Navigation Menu

Mike’s Chicago Nature Information Blog
Info for Planning Your Weekend Nature Trip

Help Us Spread the Good Word at Wild Things on Feb. 23. 2019

Posted by on 10:05 am in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Help Us Spread the Good Word at Wild Things on Feb. 23. 2019

Help ChicagoNatureNOW! Spread the Good Word
at 2019 Wild Things Conference on Feb. 23, 2019

 

Please give us a hand to spread the good word at our ChicagoNatureNOW! exhibit table on Feb. 23 at the 2019 Wild Things Conference! Just use the form below to select your preferred time slot. Here, Saige Cox, daughter of Benjamin Cox (President of one of my favorite local nature organizations, Friends of the Forest Preserves), gathers Indian grass seed as she helps restore Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois.

Please give us a hand to spread the good word at our ChicagoNatureNOW! exhibit table on Feb. 23 at the 2019 Wild Things Conference! Just use the form below to select your preferred time slot. Here, Saige Cox, daughter of Benjamin Cox (President of one of my favorite local nature organizations, Friends of the Forest Preserves), gathers Indian grass seed as she helps restore Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois.

ChicagoNatureNOW! will be at the 2019 Wild Things Conference on February 23, 2019. And we need your help at our classy exhibit table to spread the good word about Chicago’s natural wonders! If you’re attending the event, please consider spending an hour at our special table with its beautiful display that includes a laptop running a slideshow of Chicago’s most beautiful moments. We’ll be handing out postcards with information about our mission and encouraging people to participate, which includes signing up more Nature Scouts!

Choose your time slots by clicking here.

And don’t forget to attend my lively and inspirational ChicagoNatureNOW! presentation called “Chicago Nature: Spreading the Good Word.” (from 11:15 to noon, Session 2H). Expect a fun program with breathtaking images depicting the vast natural wonders of our region. And to further inspire people to volunteer with us, our Nature Scouts will speak about the difference ChicagoNatureNOW! has made in their lives.

SIGN UP FOR YOUR TIME SLOT USING THIS FORM:

 

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Thanks!

—Mike

Wild Things Conference 2019

Posted by on 4:00 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Wild Things Conference 2019

To Learn and To Love
2019 Wild Things Conference
on February 23, 2019

 

Dedicated volunteer and restoration leader, Bob Kelliher, separates seeds of ironweed at Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois.

Dedicated volunteer and restoration leader, Bob Kelliher, separates seeds of ironweed at Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois.

Deepen your knowledge and your love of Chicago’s natural wonders at the 2019 Wild Things Conference on February 23, 2019. People and nature. That’s what this conference is all about. And ChicagoNatureNOW! will be there, too! Click here for information and registration. 

I’ll be giving a lively, inspirational presentation about ChicagoNatureNOW! entitled “Chicago Nature: Spreading the Good Word.” It’s Session 2H (from 11:15 to Noon). Expect a fun program with breathtaking images depicting the vast natural wonders of our region. And to inspire people to volunteer with us, our Nature Scouts will speak about the difference ChicagoNatureNOW! has made in their lives. Plus, to grow new collaborations and volunteers throughout the day, we’ll have an exhibit table. Would you like help man it (woman it or LGBTQIA it)? If so, please let me know.

Nowadays, all of Chicago’s natural sites need humanity’s stewardship and protection in order to exist, let alone thrive. Of course, that wasn’t always the case. But now, after hundreds of years of human interference, we need to stay diligent by restoring health and biodiversity to our rare local habits. That’s why I created this website and my book—to expand the number of local nature lovers so that a portion will volunteer to restore our preserves. Awareness and education are essential.

Every week during the long growing season, ChicagoNatureNOW! sends you off into the wilds of Chicago to discover glorious Edens that are ignored by most Chicagoans going about their daily lives. Our weekly posts also educate you. Then, every two years, the Wild Things Conference is held. It’s a wonderful opportunity to build on your nature knowledge through their many educational sessions and to interact (and even party) with like-minded nature lovers.

I always say, “To learn about nature is to fall in love with nature.” The Wild Things conference is your chance to learn more about nature and, hence, deepen your love for it.

Sign up fast because it’s a popular event, and there’s a limited number of spaces! And don’t forget to register to attend our rewarding presentation (Session 2H).

—Mike

Finding Winter’s Wonder and Whimsy in Chicago Nature

Posted by on 7:46 pm in Blog, Featured | 1 comment

Finding Winter’s Wonder and Whimsy in Chicago Nature

Finding Winter’s Wonder and Whimsy in Chicago Nature
(And listen to my Jan. 7 interview on WBEZ-91.5 FM)

 

On Monday, January 7 at 9:45 in the morning, I’m appearing on WBEZ radio’s “Morning Shift” program (listen now) to help Chicagoans learn where and how to find magic in the wilds of Chicago. I’ll be talking about my favorite wintertime preserves, plus the wonders found in snow, ice, animal tracks and the stories they tell, and in the hopeful, warming light of a winter sunrise or sunset.

Winter is fantastic, inventive, and bizarre, a whimsical time when my most fanciful dreams come to life. Here are some images that vividly illustrate the whimsy of Mother Nature using many of the captions excerpted from my book My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders:

 

A layer of winter white fell during previous night that turned rocks on this stream into marshmallows.

At Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, a layer of winter white fell during previous night that turned rocks on this stream into marshmallows.*

 

Here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, a heavy March snowfall turned a gray winter scene into a river through fairyland.

Here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, a heavy March snowfall turned a gray winter scene into a river through fairyland.*

 

Reminiscent of champagne glasses suspended topsy-turvy above a bar, this January ice sculpture, softly curving and all in a row, hangs its existence on a chaotic latticework of streamside grasses. Sawmill Creek at Waterfall Glen Darien, Illinois*

Reminiscent of champagne glasses suspended topsy-turvy above a bar, this January ice sculpture, softly curving and all in a row, hangs its existence on a chaotic latticework of streamside grasses.
Sawmill Creek at Waterfall Glen—Darien, Illinois*

 

At Black Patridge Woods, ice consumes the surface of this stream with no name, imperceptibly enveloping this last gleaming crevasse.*

At Black Partridge Woods, ice consumes the surface of this stream with no name, imperceptibly enveloping this last gleaming crevasse.*

 

On icy wetlands, look in the vegetation and bubbles trapped in the ice. The bubbles you see are composed of methane released by decaying underwater vegetation. Hogwash Slough in Spears Woods Willow Springs, Illinois*

On icy wetlands, look in the vegetation and bubbles trapped in the ice. The bubbles you see are composed of methane released by decaying underwater vegetation.
Hogwash Slough in Spears Woods
Willow Springs, Illinois*

 

At Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, cold air can’t stop the flow of mineral-rich water exiting the seep of the fen. However, when calm air and frigid temperatures combine (in this case, −4°F), vapors are lifted from the surface and magically deposited as hoar frost onto neighboring foliage.*

At Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, cold air can’t stop the flow of mineral-rich water exiting the seep of the fen. However, when calm air and frigid temperatures combine (in this case, −4°F), vapors are lifted from the surface and magically deposited as hoar frost onto neighboring foliage.*

 

Late one afternoon, along the Lake Michigan shore, I discovered a mystical series of semicircles etched into the snowy beach. In light that was less than ideal, I vowed to return. The following morning, I hiked the half mile back to the spot where I’d stood just hours earlier. Behind me was my past, each footprint in the snow marking an increment of time and space. Before me was my future, where a pristine winter scene awaited my first steps. In the predawn light, I analyzed the fragile panorama from the periphery. As prepared as anyone could be, I slowly set foot on hallowed ground. Each step felt like minutes. Anxiety and calculation filled every footprint. Finally, I settled upon a position. Relieved, I waited for the sun to rise. Under a sunless, cerulean sky, the world glows blue. But the sun is on a mission to turn sapphire into gold. To convey the magic of this scene, I needed both. The sun is most vulnerable as it rises and sets. Angled low, its golden light cannot permeate every crack and crevice. Just before daybreak, the snow took on the blueness of the clear sky. Then, the winter star met the horizon. Low warm rays of lemon light filled all but a few remaining shadows, creating a set of unclasped sapphire necklaces upon a gown of white gold. The character of the light was the key to telling this enchanting winter story— a tale of wind-blown grasses doodling smiles in the snow as they dreamed of warmer tomorrows.*

