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Chicago Fall Color Weekends, Nature Info & News – 10/20/2017

Posted by on 10:00 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Fall Color Weekends, Nature Info & News – 10/20/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
October 20, 2017

“Plan your Chicago fall-color weekend with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Using this website to plan your fall-color weekends?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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

Finally, the trees in our woodlands are beginning to show some fall color. Depending the preserve location and the species of trees, my overall estimate of peak color is currently at ten to thirty percent. Of course, the plants of Chicago’s prairies are exhibiting fall’s effects, with a tallgrass tapestry of autumn foliage: towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and tawny, fluffy spikes of gayfeather that glow in the sunlight. In one small patch of prairie, you’ll often find more color than any autumn woodland in the region: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Walk the wide trails to see the fall colors through the preserve’s various habitats.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: Recently, the trails have been greatly improved. It’s a great time to see tall waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established. So be careful.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and venerable bur oaks.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel small as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for a walk through the grand expanse. Then take in the view from the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Immerse yourself in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Here are examples of fall color in Chicago’s preserves from previous years. Get out there, and discover what this fall brings:

 

 

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.*

 

Autumn is the Chicago area is spectacular, especially along Sawmill Creek in Waterfall Glen in Darien, Illinois.*

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.*

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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, 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.*

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

Autumn is the Chicago area is spectacular, especially along Sawmill Creek in Waterfall Glen in Darien, Illinois.*

Autumn is the Chicago area is spectacular, especially along Sawmill Creek in Waterfall Glen in Darien, Illinois.*

 

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.*

 

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.*

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

* 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 town, 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

 

Chicago Fall Color Weekends, Nature Info & News – 10/13/2017

Posted by on 4:20 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Fall Color Weekends, Nature Info & News – 10/13/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
October 13, 2017

“Plan your Chicago fall color weekend with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Using this website to plan your fall-color weekends?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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

Though the rain has come, the weather has yet to cool down, and the woods remain mostly green. However, the plants of Chicago’s prairie are the first habitat to exhibit fall’s effects, where the final flowering asters have faded into a tallgrass tapestry of autumn foliage: towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and tawny, fluffy spikes of gayfeather that glow in the sunlight. In one small patch of prairie, you’ll often find more color than any autumn woodland in the region: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Walk the wide trails to see the fall colors through the preserve’s various habitats.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: Recently, the trails have been greatly improved. It’s a great time to see tall waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established. So be careful.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and venerable bur oaks.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel small as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for a walk through the grand expanse. Then take in the view from the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Immerse yourself in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

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.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color long 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 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 town, 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

 

Chicago Fall Color Outings, Nature Info & News – 10/05/2017

Posted by on 6:50 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Fall Color Outings, Nature Info & News – 10/05/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
October 5, 2017

“Plan your Chicago fall-color outings with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Using this website to plan your weekend adventures?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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

Given the hot, dry weather over the past six weeks, there has been very little change in the woodland canopy. However, the plants of the prairie have deep roots and are not as affected. The prairie is the first habitat to exhibit fall’s effects.

As the final flowering plants of aster and gentian are fading, experience towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and tawny, fluffy spikes of gayfeather that glow in the sunlight. In one small patch of prairie, you’ll often find more color than any autumn woodland in the region: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Walk the wide trails to see the fall colors through the preserve’s various habitats.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses. And don’t forget to look for fringed gentians in the wet areas.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September. Look for fringed and prairie gentians.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie in Glenview, Illinois: Though this is not an officially featured preserve on this website, visit now to see all three gentians in bloom—bottle, prairie, and fringed.
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: Recently, the trails have been greatly improved. It’s a great time to see asters and waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established. So be careful.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and the final golden blooms, along with gentians at the seep of the fen.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel small as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for the various asters, and take in the grand expanse buy standing on the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Take in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Bottle Gentians (or Closed Gentians)
These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. (See pictures below.) Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie.

