Here, at Black Partridge Woods, the pink blooms float above its star-shaped foliage.*

You can find wild geranium at all featured woodlands. Here, at Black Partridge Woods, the pink blooms float above its star-shaped foliage.*

 

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

Mayapple

The morning sun greets the fanning rays of mayapple and the fragrant blooms of Virginia bluebell on this spring morning at O'Hara Woods Nature Preserve in Romeoville, Illinois.

The morning sun greets the fanning rays of mayapple and the fragrant blooms of Virginia bluebell on this spring morning at O’Hara Woods Nature Preserve in Romeoville, Illinois.

 

Above: Imagine. It’s a rainy April morning in the city and, from a window above, shiny hexagons, mostly black, can be seen floating over wet sidewalks and along glassy, gray streets. In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, April showers bring out the umbrellas, too. Green, and up to a foot wide, the large leaves of mayapples open up across the forest floor. In May, a single waxy, white flower will secretly bloom beneath the plant’s fanning foliage, like a pedestrian under a parasol. (To see the flower, turn to page 204.)

In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, like here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, April showers bring out the umbrellas in the form of mayapples. And the white flowers of false rue anemone sparkle like raindrops.*

At Black Partridge Woods, take a look underneath the fanning mayapple leaf, and you may find a hidden waxy, white bloom. You may also discover a burgundy flower hiding beneath the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.*

Take a look underneath the fanning mayapple leaf, and you may find a hidden waxy, white bloom. You may also discover a burgundy flower hiding beneath the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.*

Skunk Cabbage

Skunk cabbage and Virginia bluebells along the creek at O'Hara Woods in Romeovillle, Illinois.

This recent scene of O’Hara Woods features the remarkable leaves of skunk cabbage surrounded by a sea of bluebells.

 

It's springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down.*

It’s springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down.*

Cut-leaved (or cutleaf) toothwort can probably still be seen in woodlands to the north.

In April, cut-leaved toothwort blooms in profusion amongst a backdrop of mayapples at O'Hara Woods in Romeoville, Illinois.

On this cloudy afternoon, the flowers of cut-leaved toothwort are only partially open and the inflorescence (flower head) is drooping downward. In the sunshine, however, the inflorescence becomes more erect and the flowers will open up.*

Dutchman’s Breeches (or Dutchman’s Britches) may still be blooming in the northern preserves:

Dutchman's Breeches at O'Hara Woods

O’Hara Woods has a large number of Dutchman’s Breeches. It is one of my favorite spring flowers because the flower is just so kooky and the leaves are a dream.*

 

* 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.

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