Late one afternoon, along the Lake Michigan shore, I discovered a mystical series of semicircles etched into the snowy beach. In light that was less than ideal, I vowed to return.
The following morning, I hiked the half mile back to the spot where I’d stood just hours earlier. Behind me was my past, each footprint in the snow marking an increment of time and space. Before me was my future, where a pristine winter scene awaited my first steps. In the predawn light, I analyzed the fragile panorama from the periphery. As prepared as anyone could be, I slowly set foot on hallowed ground. Each step felt like minutes. Anxiety and calculation filled every footprint. Finally, I settled upon a position. Relieved, I waited for the sun to rise.
Under a sunless, cerulean sky, the world glows blue. But the sun is on a mission to turn sapphire into gold. To convey the magic of this scene, I needed both. The sun is most vulnerable as it rises and sets. Angled low, its golden light cannot permeate every crack and crevice.
Just before daybreak, the snow took on the blueness of the clear sky. Then, the winter star met the horizon. Low warm rays of lemon light filled all but a few remaining shadows, creating a set of unclasped sapphire necklaces upon a gown of white gold.
The character of the light was the key to telling this enchanting winter story— a tale of wind-blown grasses doodling smiles in the snow as they dreamed of warmer tomorrows.*

 

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, a crust of snow covered the sandy beach along the Lake Michigan shore. The choppy ice in the background is called an ice floe or drift ice, but I didn’t know it was a drifter. That evening, it appeared as a great white landmass, grafted to the shore. So you can imagine my surprise when I returned at sunrise and it was gone. How could it revert to its liquid state over the bitter cold night? Then, peering over the lake out toward the horizon, there it was, a thin white thread that was the ice floe, a drifter after all. You may think that the swerving tracks on this desolate beach also give the impression of a drifter. But the coy and clever coyote that left these prints is energy-efficient by necessity, a “perfect stepper.” Intentionally placing its hind foot directly where the front foot lands, the songdog’s trek across deep snow is less of a drudge. Domestic dogs are supposed to be perfect steppers, too, but I often see just the opposite when I examine their trails. It makes sense: I mean, how perfect do you need to be when your next meal (and everything else) is guaranteed? But, unlike Fido, who winds and switches along the way, the coyote (and the fox) take a more direct, economical route. To some people, the animal track they discover is only a footnote along the way, a moment in time engraved in snow by an unwitting author. To others, it’s only the beginning, the first sentence of a drama, an invitation to follow, to read on, to be seduced by the mystery. May you be one of the latter.*

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, a crust of snow covered the sandy beach along the Lake Michigan shore. The choppy ice in the background is called an ice floe or drift ice, but I didn’t know it was a drifter. That evening, it appeared as a great white landmass, grafted to the shore. So you can imagine my surprise when I returned at sunrise and it was gone. How could it revert to its liquid state over the bitter cold night? Then, peering over the lake out toward the horizon, there it was, a thin white thread that was the ice floe, a drifter after all.
You may think that the swerving tracks on this desolate beach also give the impression of a drifter. But the coy and clever coyote that left these prints is energy-efficient by necessity, a “perfect stepper.” Intentionally placing its hind foot directly where the front foot lands, the songdog’s trek across deep snow is less of a drudge.
Domestic dogs are supposed to be perfect steppers, too, but I often see just the opposite when I examine their trails. It makes sense: I mean, how perfect do you need to be when your next meal (and everything else) is guaranteed? But, unlike Fido, who winds and switches along the way, the coyote (and the fox) take a more direct, economical route.
To some people, the animal track they discover is only a footnote along the way, a moment in time engraved in snow by an unwitting author. To others, it’s only the beginning, the first sentence of a drama, an invitation to follow, to read on, to be seduced by the mystery. May you be one of the latter.*

 

During the winter, sunsets of blue that fade to pink are common in the eastern skies over Lake Michigan. At the end of this blustery day, fluffy plumes of marram grass bounce in the stiff wind. Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

During the winter, sunsets of blue that fade to pink are common in the eastern skies over Lake Michigan. At the end of this blustery day, fluffy plumes of marram grass bounce in the stiff wind.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

 

Driven by wind and wave, Lake Michigan ice floes crash and jostle against the sandy shoreline, and then mysteriously disappear, leaving behind grand and lustrous gems of “ball ice.” Like large pearls, they are grown through a process of accretion. The whipping and turning of the surge traps deposits of slush against the shoreline, which gradually form into rounded crystal masses that are then cast ashore. Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

Driven by wind and wave, Lake Michigan ice floes crash and jostle against the sandy shoreline, and then mysteriously disappear, leaving behind grand and lustrous gems of “ball ice.” Like large pearls, they are grown through a process of accretion. The whipping and turning of the surge traps deposits of slush against the shoreline, which gradually form into rounded crystal masses that are then cast ashore.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

 

Driven by wind and wave, Lake Michigan ice floes crash and jostle against the sandy shoreline, and then mysteriously disappear, leaving behind grand and lustrous gems of “ball ice.” Like large pearls, they are grown through a process of accretion. The whipping and turning of the surge traps deposits of slush against the shoreline, which gradually form into rounded crystal masses that are then cast ashore. Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

When I reached this point along the trail, I was stopped in my tracks—not by the scene itself but by the late afternoon light falling on the snow-covered limb in the foreground.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve—Zion, Illinois*

 

“Never wear white after Labor Day.” That’s what fashionistas say. But if that’s true, then why did Mother Nature make layering with white the fashion of the winter season? From sheer to fluffy, flat to flowing, sleek to shimmering, the magical coat of snow she creates can reflect any mood. Shooting for sensational, she’ll dress it up with sunlight and, suddenly, it scintillates with sequins. On this afternoon of winter thaw, Mother Nature dressed it down. Searching for that deep, introspective look, she accessorized with fog and cloudy skies to give the savanna an air of mystery.*

“Never wear white after Labor Day.” That’s what fashionistas say. But if that’s true, then why did Mother Nature make layering with white the fashion of the winter season?
From sheer to fluffy, flat to flowing, sleek to shimmering, the magical coat of snow she creates can reflect any mood. Shooting for sensational, she’ll dress it up with sunlight and, suddenly, it scintillates with sequins.
On this afternoon of winter thaw, Mother Nature dressed it down. Searching for that deep, introspective look, she accessorized with fog and cloudy skies to give the savanna an air of mystery.*

 

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, a solitary black oak stands atop a dune with a view. To the east is the beach and Lake Michigan beyond. To the west is a rich sand prairie and, in the distance, an oak savanna where this black oak’s family grows tall in the company of thousands. Having the good fortune of being planted in the sand by a forgetful squirrel, but the misfortune of being relocated so far from home, this little oak is a survivor, left exposed and alone to battle the harsh elements and howling winds.*

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, a solitary black oak stands atop a dune with a view. To the east is the beach and Lake Michigan beyond. To the west is a rich sand prairie and, in the distance, an oak savanna where this black oak’s family grows tall in the company of thousands.
Having the good fortune of being planted in the sand by a forgetful squirrel, but the misfortune of being relocated so far from home, this little oak is a survivor, left exposed and alone to battle the harsh elements and howling winds.*

 

The dream of winter can, at least for a moment, take you to another place, away from the worries of the world. Maybe it’s a journey to an enchanted kingdom, or a fairy tale of old oak matriarchs who, throughout the night, donned the falling snow, so that in the glow of the morning sun they would, at least for a time, be restored to their golden youth, transformed into young and shining maidens in lace.*

The dream of winter can, at least for a moment, take you to another place, away from the worries of the world. Maybe it’s a journey to an enchanted kingdom, or a fairy tale of old oak matriarchs who, throughout the night, donned the falling snow, so that in the glow of the morning sun they would, at least for a time, be restored to their golden youth, transformed into young and shining maidens in lace.*

 

This Chicago scene is reminiscent of silver winters in Yosemite, where every inch of exposed landscape is covered in heavy snow and every bough bows in deference to sublime beauty. Here, the rising curtain of morning revealed an abundance of sticky snow that had fallen during the night, draping every available surface with a shining cloak of blue-white magic in a paradise all our own.*