Fringed Gentians
Fringed gentians might be the prettiest flower in the Chicago region. 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. Find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie,, Illinois Beach Nature PreserveLake in the Hills Fen, and Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie.

Asters, Asters, 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.

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.

 

PHOTO SECTION

Bottle Gentian (aka, Closed 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. You can find bottle gentians at preserves like Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills fen, Belmont Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, *

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

New England aster is just one of the many species of aster that bloom 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.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color long 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 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 town, 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

 

Chicago Fall Color Outings, Nature Info & News – 09/28/2017

Posted by on 6:46 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Fall Color Outings, Nature Info & News – 09/28/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 28, 2017

“Plan your Chicago fall-color outings with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Using this website to plan your weekends?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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 currently in bloom, the prairie becomes a beautiful mosaic of colors and textures. You may experience towering waves of red-stemmed grasses and 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 in the region: oranges, golds, reds, maroons, cyans, browns, and tans. And, before they fade, don’t forget to look for the ethereal blue and purple gentians. Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie and the large grassland at its base.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Walk the wide trails to see the fall colors through the preserve’s various habitats.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses. And don’t forget to look for fringed gentians in the wet areas.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September. Look for fringed and prairie gentians.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie in Glenview, Illinois: Though this is not an officially featured preserve on this website, visit now to see all three gentians in bloom—bottle, prairie, and fringed.
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: Recently, the trails have been greatly improved. It’s a great time to see asters and waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established. So be careful.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and the final golden blooms, along with gentians at the seep of the fen.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel small as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for the various asters, and take in the grand expanse buy standing on the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Take in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Bottle Gentians (or Closed Gentians)
These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. (See pictures below.) Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie.

Fringed Gentians
Fringed gentians might be the prettiest flower in the Chicago region. 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. Find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie,, Illinois Beach Nature PreserveLake in the Hills Fen, and Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie.

Asters, Asters, 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.

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.

 

PHOTO SECTION

Bottle Gentian (aka, Closed 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. You can find bottle gentians at preserves like Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills fen, Belmont Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, *

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

New England aster is just one of the many species of aster that bloom 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.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color long 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 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 town, 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

 

Chicago Nature Adventures, Nature Info & News – 09/20/2017

Posted by on 4:27 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Nature Adventures, Nature Info & News – 09/20/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 20, 2017

“Plan your Chicago autumn adventure with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

Using this website to plan your weekends?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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 flavescent foliage of plants that have dropped their petals long ago. 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, right now, some prairies offer beautiful purple displays of gentian. 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.

This week’s top recommendation is to see the showy goldenrod at Shoe Factory Road Prairie. Next on the list are Somme Prairie GroveSpears Woods, Theodore Stone PreserveBluff Spring Fen, Lake in the Hills Fen. and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve.. However, right now, any preserve gives me a great feeling. 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 a grand display of wildflowers.

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, and boy do I know it! So, trust me. Wear rain gear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

Here’s a list of preserves that are worth visiting as they begin changing into their autumn wardrobes:

  • Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates, Illinois: Walk this hill prairie to see showy goldenrod and then take a hike into the vast grassland below.
  • Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois: Get a wilderness experience by hiking the trails early in the day when few people visit.
  • Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois: Fall colors are adding to the floral mix. Click here for the location of the trailhead that goes west into the prairies.
  • Lake in the Hills Fen: Visit to experience the fens and the grand prairie expanse of grasses and goldenrods. And don’t forget to look for fringed gentians near the wet areas.
  • Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This is a beautiful prairie in September. Look for fringed gentians.
  • Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois: This is another preserve that provides an escape from urban life..
  • Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie in Glenview, Illinois: Though this is not an officially featured preserve on this website, visit now to see all three gentians in bloom—bottle, prairie, and fringed.
  • Theodore Stone Preserve: The trails have been greatly improved and it’s a great time to see asters and waves of red grasses.
  • Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale, Illinois: This is a beautiful prairie very close to Chicago’s city limits.
  • Powderhorn Prairie: This is the most biodiverse site within the city limits of Chicago, though the trails are not well established.
  • Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Visit to experience the towering grasses and the final golden blooms, along with fringed gentians at the seep of the fen.
  • Fermilab Prairie in Batavia: Feel short as you walk along wide prairie trails amidst skybound grasses and plants.
  • Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Illinois: Take a nice long walk along the wide trails to experience the changing colors of the prairie and wetlands.
  • Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois: Come for the various asters and the final stages of sawtooth sunflower. Take in the grand expanse buy standing on the deck of the prairie house at the north end.
  • Cowles Bog: Take in the early-autumn color on the trail that leads to Lake Michigan.
  • Miller Woods: Visit this large black oak savanna for galloping ferns and the variety of colors and textures.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Bottle Gentians (or Closed Gentians)
These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. (See pictures below.) Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie.

