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:
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.
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The delicate ephemerals that normally bloom in April, like cut-leaved toothwort, rue anemone, false 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 woodland, Messenger 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 Prairie. Bluff 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:
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 phlox. Virginia 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 cabbage. Solomon’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 trillium, large-flowered bellwort, and red trillium. Look for wild geranium, mayapple, wild 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.
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.
The Sublime Virginia Bluebell
Virginia Bluebells will blow your mind this weekend!
Large-flowered Trillium is at peak bloom!
Red Trillium can be found at almost every preserve in this week’s alert.
Cut-leaved (or cutleaf) toothwort can probably still be seen in woodlands to the north.
Dutchman’s Breeches (or Dutchman’s Britches) may still be blooming in the northern preserves:
* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.
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© 2018, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.