This Chicago scene is reminiscent of silver winters in Yosemite, where every inch of exposed landscape is covered in heavy snow and every bough bows in deference to sublime beauty. Here, the rising curtain of morning revealed an abundance of sticky snow that had fallen during the night, draping every available surface with a shining cloak of blue-white magic in a paradise all our own.*

 

From underneath the reassuring warmth of my comforter, I could have dreamt this winter morning away. But all day I’d have been plagued by glorious visions of what might have been. Instead, I took the night’s snowfall as an invitation from Mother Nature. Rolling out from beneath my blanket, I stepped into the pillowy cold and toward the shore of Hogwash Slough. As I stood along the snow-draped shoreline, the wetland’s radiant beauty warmed my heart and kindled my imagination. Like a magical scene from a storybook—I was dreaming once again. On this morning, I made a choice: to trade a world of forgotten dreams for a dream world that I will always remember.*

From underneath the reassuring warmth of my comforter, I could have dreamt this winter morning away. But all day I’d have been plagued by glorious visions of what might have been. Instead, I took the night’s snowfall as an invitation from Mother Nature. Rolling out from beneath my blanket, I stepped into the pillowy cold and toward the shore of Hogwash Slough. As I stood along the snow-draped shoreline, the wetland’s radiant beauty warmed my heart and kindled my imagination. Like a magical scene from a storybook—I was dreaming once again. On this morning, I made a choice: to trade a world of forgotten dreams for a dream world that I will always remember.*

 

Shallow streams, like Waterfall Glen’s Sawmill Creek, are the perfect winter venue for viewing Mother Nature’s ever-changing handiwork.*

Shallow streams, like Waterfall Glen’s Sawmill Creek, are the perfect winter venue for viewing Mother Nature’s ever-changing handiwork.*

 

Waterfall Glen is a winter wonderland, from the winding and enchanting Sawmill Creek to glorious wetlands like this.*

Waterfall Glen is a winter wonderland, from the winding and enchanting Sawmill Creek to glorious wetlands like this.*

* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.

—Mike

The Monsters in Our Midst – In the Fall, Japanese Honeysuckle & Other Alien Invaders Reveal Their True Colors

Posted by on 8:00 am in Blog, Featured | 2 comments

The Monsters in Our Midst – In the Fall, Japanese Honeysuckle & Other Alien Invaders Reveal Their True Colors

My Annual Halloween Publication of
THE MONSTERS IN OUR MIDST

(Reprinted from the chapter “The Monsters in Our Midst” from my coffee table book,
“My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders”)

 

Within this tranquil autumnal scene, at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, a monster lurks. In the distance is the green ghoul, Japanese honeysuckle.

Within this tranquil autumnal scene, at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, a monster lurks. In the distance is the green ghoul, Japanese honeysuckle.

At Black Partridge Woods, raindrops plummet from the gray onto an autumn canopy of golden sugar maples, dislodging turning leaves from their tentative grasps, sending them into a lighthearted aerial choreography destined for the moving stream—where the water ride begins. There, leaves are taken on a winding, whirling adventure, following the will and whim of the current, gliding with ease around branches and rocks—then twirling as the tip of a lobe glances the side of a mossy stone. Sometimes they’re snagged by twigs along the shore, as if nabbed by outstretched arms of rescue workers. Many come to rest with others of their kind, wedged against rocks in angular heaps, like jumbled piles of playing cards. And, to my delight, a friendly and flirtatious few flow over my boots and between my legs as I crouch in the middle of this rocky stream. Meditative music of cascading water floods the sweet autumn air. It is like a dream. But this being the season of Halloween, a nightmare lies in wait. A demon hides in plain sight.

“La, la la, la la!” we sing, as we frolic through a grove or a field of flowers, oblivious to the monsters that lurk all around us: the alien plant species. No, they are not pursuing you. (Or are they?) I mean, heck, they’re just plants. What harm can they do? A lot, as it turns out. They are as deadly as a murderous scene from a horror flick, except that the stranglehold takes place over years, decades. Ignored, incognito, and beautiful to the eye, the aliens creep. But their beauty is only chlorophyll deep. Slowly, diabolically, they take control and annihilate our native species, severing the fragile filaments that make up the web of life.

After years of photographing local nature, I’m still not privy to every Franken-plant. Yet, there in Black Partridge Woods, I suspected something sinister, knowing that autumn gives warning by revealing a horror in hiding: European buckthorn, with foliage that remains green deep into the fall. Along the roads, neighborhoods, and natural areas, it stands apart from the golds, burgundies, and browns. Buckthorn seems to be everywhere, providing a sobering realization of how badly our preserves have been infested and how much work remains.

In the pictured autumnal scene, the distant greenery is definitely not buckthorn. I checked before I shot it. But afterwards, haunted by the green monsters of the fall, I got an eerie feeling. If change is the message of the season, then it’s possible that other aliens did not receive the memo either. I called the steward of the site, and my fears were confirmed. The green shrub you see is another demon, as vicious as buckthorn, and one that, up until then, was unknown to me: Japanese honeysuckle. So now I know and so do you, but beware. Complacency is the most
dangerous monster of all.

—Mike

 

 

Best Chicago Fall Color Report, Nature News & Info – 09/26/2018

Posted by on 11:00 am in Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Best Chicago Fall Color Report, Nature News & Info – 09/26/2018

Best Chicago Fall Color Report, Nature News & Info – 09/26/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 26, 2018
(Fall Color Edition & Final Report for 2018)

“Plan the best Chicago autumn nature walks with this fall color report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. We’d love to hear about your adventures! You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

Now that autumn has arrived and the blooming season has effectively ended, this post will be our final wildflower alert for the year. Below, I suggest where to find any remaining blooms and provide recommendations about where to find kaleidoscopic fall foliage during the weeks to come.

Here are some highlights to help you plan your fall-color outings around Chicago:

The autumn prairie is a mosaic of colors and textures. It is the first habitat to display autumn color in the foliage. And with the many asters and the ethereal blue and purple gentians that bloom through the end of September, the prairie becomes a beautiful mosaic of colors and textures. Experience towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and the tawny, fluffy spikes of gayfeather that glow in the sunlight. In one small patch of prairie, it’s common to see more color than any autumn woodland: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they change into their autumn wardrobes:

Prairies to visit this fall:

  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Visit the golden sand prairie close to the lake using the trail to the east.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: This preserve offers open expanses of woodland, wetland, and prairie that is my personal favorite preserve of the fall season. Click here for the location of the trailhead that goes west into the prairies.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the grand grassland expanse.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: This prairie offers a hundreds of species with a wonderful combination of color and texture.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This large prairie offers an array of changing colors, including blooms of fringed and prairie gentians that last through the end of September.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This preserve is really a savanna, but it features many prairie plants.
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: There are two different prairies here, a mesic prairie on the west side of the preserve (near the main entrance) and a dolomite (limestone) prairie on the east side.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: Experience the most biodiverse natural area within the city limits of Chicago.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to see the tall grasses and the colorful foliage of the forbs. While you’re on your way, take time to pause under the embrace of gallant oaks in the intimate oak savanna.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Contrary to the name, the preserve offers an expanse of prairie that looks great in the fall.
  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Hike this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, Illinois: This intimate remnant prairie is beautiful throughout the year. And because it’s quite small, your visit could be quite short.
  • Lockport Prairie in Lockport, Illinois: This prairie features a wonderful expanse of tall, waving grasses on a short out-and-back trail.