Fringed Gentians
Fringed gentians might be the prettiest flower in the Chicago region. 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. Find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie,, Illinois Beach Nature PreserveLake in the Hills Fen, and Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie.

Asters, Asters, 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.

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.

 

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.*

Here at Wolf Road Prairie, and at almost every prairie in the region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season. See them at Spears Woods, Middlefork Savanna, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Theodore Stone Preserve, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and Belmont Prairie..*

Bottle Gentian (aka, Closed 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. You can find bottle gentians at preserves like Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills fen, Belmont Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, *

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Lake in the Hills Fen.*

 

Asters, Asters, Asters!

New England asters

New England aster is just one of the many species of aster that bloom 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.*

 

 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.

Last week, on the morning of September 11, the expansive landscape at Lake in the Hills Fen featured newly blooming showy goldenrod. When the flog lifted, the flowers began to glow in the early morning light.*

 

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.*

In the September savanna at Hoosier Prairie, ferns begin to change color long 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 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

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

On this sweltering, sultry afternoon, a golden 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 town, 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

 

Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Info & News – 09/13/2017

Posted by on 12:00 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Outdoor Adventures, Nature Info & News – 09/13/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 13, 2017

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

 

SCOUTS NEEDED! Click to help us share the beauty.

Using this website to plan your weekends?
Then please help support us. Click now to donate!

 

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

 

September is the Season of Gold in Chicagoland. In the first half of the month, the prairies and savannas reflects the various sunny shades of goldenrod and sunflower-like plants. You’ll also find towering waves of red-stemmed grasses dancing in the prairie winds. And, right now, some prairies offer wonderful purple displays of rough blazing star and purple gentians.

The most prominent plant is the towering sawtooth sunflower (see picture below) that can easily reach twelve feet tall. The name comes from its serrated leaves that look saw-like. for the finest display in the region, visit Wolf Road Prairie.

This week’s recommendations are Somme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road Prairie, Spears Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Lake in the Hills Fen. Wolf Road Prairie, and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve . If you’re in the neighborhood, visit Belmont Prairie, Theodore Stone PreserveMiller Woods, and Tolleston Dunes. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, see fanning ferns, and go on a canyon tour. Yes, there’s a canyon in Lemont!

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, and boy do I know it! So, trust me. Wear rain gear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman States: In the open hill prairie, you’ll find wonderful displays of rough blazing star obedient plant , western sunflower, goldenrods and the grasses of Indian grass, and side oats grama, Under cover of the oak savanna, you’ll find a dense and prolific expanse of sawtooth sunflower, boneset, tall goldenrod, and Indian grass. In the prairie outside the fence, look into the distance to see expanses of auburn and brown from the tassels of big bluestem and Indian grass. Consider immersing yourself in these grasses by taking the wide trails through a vast panorama. While you’re in the area, you may want to check out Bluff Spring Fen, which is just fifteen minutes away by car.

