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Miraculous Melting Spiderwort

 

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

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

 

In late May, spiderwort begins a performance that will last a month or longer, starring a cluster of buds that releases only a couple of flowers each day. At dawn, a new bud opens into a delicate blue or purple flower. But as the day wears on, it begins to wither—then miraculously melts into a gem of royal jelly. An enzyme in the flower causes it to slowly decompose, and hot weather speeds up the process. It’s noon, and this flower is already shriveling.

In late May, spiderwort begins a performance that will last a month or longer, starring a cluster of buds that releases only a couple of flowers each day. At dawn, a new bud opens into a delicate blue or purple flower. But as the day wears on, it begins to wither—then miraculously melts into a gem of royal jelly. An enzyme in the flower causes it to slowly decompose, and hot weather speeds up the process. It’s noon, and this flower is already shriveling.

 

By midafternoon, this spiderwort blossom melts blue between my fingertips, thanks to an enzyme in the flowers that causes it to slowly decompose.

By midafternoon, this spiderwort blossom melts blue between my fingertips.

 

To follow is possibly my favorite caption from my book, My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders:

Spiderwort is a prairie flower, as ethereal as it is enduring. The name is a consequence of its long slender leaves that break suddenly downward, mimicking the legs of a crouching spider.

It rises at the end of May in the prairies and savannas, in a universe all its own, a small galaxy of blue starlike flowers that form the constellation of the Crouching Spider.

Unlike celestial bodies that survive in the billions, for billions of years, the stars of the Crouching Spider number only a few and shimmer for just a few hours.

Coinciding with Earth’s star, they emerge, not with a big bang, but slowly materializing from a golden hot center into three purple points. As the sun grows high in the sky, they gradually collapse into deep blue planets. Yet tomorrow morning, and for thirty or more turns of Earth, you may gaze into the prairie universe to witness the reemergence of the Crouching Spider and the creation of new worlds.

 

You can find spiderwort at many preserves around Chicago, including:

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, Illinois

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin

Fermilab Prairie in Batavia, Illinois

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham, Illinois

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois

Kickapoo Woods & Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois

Miller Woods in Gary, Indiana

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois

Powderhorn Prairie in Chicago, Illinois

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois

 

 

© 2016 – 2017, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.

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