Woodlands to visit this fall:

  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: The black oak savanna takes up the majority of this preserve. You can spend all day exploring.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Lots of great hiking and color through beautiful woodlands, prairies, and wetlands. Spears is one of my favorite autumn spots.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: The many flowers and grasses that have brought us joy throughout the growing season are now performing their final show of the year.
  • Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois: This is a magic place with steep bluffs, a beautiful stream, and where maples scream gold.
  • Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien, Illinois: This vast preserve is a very popular spot for hikers, bikers, and fall-color chasers. It’s beautiful, but there are a lot of people.
  • Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee, Illinois: Like Black Partridge Woods, this is a wonderful woodland where maples turn to gold.
  • Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve in Schererville, Indiana: The name refers to the large expanse of mostly inaccessible prairie across the street from the parking lot.
  • Messenger Woods in Lockport, Illinois: A beautiful maple forest with nice color.
  • Pilcher Park in Joliet, Illinois: The color here can be great, but keep in mind that it’s a popular preserve.
  • Sagawau Canyon: You can sign up for a tour of the canyon, but you can go anytime to walk the trails in the surrounding preserve.
  • Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois: This is the finest example of black oak savanna anywhere in the world. For fall color, black oaks can be a bit understated, but there is a wealth of color in the understory.
  • Miller Woods in Gary, Indiana: This is a big, beautiful preserve that features black oak savanna and a rich understory.
  • Cowles Bog Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore: Walk the trail through the colorful black oak savanna. When the time comes, choose the fork to the right. Soon you’ll be taken over a steep dune and onto a dramatic panorama of waving grasses along the sand shores of a blue Lake Michigan.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: The oak savanna at the entrance is a gem. It’s small, but very inviting and intimate. And, you also can also hike the trail through the prairie and fen.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds will often remain while the weather is warm. You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Canyon Tours
To experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

 

PHOTO SECTION

Get out there and discover what autumn can bring:

At Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, where the prairie meets the woodland, late-September grasses turn to gold.*

At Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, where the prairie meets the woodland, late-September grasses turn to gold.*

 

At Spears Woods, with the warm evening light falling on this October prairie, the tubular tops of blazing star burned with a golden glow; but not two months earlier, they blazed with purple passion. Autumn transformed the cylindrical inflorescence of hundreds of feathery purple flowers into a column of invisible seeds—invisible because what we see is not the seed but the achene, a dry fruit with a single seed hidden inside. On this plant, also known as gayfeather, each achene, by design, forms a downy tan plume that takes to the air to be scattered by the wind.

At Spears Woods, with the warm evening light falling on this October prairie, the tubular tops of blazing star burned with a golden glow; but not two months earlier, they blazed with purple passion. Autumn transformed the cylindrical inflorescence of hundreds of feathery purple flowers into a column of invisible seeds—invisible because what we see is not the seed but the achene, a dry fruit with a single seed hidden inside. On this plant, also known as gayfeather, each achene, by design, forms a downy tan plume that takes to the air to be scattered by the wind.*

 

At Spears Woods, this ephemeral pond becomes a portal into an afternoon of autumn splendor.

At Spears Woods, this ephemeral pond becomes a portal into an afternoon of autumn splendor.*

 

Rare marram grass dominates the foredune along the shore of Lake Michigan at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Rare marram grass dominates the foredune along the shore of Lake Michigan at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

 

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, this radiant bush reaching out into the sand prairie is shrubby cinquefoil. In the summer, the plant is undramatic. Like a long, drawnout fireworks display, it releases its arsenal of flowers over a two- to three-month period as one flower explodes over here and another over there. But, in the fall, with foliage burning bright, shrubby cinquefoil goes all out, putting on one of the finest finales of any plant. There’s a lesson here. This fall, spare yourself the stiff neck from staring up at the trees and visit the prairie where you’ll find more color than in any woodland.*

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, this radiant bush reaching out into the sand prairie is shrubby cinquefoil. In the summer, the plant is undramatic. Like a long, drawn-out fireworks display, it releases its arsenal of flowers over a two- to three-month period as one flower explodes over here and another over there. But, in the fall, with foliage burning bright, shrubby cinquefoil goes all out, putting on one of the finest finales of any plant. There’s a lesson here. This fall, spare yourself the stiff neck from staring up at the trees and visit the prairie where you’ll find more color than in any woodland.*

 

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, wise oaks in this savanna spread their branches wide to allow the sun’s rays to nourish the diverse community of plants below. These enlightened trees have learned that sharing the light with life at the bottom ensures not only their survival but also the prospect of reaching new heights.*

At Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, wise oaks in this savanna spread their branches wide to allow the sun’s rays to nourish the diverse community of plants below. These enlightened trees have learned that sharing the light with life at the bottom ensures not only their survival but also the prospect of reaching new heights.*

 

In the fall at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, don’t just stare up at the trees. Look down. There’s a bounty of color at your feet. Here, a black oak leaf landed amidst a bed of pasture rose with leaves more vibrant than any tree in this savanna.

In the fall at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, don’t just stare up at the trees. Look down. There’s a bounty of color at your feet. Here, a black oak leaf landed amidst a bed of pasture rose with leaves more vibrant than any tree in this savanna.*

 

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color before the trees.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color before the trees.*

 

At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, acrobatic cinnamon ferns take hold in the soggy ground of Cowles Bog, which is not a bog at all but, rather, a wetland known as a fen.

At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, acrobatic cinnamon ferns change to gold along the Cowles Bog Trail.*

 

As you hike the boardwalk and the narrow sections of the Cowles Bog Trail, you may find yourself glancing down to watch your step. But in the fall, remember to raise your eyes to view the scenery in the skies.

As you hike the boardwalk and the narrow sections of the Cowles Bog Trail, you may find yourself glancing down to watch your step. But in the fall, remember to raise your eyes to view the scenery in the skies.*

 

In the fall at Black Partridge Woods, I head to the high vantage point of these bluffs to immerse myself in the intoxicating colors and textures of the tiered foliage. Down below, the creek bed is dry. But when the flow returns, fallen leaves will ride the colorful currents that reflect the radiant dome.

In the fall at Black Partridge Woods, I head to the high vantage point of these bluffs to immerse myself in the intoxicating colors and textures of the tiered foliage. Down below, the creek bed is dry. But when the flow returns, fallen leaves will ride the colorful currents that reflect the radiant dome.*

 

Compared to the golden maples of autumn, oaks can be a bit understated. Here, at Bluff Spring Fen, this bur oak, when placed in the spotlight, certainly puts on a show.

Compared to the golden maples of autumn, oaks can be a bit understated. Here at Bluff Spring Fen, this bur oak, when placed in the spotlight, certainly puts on a show.*

 

Visit Raccoon Grove in the fall for its golden maples and picturesque stream.

Visit Raccoon Grove in the fall for its golden maples and picturesque stream.*

 

Every October, I am drawn to the banks of Sawmill Creek for the annual celebration of golden maples. On this particular day, the stream turned to a trickle, its rocky bed transformed into the staging area for a colorful, yet peculiar, parade—one that waits for rainfall in order to proceed.*

Every October, I am drawn to the banks of Sawmill Creek for the annual celebration of golden maples. On this particular day, the stream turned to a trickle, its rocky bed transformed into the staging area for a colorful, yet peculiar, parade—one that waits for rainfall in order to proceed.*

Bottle Gentians (through late September, possibly into October)

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

 

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie. When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Fringed Gentian (through late September, possibly into October)

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters Mark the End of the Blooming Season (many can be seen into October)

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year.*

 

Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Here at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” Find big bluestem at Belmont PrairieSomme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*

 

Canyon Tours

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*

* 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

 

 

Best Chicago Nature Walks, Wildflower Report, News & Info – 09/20/2018

Posted by on 11:10 am in Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Best Chicago Nature Walks, Wildflower Report, News & Info – 09/20/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 20, 2018

“Plan the best Chicago wildflower walks with this Chicago nature report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. We’d love to hear about your adventures! You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

Here are some highlights to help you plan your Chicago autumn adventure during the Season of Gold:

Chicago’s season of gold continues as fall colors become apparent. Fading yellow blooms are joined by the flavescent foliage of plants that have long ago dropped their petals. Last week, giant sawtooth sunflower reigned supreme across the region. This week, their blooms are at thirty percent. Towering waves of red-stemmed grasses dance in the prairie winds, and big bluestem and Indian grass display their tasseled tops. And, finally, the sublime blues of bottle gentian, prairie gentian, and fringed gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Bluff Spring FenPowderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Chiwaukee Prairie. However, we have reached the end of the blooming season and next week will be the time when a visit to any preserve on my list will bring some sort of autumn color, whether it be from the glorious, yet underappreciated, withering prairie plants or the foliage in the woodland canopy.

The blooms of skyward sawtooth sunflower are still blooming at Wolf Road Prairie and Spears Woods. This sensational flower can be appreciated at other many preserves like Belmont PrairieFermilab Prairie, Gensburg-Markham PrairieKickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie. Northbrook’s Somme Prairie Grove offers many flowers in bloom, including many of the gentians. And the September panorama at Lake in the Hills Fen is breathtaking. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, dance with the acrobatic ferns, and attend a canyon tour. Yes, there’s a canyon in Lemont! The season’s blooms are ending, but because the newfound color of withering foliage can be as beautiful as the flowers themselves.

