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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
May 18, 2018

“Plan your Chicago outdoor weekend getaway or nature walk 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 getaway or nature walk:

THE PRAIRIES BEGIN TO FLOWER AS MANY WOODLAND FLOWERS FADE.

WOODLAND HIGHLIGHTS: The breathtaking shows of Virginia bluebell and large-flowered trillium are fading, though the trillium is now in a stage where the flower is turns pink. (See where to find the trillium in last week’s alert.) Wild geranium and woodland phlox are the woodland flowers of the week. They can be found at most wooded preserves, including Black Partridge Woods, Fermilab Prairie woods, Raccoon Grove, Messenger Woods, O’Hara Woods Preserve, Pilcher Park, and Oldfield OaksWild hyacinth is about to burst at Wolf Road Prairie’s savanna, Messenger Woods, and Oldfield Oaks. I estimate peak bloom will be on May 23 or so, in time for the Memorial Day weekend. And while you’re at these preserves, look for delicate blooms of starry false Solomon’s seal, patches of red trillium, the hidden blooms of mayapple and wild ginger, and the great spanning leaves of skunk cabbage.

Note: 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. For example, try northern preserves like Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa and and Harms Woods in Glenview.

PRAIRIE HIGHLIGHTS: The prairie flowers of the week are shooting star,, wood betony,, and hoary puccoon,. Shoe Factory Road Prairie is the most scenic preserve to visit with its beaming displays of hoary puccoon, wood betony, shooting star, blue-eyed grass, birdfoot violet, and golden Alexander. Fermilab Prairie is next on the list with shows of wood betony, shooting star, blue-eyed grass, and golden Alexander. Chiwaukee Prairie in a dream with its breathtaking display of shooting star! It’s definitely worth the drive. Alongside the shooting star, you’ll find 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 shooting stars of white and pink.

 

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

WOODLANDS:

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. Take the trail atop the bluffs for geranium, woodland phlox, and (if you look carefully) shooting star. Flowering mayapple and wild ginger can be found throughout the preserve, along with expanses of skunk cabbage. You’ll find many spring flowers and plants, including blooming mayapple and wild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and starry false Solomon’s seal.

Raccoon Grove, in Monee offers great biodiversity with dense displays of spring flowers, including conspicuous displays of wild geranium and woodland phlox. and red trillium. 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.

Messenger Woods in Homer Glen is another wonderful place to experience a vast sea wide variety of spring ephemerals, including this week’s hot woodland plants: wild geranium and woodland phlox. Wild hyacinth is also starting to bloom. Look for fading blooms of large-flowered trillium, which are now turning pink. With its verdant carpet of foliage, this woodland exudes that fresh feeling of spring.

O’Hara Woods Preserve in Romeoville is great for seeing a large array of springtime plants, including wild geraniumwoodland phloxmayapplewild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and starry false Solomon’s sealskunk cabbage, and more.

Pilcher Park in Joliet is another woodland preserve with many flowers to see along your walk, like wild geraniumwoodland phloxmayapplewild ginger, Solomon’s seal, and starry false Solomon’s seal, and skunk cabbage.

Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is a great place to see both woodland and prairie plants (see below). In the woodland, wild geranium is the big bloomer, this week. take a nature walk. Look carefully for large-flowered trillium under the erupting foliage of nearby plants to uncover their blooms that have faded to pink. Other interesting plants to be found are red trilliummayapple, and wild ginger.

Oldfield Oaks in Darien: This is not a ChicagoNatureNOW! preserve, but it’s now putting on a show of geranium and, soon, wild hyacinth in the northwest portion of the preserve.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester is an option this week, but only if the wild hyacinth is blooming. Our scouts suggest to “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood.” In the oak savanna, wild geranium is blooming. Wild hyacinth is just starting to bloom that will come to peak next week. In the savanna and into the prairie, you’ll find starry false Solomon’s seal. And, in the prairie you’ll find wood betony finishing its blooming run.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (near Kankakee) is another preserve we deem as “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood.” On Sunday, May 13, there was a great bloom of birdfoot violet, but I can’t predict their current status or if something else might be coming in. Hoary puccoon looks like it’s on the way, as well with blue-eyed grass. They just burned the preserve and the timing is off. Visit and let us know.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook went UNSCOUTED, but is always a fine place to visit because there’s always something to see. And you can get a nice walk in, too.

If you can’t make it to any of our showcase woodlands, try McKinley Woods/Fredericks Grove in Channahon, Johnson’s Mound in Elburn, Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, and Harms Woods in Glenview. See the final picture in this post for what Harms Woods might look like. You’re bound to find some great stuff at these preserves.

PRAIRIES:

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 hoary puccoonwood betony, birdfoot violet, and golden Alexander. Flowering mayapples are located on the eastern slope.

Fermilab Prairie in Batavia is looking its best in the prairie, though check out the woodland while you’re there. See woodland info above. looking very nice with its displays of shooting star, golden Alexander, and wood betony. The best view is from atop the hill by the bench.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Our scouts suggest to “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood” to see the shooting stars upon the kame on the south edge of the preserve. There are many other flowers blooming at other spots, but they’re not as flashy as the other preserves. Still, this preserve is very beautiful and sets me at easy from the moment I enter preserve under the canopy of majestic oaks.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion went UNSCOUTED. At this time of year, you should find wood betony and starry false Solomon’s seal. This preserve is provides the finest nature experience in the region, if not the state. Due to its biological richness, it can offer up many surprises.. You can never go wrong by visiting.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin went UNSCOUTED, but usually hosts the finest display of shooting stars in the region. Alongside the shooting stars, look for birdfoot violet, hoary puccoon, wood betony, and yellow star grass. While you’re visiting this preserve, it’s worth a trip to Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, which is getting ready to explode.

 

PHOTO SECTION

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.*

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.*

  

Hoary Puccoon

Hoary puccoon and birdfoot violet glow in the morning light at the hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

This is a recent scene of hoary puccoon and birdfoot violet from the hill prairie known as Shoe Factory Road Prairie.

Shooting Star

Shooting stars

 

 

Shooting Stars glow in the final light of day at Fermilab Prairie in Batavia, Illinois.*

On May 16, 2018, shooting stars glowed in the final light of day at Fermilab Prairie in Batavia, Illinois.

 

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

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

May at Chiwaukee Prairie offers a breathtaking display of shooting stars.*

It’s possible to find this kind of display of shooting stars at the Chiwaukee Prairie, but it hasn’t been scouted. If you go there, please send us pictures.*

 

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.*

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.*

Large-flowered Trillium is fading, but can still be found!

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.

On May 8, 2018, 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.*

 

Great white trillium bloom in profusion at Harms Woods in Cook County, Illinois.*

Large-flowered trillium bloom in profusion at Harms Woods in Cook County, Illinois. The flowers turn pink as they fade.*

 

* 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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