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, which is probably the reason for the misnomer “tallgrass prairie.” It’s a misnomer because most species in a prairie are actually forbs (flowering plants). Still, when the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle.  The trails are narrow and somewhat overgrown. So watch your step. If you visit in the morning, wear rain gear or the plants will drench you with dew.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Sawtooth sunflower is everywhere, putting on a majestic gilded display in every direction. To scream, “Wow!” at the sight would be appropriate.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: As you enter the prairie (see Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates), you are welcomed by the beautiful September tones of auburn, brown, and gold, and flashes of white as you explore the wetter areas. Big bluestem and Indian grass line provide the auburns and browns, while the golds are reflected in tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. Pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: This preserve is celebrating September gold of sawtooth sunflower, wingstem, and the various goldenrods. As you explore, you’ll find white snakeroot and asters under the trees and the sublime purples of fringed gentian and great blue lobelia in the wet areas. And, of course, as you enter the bowl of the fen, you’ll pass through skyward stands of big bluestem and Indian grass.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills (I know, it’s redundant.): Make a trip to this vast preserve to experience the expansive of auburn and golden tones with rolling views of the prairie. Experience the tall grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass, along with the brilliant yellows of goldenrod, sawtooth sunflower, and prairie dock. The pinkish blooms of native thistles are joined by purple displays of rough blazing star and fringed gentians by the fens’ soggy seeps. 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. The preserve is very accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths.

llinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion is a beautiful outdoor getaway. It feels like wilderness, especially when go early in the day and you can be alone. You’ll find purple rough blazing star, western sunflower, showy goldenrod, and Indian grass.

 

IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IT’S PROBABLY WORTH A TRIP TO:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The mesic prairie on the west side of the preserve (after entering the main entrance) is tall with grasses and yellow flowers like tall coreopsis, common sneezeweed, and brown-eyed Susan . However, it’s the dolomite (limestone) prairie to the east where the magic is happening. Growing from the rock is a glorious little patch that includes rough blazing star, little bluestem, yellow goldenrod, and the unusual white goldenrod that looks like an aster. There’s a also a delicate, low grass. This is a scene that steals my heart. It’s a very special and delicate spot, so please stay on the trail.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove is an intimate preserve that is currently showcasing sawtooth sunflower and bottle gentian.

Miller Woods & Tolleston Dunes in Indiana: I forecast that both preserves offer long trails through wooded dunes, ferns, and flowers. We did not have the resources to visit this preserve. Please help us by volunteer to become a nature scout.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Bottle Gentians (or Closed Gentians)
These are not flowers that fill the landscape, but they are sublime. (See pictures below.) Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie.

Fringed Gentians
Fringed gentians might be the prettiest flower in the Chicago region. 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. Find them at preserves like Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Lake in the Hills Fen.

Asters, Asters, 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.

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is sensational for sunsets.

 

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.*

Here at Wolf Road Prairie, and at almost every prairie in the region, sawtooth sunflower blooms in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season. See them at Spears Woods, Middlefork Savanna, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Theodore Stone Preserve, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and Belmont Prairie..*

Bottle Gentian (aka, Closed 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. You can find bottle gentians at preserves like Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills fen, Belmont Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, *

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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

New England aster is just one of the many species of aster that bloom 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.*

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Late-summer morning 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 the sand prairie, early-morning September light strikes the tops of Indian grass, golden western sunflower, and rough blazing star in the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

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.

On Monday, September 11, the expansive landscape at Lake in the Hills Fen featured newly blooming showy goldenrod. When the flog lifted, the flowers began to glow in the early morning light.

 

 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 resembles 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

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.*

 

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.*

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

 

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

At Indiana Dunes Natoinal Lakeshore, 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.*

 

Sunsets Over Saganashkee Slough

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

On this sweltering, sultry afternoon, a golden 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.

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, September 21 (in rough order of urgency):

 

If you’d like to help your neighbors discover national-park quality natural events around town, 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

 

Chicago Outdoor Getaways, Info, & News – 09/07/2017

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Chicago Outdoor Getaways, Info, & News – 09/07/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
September 7, 2017

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

 

SCOUTS NEEDED! Click to help us share the beauty.

Using this website to plan your weekends?
Then please help support us. Click here to donate!