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.

 

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND

Before visiting any preserve on our list, click to visit its web page on our website for directions, access to the trails, etc. 

THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: With its the rolling terrain and varied habitats, Spears Woods is the probably the most beautiful preserve in the region. And, if you visit now, you’ll see why. Wow! The golden flowers are remarkable, with panoramas of sawtooth sunflowerlong-bracted tickseed sunflower, and sprinklings of goldenrod. (See Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates to the prairie trail head.). You also be welcomed by the tall, elegant big bluestem and Indian grass that provides tones of auburn and brown. And pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet. Spears Woods is the most beautiful preserve in the region.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: September is my favorite time to visit. The light is softer, the days are usually cooler, and the panoramic view of this expansive preserve will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. The preserve is gorgeous with the warm tones of autumn in the waving grasses along with the golds of omnipresent sawtooth sunflower and various species of goldenrod. Alabaster blooms of tall boneset can be found on the kames. And populations of purples include silky aster in the gravelly spots and the sublime fringed gentian and bottle gentian near the fens’ soggy seeps. This preserve is easily accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, most notably the remaining blooms sawtooth sunflower. Along your way, you’ll find asters of all sorts, including the sky blue aster, Look for the gentians, too: the gorgeous bottle gentian, fringed gentian, and prairie gentian. As is common during the late-summer months, you’ll travel through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass. When the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are now flavescent with plumes that smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Before  the Somme Prairie Grove web page for how to access this preserve.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Come for the spectacular golden show of skyward sawtooth sunflower. As you wander the trails, look for the tallest flowers. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods, various blooms of aster, and the occasional gentian.

 

RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: Visit to find various goldenrods, and hypnotic waves of tall grasses, like the tall tasseled Indian grass and big bluestem. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: Visit for the goldenrods and then take a walk through the large prairie outside the fence, where you’ll find expanses of tall grasses, goldenrods, and sawtooth sunflower.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail
Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a September Sunset
Saganashkee Slough
in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry September eve.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 Lake in the Hills Fen

This expansive landscape features showy goldenrod as it glows in the morning light at Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills, Illinois.

The expansive landscape at Lake in the Hills Fen is a wonderful sight to behold, especially during the months of September and October.*

 

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

In September, at many prairies across the Chicago region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in towering fields of gold, like here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

 

Bottle Gentian

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

 

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

 

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie. When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Fringed Gentian

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters Mark the End of the Blooming Season

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year.*

 

Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Here at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” Find big bluestem at Belmont PrairieSomme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*

 

Ferns & Canyon Tours

My favorite part of Hoosier Prairie State Nature Preserve is the trail that winds beneath the black oaks of the savanna. Here, ferns begin to don the colors of autumn.*

 

At Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, acrobatic cinnamon ferns take hold in the soggy ground of Cowles Bog, which is not a bog at all but, rather, a wetland known as a fen.*

At Cowles Bog in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the change to autumn colors begin with the ferns. Here, acrobatic cinnamon ferns take hold in the soggy ground of Cowles Bog, which is not a bog at all but, rather, a wetland known as a fen.*

 

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*

 

Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough

A great blue heron takes flight as the sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois

A great blue heron takes flight as the sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois.

 

* 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

 

Best Chicago Nature Walks, Wildflower Report, News & Info – 09/13/2018

Posted by on 9:49 am in Blog, Featured | 2 comments

Best Chicago Nature Walks, Wildflower Report, News & Info – 09/13/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 13, 2018

“Plan the best Chicago nature walks with this Chicago wildflower report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. We’d love to hear about your adventures! You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

September is the Season of Gold in Chicagoland. In particular, the smiling, yellow blooms of sawtooth sunflower tower above the panorama in such fantastic fashion that it is bound to make your heart skip a beat! The name comes from its serrated leaves that resemble the blade of a saw. Blooms of asters have emerged in our woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, a signal that autumn is near. And, of course, the goldenrods are also making their presence known. NOTE: The goldenrods do not and cannot cause allergies. The pollen is so heavy that it drops to the ground and, therefore, cannot float through air to be inhaled. The grasses are beautiful at this time of year, as big bluestem and Indian grass display their tasseled tops. These grasses can rise as high as eight feet into the air. And, finally, the sublime blues of bottle gentian, prairie gentian, and fringed gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Bluff Spring FenPowderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Chiwaukee Prairie. Learn more about gentians in the Photo Section (below).

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.

 

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

Sawtooth sunflower rises above the prairie with tremendous shows are being held at Wolf Road Prairie and Spears Woods. This sensational flower can be appreciated at other many preserves like Belmont PrairieFermilab Prairie, Gensburg-Markham PrairieKickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie. Northbrook’s Somme Prairie Grove offers many flowers in bloom, including some of the gentians. And finally, the September panorama at Lake in the Hills Fen is breathtaking.

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND 

 

THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: With its the rolling terrain and varied habitats, Spears Woods is the probably the most beautiful preserve in the region. And, if you visit now, you’ll see why. Wow! The golden flowers are remarkable, with panoramas of sawtooth sunflowerlong-bracted tickseed sunflower, and sprinklings of goldenrod. (See Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates to the prairie trail head.). You also be welcomed by the tall, elegant big bluestem and Indian grass that provides tones of auburn and brown. And pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet. Spears Woods is the most beautiful preserve in the region.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Come for the spectacular golden show of skyward sawtooth sunflower. As you wander the trails, look for the tallest flowers. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods, various blooms of aster, and the occasional gentian.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, most notably sawtooth sunflower. Along your way, you’ll find asters, like the sky blue aster, and the rare savanna blazing star. Monarchs love the blazing stars at this time of year when there are fewer flowers left to feed on. Look for the gentians, too: the gorgeous cream gentian, bottle gentian, fringed gentian, and prairie gentian. As is common during the late-summer months, you’ll travel through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass. When the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are now flavescent with plumes that smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Check out the Somme Prairie Grove web page for how to access this preserve.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: September is my favorite time to visit. The light is softer, the days are usually cooler, and the panoramic view of this expansive preserve will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. The preserve is gorgeous with the warm tones of autumn in the waving grasses along with the golds of omnipresent sawtooth sunflower and various species of goldenrod. Alabaster blooms of tall boneset can be found on the kames. And populations of purples include silky aster in the gravelly spots and the sublime fringed gentian and bottle gentian near the fens’ soggy seeps. This preserve is easily accessible with ample parking and wide paths.

 

RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: Visit to find sawtooth sunflower, various goldenrods, and hypnotic waves of tall grasses, like the tall tasseled Indian grass and big bluestem. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: Visit for the goldenrods and then take a walk through the large prairie outside the fence, where you’ll find expanses of tall grasses, goldenrods, and sawtooth sunflower.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail
Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough
in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

In September, at many prairies across the Chicago region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in towering fields of gold, like here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

Bottle Gentian

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

 

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

 

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie. When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Fringed Gentian

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year.*

 

Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Here at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” Find big bluestem at Belmont PrairieSomme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*

 

Ferns & Canyon Tours

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Highland, Indiana

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Schererville, Indiana.*

 

A forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.

In the Cowles Bog area, you’ll find many species of fern. Here, a forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.*

 

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*

 

Sultry Summer Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough (That’s a mouthful!)

The sun sets on this hot summer afternoon at Saganashkee Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois near Chicago.

On this sweltering, sultry afternoon, a soft flavescent sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois.*

 

* 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

 

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 09/06/2018

Posted by on 12:25 pm in Blog, Featured | 4 comments

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 09/06/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 6, 2018

“Plan the best Chicago nature walks with this Chicago nature report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. We’d love to hear about your adventures! You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

This week is when blooms of asters emerge in our woodlands, wetlands, and prairies, a signal that autumn is near. The flamboyant rough blazing star is ending its multi-week run at several prairies and oak savannas. And, in most prairies, you’ll find the towering sunflower blooms of sawtooth sunflower alongside the floating yellow blossoms of tall coreopsis. And, of course, the goldenrods are also making their presence known. NOTE: The goldenrods do not and cannot cause allergies. The pollen is so heavy that it drops to the ground and, therefore, cannot float through air to be inhaled. The grasses are beautiful at this time of year, as big bluestem and Indian grass display their tasseled tops. These grasses can rise as high as eight feet into the air. And, finally, the sublime blues of bottle gentian, prairie gentian, and fringed gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Bluff Spring FenPowderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Chiwaukee Prairie. Learn more about gentians in the Photo Section (below).

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.

 

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

Visit Illinois Beach Nature PreservePembroke Savanna,, and Lake in the Hills Fen for expansive displays of rough blazing star.

Sawtooth sunflower rises above the prairie with skybound stalks. Tremendous shows are being held at  Wolf Road Prairie and Spears Woods, but the flower can also be appreciated Belmont PrairieFermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Springbrook Prairie. And finally, Somme Prairie Grove offers many flowers in bloom, including some of the gentians.

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND 

 

THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: The dramatic show of rough blazing star takes over the entire preserve, with the densest blooms happening in the sand prairie. Also blooming is stiff sunflower, western sunflowerlarge false foxglove, and showy goldenrod. The feathery blooming plumes of Indian grass are gorgeous, as well.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: Purple rough blazing star is blooming in profusion! Also in the mix is beautiful field goldenrodwestern sunflower, and the understated round-headed bush clover.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: The preserve flaming with gold and purple flowers. Tall goldenrod and sawtooth sunflower dominate the yellows The pinkish blooms of native thistles are joined by fabulous purple expanses of rough blazing star on the kames and fringed gentian near the fens’ soggy seeps. Pearly white blooms of tall boneset can also be found on the kames. This preserve is easily accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths. Anytime I visit this vast preserve, I feel like I’ve gotten away from civilization.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: A spectacular golden show of skybound sawtooth sunflower is now taking place. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and various blooms of aster.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: Wow! The golden flowers are remarkable, with panoramas of sawtooth sunflower and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. (See Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates to the prairie trail head.). You also be welcomed by the tall, elegant big bluestem and Indian grass that provides tones of auburn and brown. And pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, most notably sawtooth sunflower and tall coreopsis. Along your way, you’ll find asters, like the sky blue aster, and the rare savanna blazing star. Look for the gentians, too: the gorgeous cream gentian, bottle gentian, and prairie gentian. As is common during the late-summer months, you’ll travel through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass. When the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are flavescent, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of blackening seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Check out the Somme Prairie Grove web page for how to access this preserve.

 

RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The main show is taking place in the small patch of dolomite prairie on the eastern half of the preserve where rough blazing star, little bluestem, and white goldenrod bloom most delicately. Yes, you read it correctly, white goldenrod. It looks like a white aster and can be found at other preserves, like Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen. Tall tasseled Indian grass and big bluestem dominate the eastern half of the preserve, alongside switch grassCanada wild rye, and prairie dropseed. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: This was a “Go” last week. This week, many of the blooms have faded or disappeared. Still, you can find a decent display of rough blazing star and goldenrods. While you’re here, consider taking a hike in the large prairie beyond, where you’ll find expanses of tall grasses and sawtooth sunflower.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail
Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough
in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Lake in the Hills Fen

Rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

Just a week ago, rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominated the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

 

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

Just before this morning’s sunrise, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

 

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

This is a recent scene from Lake in the Hills Fen, as tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

Pembroke Savanna

The celebration of rough blazing star and field goldenrod is probably Pembroke’s most prolific performance of the year, but it’s by no means the only one. This rich community of plants puts on many shows throughout the growing season.

The celebration of rough blazing star and field goldenrod is probably Pembroke’s most prolific performance of the year, but it’s by no means the only one. This rich community of plants puts on many shows throughout the growing season.*

 

In a shining spot under the open canopy of the black oaks, western sunflowers smile in the September sun at Pembroke Savanna.

In a shining spot under the open canopy of the black oaks, western sunflowers smile in the September sun at Pembroke Savanna.

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

 

Wolf Road Prairie

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

 

Theodore Stone Preserve

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of the preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of Theodore Stone Preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.*

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

On this foggy August morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, purple blooms of rough blazing star and the bright green foliage of compass plant bring color to the hill prairie.*

On Sunday at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, the sun burned through the fog to illuminate the purple blooms of rough blazing star and the bright green foliage of compass plant.

 

Rough Blazing Star

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness.*

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness. (NOTE: The density of flowers varies from year to year.)*

 

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

In September, at many prairies across the Chicago region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in towering fields of gold, like here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

Bottle Gentian

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

 

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

 

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie. When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

Fringed Gentian

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days.*

Gorgeous fringed gentians bloom in September. However, the flowers are diurnal, meaning that the the blooms only open up with the sun and are closed at night and, sometimes, on cloudy days. You can find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

Asters come in a variety of colors: white, pink, purple, and blue. The name comes from an Ancient Greek word for “star.” You can find them in most prairies and savannas, and in some wetlands around the region. This is an image of New England aster, which is just one of the many species of aster that bloom at this time of year.*

 

Big Bluestem Grass and the Tallgrass Prairie

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Here at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” Find big bluestem at Belmont PrairieSomme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

 

Large False Foxglove

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois. You call also experience this flower at Pembroke Savanna, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and in the savanna of Bluff Spring Fen.*

 

Ferns & Canyon Tours

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Highland, Indiana

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Schererville, Indiana.*

 

A forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.

In the Cowles Bog area, you’ll find many species of fern. Here, a forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.*

 

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*

 

Sultry Summer Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough (That’s a mouthful!)

The sun sets on this hot summer afternoon at Saganashkee Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois near Chicago.

On this sweltering, sultry afternoon, a soft flavescent sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois.*

 

* 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

 

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/31/2018

Posted by on 9:42 am in Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/31/2018

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/31/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
Labor Day Edition
August 31, 2018

“Plan the best Chicago outdoor adventure with this Chicago nature report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

This Labor Day weekend is fantastic for wildflowers! The flamboyant rough blazing star that is making its multi-week run at several prairies and oak savannas. And, in most prairies, you’ll find the towering sunflower blooms of sawtooth sunflower and the floating yellow blossoms of tall coreopsis. The goldenrods are also making their presence known. NOTE: The goldenrods do not and cannot cause allergies. The pollen is so heavy that it drops to the ground and, therefore, cannot float through air to be breathed in. Now is the also time to experience the quirky obedient plant. Its pivoting snapdragon flowers obediently stay put when you swivel them on their mysterious botanical hinges. In open woodlands, you’ll still find the feathery skyward blooms sweet Joe-Pye weed alongside the golden rays of woodland sunflower and brown-eyed Susan. The grasses are beautiful at this time of year, as big bluestem and Indian grass display their tasseled tops. These grasses can rise as high as eight feet into the air. And, finally, the sublime blues of bottle gentian can be found at preserves like Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Powderhorn Prairie. Learn more about this plant in the Photo Section (below).

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.

 

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

Visit Shoe Factory Road Prairie  Bluff Spring Fen, Lake in the Hills FenIllinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Pembroke Savanna for prominent displays of rough blazing star.

Prairie dock, tall coreopsis, and sawtooth sunflower are festooned with golden sunflowers upon skybound stalks. They can be seen at many preserves across the region, including Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont PrairieFermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Springbrook Prairie. And, finally, the woodland of Somme Prairie Grove is wild with sweet Joe-Pye weed, woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, and tall ironweed. The savanna is also rich with various blooms.