 

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

 

September is the season of gold. In the first half of the month, the prairies and savannas turn to gold as it reflects the various species of goldenrod and sunflower-like plants. You’ll also find towering waves of red-stemmed grasses dancing in the prairie winds. And, right now, some prairies offer wonderful purple displays of rough blazing star and purple gentians.

The most prominent plant is the towering sawtooth sunflower (see picture below) that can easily reach twelve feet tall. The name comes from its serrated leaves that look saw-like.

This week’s recommendations are Somme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road Prairie, Spears Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Lake in the Hills Fen. Wolf Road Prairie, and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve . If you’re in the neighborhood, visit Theodore Stone PreserveMiller Woods, and Tolleston Dunes. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, see fanning ferns, and go on a canyon tour. Yes, we have a canyon!

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear raingear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman States: In the open hill prairie, you’ll find wonderful displays of rough blazing star obedient plant , western sunflower, goldenrods and the grasses of Indian grass, and side oats grama, Under cover of the oak savanna, you’ll find a dense and prolific expanse of sawtooth sunflower, boneset, tall goldenrod, and Indian grass. In the prairie outside the fence, look into the distance to see expanses of auburn and brown from the tassels of big bluestem and Indian grass. Consider immersing yourself in these grasses by taking the wide trails through a vast panorama. While you’re in the area, you may want to check out Bluff Spring Fen, which is just fifteen minutes away by car.

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, which is probably the reason for the misnomer “tallgrass prairie.” It’s a misnomer because most species in a prairie are actually forbs (flowering plants). Still, when the first settlers travelling from the forests of the east, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle.  The trails are narrow and somewhat overgrown. So watch your step. If you visit in the morning, wear rain gear or the plants will drench you with dew.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester: Sawtooth sunflower is everywhere putting on a majestic display of yellow in every direction you look. Wow!

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: As you enter the prairie (see Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates), you are welcomed by the beautiful September tones of auburn, brown, and gold, and flashes of white as you explore the wetter areas. Big bluestem and Indian grass line provide the auburns and browns, while the golds are reflected in tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. Pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: This preserve is celebrating September gold of sawtooth sunflower, wingstem, and the various goldenrods. As you explore, you’ll find white snakeroot and asters under the trees and the sublime purples of fringed gentian and great blue lobelia in the wet areas. And, of course, as you enter the bowl of the fen, you’ll pass through skyward stands of big bluestem and Indian grass.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills (I know, it’s redundant.): Make a trip to this vast preserve to experience the expansive of auburn and golden tones with rolling views of the prairie. Experience the tall grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass, along with the brilliant yellows of goldenrod, sawtooth sunflower, and prairie dock. The pinkish blooms of native thistles are joined by purple displays of rough blazing star and fringed gentians by the fens’ soggy seeps. 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. The preserve is very accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths.

llinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion is a beautiful outdoor getaway. It feels like wilderness, especially when go early in the day and you can be alone. You’ll find purple rough blazing star, western sunflower, showy goldenrod, and Indian grass.

 

IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IT’S PROBABLY WORTH A TRIP TO:

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The mesic prairie on the west side of the preserve (after entering the main entrance) is tall with grasses and yellow flowers like tall coreopsis, common sneezeweed, and brown-eyed Susan . However, it’s the dolomite (limestone) prairie to the east where the magic is happening. Growing from the rock is a glorious little patch that includes rough blazing star, little bluestem, yellow goldenrod, and the unusual white goldenrod that looks like an aster. There’s a also a delicate, low grass. This is a scene that steals my heart. It’s a very special and delicate spot, so please stay on the trail.

Miller Woods & Tolleston Dunes in Indiana: I forecast that both preserves offer long trails through wooded dunes, ferns, and flowers. We did not have the resources to visit this preserve. Please help us by volunteer to become a nature scout.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Bottle Gentians (or Closed Gentians)
These are not flowersthat fill the landscape, but they are sublime. (See pictures below.) Look closely and you’ll find them at Lake in the Hills FenWolf Road PrairieSomme Prairie Grove, Powderhorn Prairie, and Belmont Prairie.