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND 

 

THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: The dramatic show of rough blazing star takes over the entire preserve, with the densest blooms happening in the sand prairie. Also blooming is stiff sunflower, western sunflowerlarge false foxglove, and showy goldenrod. The feathery blooming plumes of Indian grass are gorgeous, as well.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: Purple rough blazing star is blooming in profusion! Also in the mix is beautiful field goldenrodwestern sunflower, and the understated round-headed bush clover.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: The preserve flaming with gold and purple flowers. Tall goldenrod and sawtooth sunflower dominate the yellows while dense stands of rough blazing star provide the purple. Pearly white blooms of tall boneset can also be found on the kames.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: See the fantastic show of rough blazing star and obedient plant  Also flowering is stiff sunflower. western sunflower, white goldenrod, and beautiful stands of Indian grass. Under the trees, you’ll also find a nice display of woodland sunflower. Note: Bluff Spring Fen is located nearby.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: The pretty displays of rough blazing star makes this preserve worth the trip. You can find them atop the big kame (take the out-and-back trail) and on either side of the path of the “switchback” kame. Located at the moist base of the opening kames, golden sunflowers grow atop tall stalks of cutleaf coneflower, cup plant, tall coreopsis, and wingstem. Other sun-loving flowers of mention are spotted Joe-Pye weedswamp milkweed, and shrubby cinquefoil. Note: Shoe Factory Road Prairie is not far away.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Visit the prairie for tall coreopsis and forests of sawtooth sunflower. Look around for the tallest sawtooth sunflower. There are some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and rough blazing star.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: The woodland surrounding the preserve is gorgeous, featuring a grand display of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, tall ironweed, and sweet Joe-Pye weed. Under the sun. peruse the panoply of prairie plants, including goldenrods, obedient plant, rough blazing starround-headed bush clover, the lovely cream gentianprairie dock, flowering spurge, and prairie dropseed. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are turning yellow, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of brown seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn.

 

RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The main show is taking place in the small patch of dolomite prairie on the eastern half of the preserve where rough blazing star, little bluestem, and white goldenrod bloom most delicately. Yes, you read it correctly, white goldenrod. It looks like a white aster and can be found at other preserves, like Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen. Tall tasseled Indian grass and big bluestem dominate the eastern half of the preserve, alongside switch grassCanada wild rye, and prairie dropseed. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail
Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough
in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

On this foggy August morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, purple blooms of rough blazing star and the bright green foliage of compass plant bring color to the hill prairie.*

On Sunday at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, the sun burned through the fog to illuminate the purple blooms of rough blazing star and the bright green foliage of compass plant.

 

Rough blazing star rises colors the foggy hill prairie at Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.*

Just the other day, rough blazing star colored the foggy hill prairie at Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

 

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view.*

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view. Right now, rough blazing star is putting on a magnificent show.* 

 

Lake in the Hills Fen

Rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominate the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

On Thursday, rough blazing star and Indiana grass dominated the top of this kame at Lake in the Hill Fen.

 

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

Just before this morning’s sunrise, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

 

In late August, tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

Just today, this was the scene from Lake in the Hills Fen, as tall goldenrod and purple rough blazing star contribute to an explosion of color at Lake in the Hills Fen.

 

Pembroke Savanna

The celebration of rough blazing star and field goldenrod is probably Pembroke’s most prolific performance of the year, but it’s by no means the only one. This rich community of plants puts on many shows throughout the growing season.

The celebration of rough blazing star and field goldenrod is probably Pembroke’s most prolific performance of the year, but it’s by no means the only one. This rich community of plants puts on many shows throughout the growing season.*

 

In a shining spot under the open canopy of the black oaks, western sunflowers smile in the September sun at Pembroke Savanna.

In a shining spot under the open canopy of the black oaks, western sunflowers smile in the September sun at Pembroke Savanna.

 

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

 

 

Theodore Stone Preserve

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of the preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of Theodore Stone Preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.*

 

 

Wolf Road Prairie

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

 

 

Bottle Gentian

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

Blue bottle gentians survive under the shadow of the dense September prairie, where plants, like this sawtooth sunflower, can tower twelve feet into the air.*

 

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

Bottle gentian (or closed gentian) is fully dependent on bumblebees for its survival. The petals of this unusual flower are effectively closed to other insects, but the strong bumblebee is able to muscle its way in through the tip. Late in the season, when fewer plants are blooming, bottle gentian relies on the slim pickings for pollination, hoping bumblebees won’t mind the extra effort.*

 

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

When I first set eyes upon these fading blooms of bottle gentian, I was taken aback, struck by an arrow through my heart. Instantly, I fell in love with the prettiest flowers I had ever seen. Maybe I was just having one of those days, but I was close to tears.*

 

Rough Blazing Star

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness.*

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness. (NOTE: The density of flowers varies from year to year.)*

 

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

 

Sawtooth Sunflower

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

In September, at many prairies across the Chicago region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in towering fields of gold, like here at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

Large False Foxglove

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois. You call also experience this flower at Pembroke Savanna, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and in the savanna of Bluff Spring Fen.*

 

 

Ferns & Canyon Tours

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Highland, Indiana

Royal ferns in the light fog of the savanna at Hoosier Prairie in Schererville, Indiana.*

 

A forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.

In the Cowles Bog area, you’ll find many species of fern. Here, a forest of royal ferns thrives in a wetland that has formed at the base of a high dune.*

 

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois.

Lush ferns line the walls of Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois. But you can only see it if you sign up for their upcoming canyon tours. Register soon. They fill up quickly.*

 

Sultry Summer Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough (That’s a mouthful!)

The sun sets on this hot summer afternoon at Saganashkee Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois near Chicago.

On this sweltering, sultry afternoon, a soft flavescent sun sets over Saganashkee Slough in Palos Hills, Illinois.*

 

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

 

* 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

 

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/23/2018

Posted by on 11:54 am in Blog, Featured | Comments Off on Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/23/2018

Best Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Report, News & Info – 08/23/2018

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 23, 2018

“Plan the best Chicago outdoor adventure with this Chicago nature report
filled with news and info about the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Don’t miss one perfect moment.
Click here to subscribe to received FREE nature alerts!

Please let us know about how you’re using our service and what it brings to you life. You may write a comment by visiting the blog or our Facebook page. Also share this website with others and suggest that they subscribe.

 

Before I begin, I suggest that you visit Wolf Road Prairie between 10 and 4 on Saturday, August 25 for their Annual Prairie Fest. And maybe I’ll see you there! Visit the newly renovated prairie house, and take part in activities that will interest the entire family. And, best of all, take a guided tour through the prairie sparkling with gold! Click here for their website or visit their Facebook page.

 

The flower of the moment is the flamboyant rough blazing star that is beginning its spectacular three-week run. And you can still experience its much smaller cousin, the low-lying button blooms of cylindrical blazingstar, which has the deepest root of any prairie plant. (See how deep it goes in the illustration near the bottom of the post.) Now is the time to experience the quirky obedient plant that has pivoting snapdragon flowers that obediently stay put when you swivel it on its mysterious botanical hinge. Very cool! In many prairies, the towering golden blooms of prairie dock can be found. They’ll make you feel small and take your breath away. In open woodlands, you’ll still find the feathery skyward blooms sweet Joe-Pye weed and golden rays of woodland sunflower.  And big bluestem and Indian grass are in full flower, but you’ll have to look closely at their top tassels. And then there are the goldenrods alongside the tallest plant in the prairie, sawtooth sunflower. It can easily tower twelve feet into the air. And you thought compass plant and prairie dock were tall!

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.

 

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

This is another wonderful week for Chicago’s wildflowers. Visit Wolf Road Prairie for the Annual Prairie Fest on Saturday, August 25 and take a guided tour to experience prairie dock, tall coreopsissawtooth sunflower, and various goldenrods. Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Bluff Spring Fen are bursting with rough blazing star and cylindrical blazingstar. Lake in the Hills Fen is also showing off its golden bling along with the royal rough blazing star, which is having a better than normal year at this preserve. You can also find this beautiful plant in great numbers at Shoe Factory Road Prairie  Bluff Spring Fen, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Pembroke SavannaPrairie dockcompass plant, and sawtooth sunflower are festooned with golden sunflowers upon skybound stalks. They can be seen at many preserves across the region, including Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont PrairieFermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Springbrook Prairie. And, finally, the woodland of Somme Prairie Grove is wild with sweet Joe-Pye weed, woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, and tall ironweed.

 

 

PLAN YOUR CHICAGO OUTDOOR ADVENTURE THIS WEEKEND 

 

THIS WEEK’S TOP PRESERVES:

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Come for their Annual Prairie Fest on Saturday, August 25 between 10 and 4  And take a guided through the golden prairie where you’ll find tall coreopsis and forests of prairie dock prairie dock and sawtooth sunflower. Look around for the tallest prairie dock plant. I found at nine-footer! Then search for the tallest sawtooth sunflower. There are definitely some twelve-footers out there! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including various goldenrods and rough blazing star. And, in the oak savanna, you’ll see woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: The woodland surrounding the preserve is gorgeous, featuring a grand display of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, tall ironweed, and sweet Joe-Pye weed. Under the sun. peruse the panoply of prairie plants, including goldenrods, obedient plant, rough blazing starround-headed bush clover, the lovely cream gentianprairie dock, flowering spurge, and prairie dropseed. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are turning yellow, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of brown seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates: See the fantastic show of rough blazing star and obedient plant that bloom alongside the remaining purple blossoms of cylindrical blazingstar. Also, present are western sunflower, flowering spurge, and nodding wild onion. Under the trees, you’ll also find a dense display of woodland sunflower. Note: Bluff Spring Fen is located nearby.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: The flowers of cylindrical blazing star and the fresh prominent blooms rough blazing star are putting on a glorious display atop the big kame (take the out-and-back trail) and on either side of the path of the “switchback” kame. Also in the purple mix is the rarely seen white goldenrod. It looks nothing like a goldenrod and almost exactly like an aster, which is why it was once part of the aster family. This is why science is so great. If they get it wrong, they fix it. They don’t continue the myth. Under the oak canopy, you’ll find towering sweet Joe-Pye weed and the aptly named bottlebrush grass.  Located at the moist base of the opening kames, golden sunflowers grow atop tall stalks of cutleaf coneflower, cup plant, tall coreopsis, and wingstem. Other sun-loving flowers of mention are flowering spurge, spotted Joe-Pye weedswamp milkweedcompass plant, and shrubby cinquefoil. Note: Shoe Factory Road Prairie is not far away.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: Rough blazing star is beginning to flower, which will keep this preserve on our list for weeks to come. There’s also a sparkling show of flowering spurge in the savanna, along with large false foxglove and western sunflower.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: Purple rough blazing star is blooming in a mix of beautiful field goldenrodwestern sunflower, and the understated round-headed bush clover The landscape is also dotted with thinning white blooms flowering spurge.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: Gold, purple, and white is the theme. Goldenrods and prairie dock highlight this vast landscape with their gilded blossoms. Blooms of amethyst arise from spotted Joe-Pye weed and emerging rough blazing star, which is quickly stealing the show. And pearly white blooms of tall boneset on the kames and flat-topped aster in the wetter areas add sparkle to the landscape.

 

 

RATED “GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD”:

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: Rough blazing star is blooming. And, you’ll also find the rare and sublime cream gentian alongside prairie dock, tall coreopsiscompass plant, flowering spurge, and pasture thistle.

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The main show is taking place in the small patch of dolomite prairie on the eastern half of the preserve where rough blazing star, little bluestem, and white goldenrod bloom most delicately. Yes, you read it correctly. white goldenrod. It looks like a white aster and can be found at other preserves, like Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen. Blooming tassels of Indian grass and big bluestem dominate the eastern half of the preserve, alongside switch grassCanada wild rye, and prairie dropseed. Note: Spears Woods is just down the road.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: Visit for the woodland of fluffy sweet Joe-Pye weed and woodland sunflower that surround Hogwash Slough, my favorite Chicago wetland. And check out Boomerang Slough for swamp rose mallow along the bank. A hike through the prairie will provide you with a diverse display of wildflowers, including ironweed, prairie docktall coreopsisflowering spurgecompass plant, and early goldenrod. Note: Theodore Stone Preserve is only a few miles away.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are here! You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau CanyonPilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail
Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns that are beginning to change into their autumn colors. If you’d like to experience a beautiful fern-lined canyon, call Sagawau Canyon in Lemont, Illinois to sign up for their next canyon tour. Hurry! They fill up fast.

See a Summer Sunset
Saganashkee Slough
in Palos Hills: Sensational for sunsets, as our celestial star—a bright, burning brass ball—slowly sinks in the sky to start a sultry summer eve.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Wolf Road Prairie

A "forest" of compass plants reach for the sky at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

On the evening of Friday, August 17, 2018., I found this stunning scene—a “forest” of compass plants reaching for the sky at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

 

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

September at Wolf Road Prairie gives proof of nature’s comfort, as sawtooth sunflower and obedient plant tangle in a glorious embrace.*

 

Bluff Spring Fen

In August, cylindircal blazingstar covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

This is a recent shot from Sunday, August 19, 2018 of cylindircal blazingstar covering the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois. And, if you visit this week, you’ll find freshly blooming rough blazing star in an even more spectacular display.

 

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

Soft sunlight, diffused by morning mist, filters across the preserve. Gathered at the base of the kame, fire-resistant bur oaks hover above a colorful caboodle of spotted Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view.*

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view. Right now, rough blazing star is putting on a magnificent show.* 

 

In late August at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, golden blooms of compass plant rise above a purple patches of rough blazing star.*

In late August at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, golden blooms of compass plant rise above a purple patches of rough blazing star.*

 

 

Somme Prairie Grove

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun.*

In 1985, this area was cast in total darkness, a dirt floor under an endless gray barrier of scraggly buckthorn. Now, after lots of love from volunteers, it is the edge of a woodland, well-lit and teeming with tall flowers that reach for the sun. Here, we can see an August celebration of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, sweet Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed.*

 

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.*

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.*

 

Lake in the Hills Fen

In August, a knee-high carpet of grass-leaved goldenrod sparkles in the midst of tall goldenrod and a soaring phalanx of prairie dock.

In August, a knee-high carpet of grass-leaved goldenrod sparkles in the midst of tall goldenrod and a soaring phalanx of prairie dock.*

 

Pembroke Savanna

At Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois, early September explodes with rough blazing star.*

At Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois, late August begins an explosive bloom of rough blazing star that continues into September.*

 

In August, the white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

On August 14, 2018, the white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois.

 

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Rough blazing star and western sunflower find protection from the elements inside the swale of the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

Early late-summer light strikes the tops of indian grass, western sunflower, and rough blazing star at the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

 

In late summer, early flowering spurge and purple rough blazing star blanket the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

In late summer, flowering spurge and purple rough blazing star blanket the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve *

 

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and Pembroke Savanna.*

 

 

Theodore Stone Preserve

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of the preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.

The dolomite prairie on the eastern side of Theodore Stone Preserve reminds me of a planned garden or springtime in the desert, where each plant is given its own space to grow. But instead of a separation of lifeless mulch or sand, here, rough blazing star and little bluestem are connected by a downy, green veil of mysterious grass.*

 

 

Spears Woods

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

 

 

Rough Blazing Star

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness.*

Compared to the densely colonized black soil prairie along its western border, this rocky dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve can sometimes appear a bit sparse. But near summer’s end, the eastern prairie easily outshines its western neighbor when the vibrant pinks of rough blazing star fill all feelings of emptiness. (NOTE: The density of flowers varies from year to year.)*

 

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Spider webs and rough blazing star in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.*

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

Cylindrical Blazingstar

In August, cylindrical Blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

In August, cylindrical blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. You can also find it Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and, in large numbers, at Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Bluff Spring Fen.*

Large False Foxglove

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

In late summer, large false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois. You call also experience this flower at Pembroke Savanna, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and in the savanna of Bluff Spring Fen.*

Big Bluestem Grass

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.”*

 

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

 

 

Prairie Dock & Compass Plant

You can find prairie dock at Middlefork Savanna, an imaginative creation dreamt up by Mother Nature. Stretching at least twelve feet beneath the prairie is the taproot—the life, the energy source, and the heart of this plant. The root is also the artery, transporting cold water from deep below to nourish and cool the affection of heartshaped leaves, which are prone to shriveling under the summer sun.Where the root meets the air, a blood-red stalk takes over the job. Swerving towards the sky, the thick stem carries life to multiple golden flowers that may float as high as ten feet above the prairie. Here, the first flower has bloomed, while many ball-like buds are about to follow suit.

You can find prairie dock at Middlefork Savanna, an imaginative creation dreamt up by Mother Nature. Stretching at least twelve feet beneath the prairie is the taproot—the life, the energy source, and the heart of this plant. The root is also the artery, transporting cold water from deep below to nourish and cool the affection of heartshaped leaves, which are prone to shriveling under the summer sun.Where the root meets the air, a blood-red stalk takes over the job. Swerving towards the sky, the thick stem carries life to multiple golden flowers that may float as high as ten feet above the prairie. Here, the first flower has bloomed, while many ball-like buds are about to follow suit.*