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is 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.*

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie and most tallgrass prairies in the region, including Spears Woods, Middlefork Savanna, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie, Theodore Stone Preserve, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and Belmont Prairie..*

Bottle Gentian (aka, Closed 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. You can find bottle gentians at preserves like Powderhorn Prairie, Lake in the Hills fen, Belmont Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, *

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

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.*

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Late-summer morning 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 the sand prairie, early-morning September light strikes the tops of Indian grass, golden western sunflower, and rough blazing star in the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

 

 

Somme Prairie Grove

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

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

 

 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 resembles 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

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.*

 

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

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 golden 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.

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, September 14 (in rough order of urgency):

 

If you’d like to help your neighbors discover national-park quality natural events around town, 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

 

Chicago Nature Adventure Info & News – 09/01/2017- Labor Day Edition

Posted by on 6:19 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Nature Adventure Info & News – 09/01/2017- Labor Day Edition

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
Labor Day Edition
September 1, 2017

“Plan your Chicago Labor Day adventure with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”

 

SCOUTS NEEDED! Click to help us share the beauty.

Using this website to plan your weekends?
Then please help support us. Click here to donate!

 

Here are some highlights to help you plan your Chicago Labor Day Adventure:

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve tops this week’s list with spectacular floral displays in the savanna. However, there are many other preserves that are looking fabulous:  Somme Prairie GroveShoe Factory Road Prairie, Spears Woods, Theodore Stone Preserve, and Lake in the Hills Fen. If you’re in the neighborhood, visit Bluff Spring Fen, and Miller Woods. and Tolleston Dunes. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, see fanning ferns, and go on a canyon tour. Yes, we have a canyon!

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear raingear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion is a 10 out of 10, exploding with color. Under the canopy of the black oak savanna, purple rough blazing star combines with white flowering spurge and the yellows of western sunflower and large false foxglove. Rough blazing star is also blooming in the sand prairie located between the savanna and Lake Michigan.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, including tall coreopsis, the newest and most prolific flower on the scene. No matter where you stand, you can probably see it somewhere. New on the scene is the gorgeous cream gentian. Under the trees, there are still a good number of yellow woodland sunflowers and taller brown-eyed Susans that combine with skybound pale-purple plumes of sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the sunny areas of the savanna, you’ll find yourself travelling through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass, which is probably the reason for the misnomer “tallgrass prairie.” It’s a misnomer because most species in a prairie are actually forbs (flowering plants). Still, when the first settlers travelling from the forest of the east came across the late-summer prairies, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. As you pass through, look carefully for the tiny flowers upon their tassels and plumes. Along the way, you’ll also find dense stands of molecular rattlesnake master, along with mountain mintironweed, obedient plant, and new blooms of goldenrod. Then there’s the skyward stalks of compass plant that can easily reach eight feet into the air, along with its tall cousin prairie dock with its enormous heart-shaped leaves. (See comparison below in the large Photo Section.) In addition to appreciating the kaleidoscopic colors, take note of the rich textures, including the symmetrical sprays of prairie dropseedThe trails are narrow and, currently, overgrown. So watch your step. If you visit in the morning, wear  raingear or the plants will drench you with dew.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman States offers wonderful displays of rough blazing star, cylindrical blazing star and obedient plant atop the hill prairie, along with compass plant, rosinweed, round-headed bush clover, tall coreopsis, and different species of goldenrod. Under cover of the oak savanna, you’ll find woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the prairie outside the fence, look into the distance to see expanses of purple from the tassels of big bluestem. Then, immerse yourself by taking the wide trails through a vast panorama of big bluestem and Indian grass. While you’re in the area, you may want to check out Bluff Spring Fen, which is just fifteen minutes away by car.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs: As you enter the prairie (see Spears Woods page for GPS coordinates), you are welcomed by the beautiful September tones of auburn, brown, and gold, and flashes of white as you explore the wetter areas. Big bluestem and Indian grass line provide the auburns and browns, while the golds are reflected in tall coreopsis, sawtooth sunflower, and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. Pearly stands of false aster can be found where the ground gets wet.

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins: The mesic prairie on the west side of the preserve (after entering the main entrance) is tall with grasses and yellow flowers like tall coreopsis, common sneezeweed, and brown-eyed Susan . However, it’s the dolomite (limestone) prairie to the east where the magic is happening. Growing from the rock is a glorious little patch that includes rough blazing star, little bluestem, yellow goldenrod, and the unusual white goldenrod that looks like an aster. There’s a also a delicate, low grass. This is a scene that steals my heart. It’s a very special and delicate spot, so please stay on the trail.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills (I know, it’s redundant.): Make a trip to this vast preserve to experience the expansive, rolling views of the prairie, covered with tall grasses and golden tones of goldenrod, compass plant, and prairie dock. The pinkish blooms of native thistles will soon be joined, in about a week, by large purple displays of rough blazing star. 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. The preserve is very accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths.

 

IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IT’S PROBABLY WORTH A TRIP TO:

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: We weren’t able to scout this preserve, this week. So, take your chances and let us know what’s going on there.

Miller Woods & Tolleston Dunes in Indiana: Both preserves offer long trails through wooded dunes, ferns, and flowers. Tolleston Dunes is covered with spotted bee balm.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is 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.*

Sawtooth sunflowers bloom in fields of towering, endless gold in one of the last dramatic displays of the summer season at Wolf Road Prairie and most tallgrass prairies in the region..*

Compass Plant & Prairie Dock

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic and unmistakable plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.*

 

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

This bloom of compass plant reaches for the sky.*

 

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 many preserves, including Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest. It’s 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 heart-shaped 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.*

 

Landscape of Compass Plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

 

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, at Lake in the Hills Fen, you can find knee-high carpets of grass-leaved goldenrod and a soaring stands of prairie dock.*

 

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.*

 

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

Look closely for miniature flowers that delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass. Currently, flowers can also be found upon the feathery plumes of Indian grass .* 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

 

Late-summer morning 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 the sand prairie, early-morning September light strikes the tops of Indian grass, golden western sunflower, and rough blazing star in the sand prairie along the Lake Michigan shoreline at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve 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, early 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.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. The flower can also be found at Pembroke Savanna.*

 

Somme Prairie Grove

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

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

 

 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 resembles 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

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.*

 

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

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 golden 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.

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, September 1 (in rough order of urgency):

If you’d like to help your neighbors discover national-park quality natural events around town, 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

 

Chicago Outdoor Adventure Info & News – 08/24/2017

Posted by on 10:29 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Outdoor Adventure Info & News – 08/24/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 24, 2017

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

 

SCOUTS NEEDED! Click to help us share the beauty.

Enjoy using the FREE INFO we provide?
Then please support our work. Click here to buy my Chicago nature book!

 

Here are some highlights to help you plan your Chicago weekend getaway:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve tops this week’s list with spectacular floral displays. Then comes Somme Prairie Grove and Shoe Factory Road Prairie. If you’re in the neighborhood, visit Bluff Spring Fen, Lake in the Hills Fen, and Miller Woods. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, see fanning ferns, and go on a canyon tour. Yes, we have a canyon!

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear raingear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion is 10 out of 10, exploding with color. Under the canopy of the black oak savanna, purple rough blazing star combines with white flowering spurge and the yellows of western sunflower and large false foxglove.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There’s a great variety of flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. Many of them are yellow, including tall coreopsis, the newest and most prolific flower on the scene. No matter where you stand, you can probably see it somewhere. Under the trees, there are thousands of yellow woodland sunflowers and taller brown-eyed Susans that combine with skybound pale-purple plumes of sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the sunny areas of the savanna, you’ll find yourself travelling through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass, which is probably the reason for the misnomer “tallgrass prairie.” It’s a misnomer because most species in a prairie are actually forbs (flowering plants). Still, when the first settlers travelling from the forest of the east came across the late-summer prairies, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. As you pass through, look carefully for the tiny flowers upon their tassels and plumes. Along the way, you’ll also find dense stands of molecular rattlesnake master, along with mountain mintironweed, obedient plant, and new blooms of goldenrod. Then there’s the skyward stalks of compass plant that can easily reach eight feet into the air, along with its tall cousin prairie dock with its enormous heart-shaped leaves. (See comparison below in the large Photo Section.) In addition to appreciating the kaleidoscopic colors, take note of the rich textures, including the symmetrical sprays of prairie dropseedThe trails are narrow and, currently, overgrown. So watch your step. If you visit in the morning, wear  raingear or the plants will drench you with dew.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman States offers wonderful displays of rough blazing star, cylindrical blazing star and obedient plant atop the hill prairie, along with compass plant, rosinweed, round-headed bush clover, and the beginnings of goldenrod. Under cover of the oak savanna, you’ll find woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the prairie outside the fence, look into the distance to see expanses of purple from the tassels of big bluestem. Then, immerse yourself by taking the wide trails through a vast panorama of big bluestem and Indian grass. And, don’t forget, Bluff Spring Fen is just fifteen minutes away by car.

 

IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IT’S PROBABLY WORTH A TRIP TO:

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: This week, there aren’t many fresh blooms here, and many flowers are fading. Still, there’s a lot to see. Towering displays of purplish sweet Joe-Pye weed can be seen under the oak savanna that opens the preserve. As you continue, you’ll see tall yellow sunflowers. One is wingstem, which you can identify by the flange running down the stem. Another is cutleaf coneflower, with its the deeply lobed leaves. And then there’s cup plant, which likes the wetter spots. It has large opposing leaves that join at the stem and holds pooled water for birds and insects. Other yellow flowers include rosinweed, skyrocketing compass plant, and goldenrods like stiff goldenrod and grass-leaved golderod. Along with the purplish sweet Joe-Pye weed, experience the pinks and purples of cylindrical blazing star, rough blazing starnodding wild onion, wild bergamot, and, in the wetter areas, swamp milkweed and spotted Joe-Pye weed. At this time of year, the grasses are prominent, including Canada wild ryelittle bluestembig bluestem, Indian grass, all acting as brushes loaded with morning dew. Notice the minute flowers atop the tassels of big bluestem and Indian grass. And then there’s the aptly named bottlebrush grass that can be found in the shade of the oak savanna.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills: Make a trip to this vast preserve to experience the expansive, rolling views of the prairie, covered with tall grasses and golden tones of goldenrod, compass plant, and prairie dock. The pinkish blooms of native thistles will soon be joined, in about a week, by large purple displays of rough blazing star. This preserve is easily accessible with ample parking and wide lawn paths.

Miller Woods & Tolleston Dunes in Indiana: Both preserves offer long trails through wooded dunes, ferns, and flowers. Tolleston Dunes is covered with spotted bee balm.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. 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 TrailMiller 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, Illinois is 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

 

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed

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 and many other preserves, discover summer tall, feathery blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

Compass Plant & Prairie Dock

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic and unmistakable plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.*

 

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

This bloom of compass plant reaches for the sky.*

 

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 many preserves, including Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest. It’s 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 heart-shaped 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.*

 

Landscape of Compass Plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

 

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, at Lake in the Hills Fen, you can find knee-high carpets of grass-leaved goldenrod and a soaring stands of prairie dock.*

 

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.*

 

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

Look closely for miniature flowers that delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass. Currently, flowers can also be found upon the feathery plumes of Indian grass .* 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

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, early 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.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. The flower can also be found at Pembroke Savanna.*

 

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.*

 

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

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

 

 Shoe Factory Road Prairie

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.*

 

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

Bluff Spring Fen

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 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 Joe-Pye weed and tall goldenrod.*

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 golden 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.

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, September 1 (in rough order of urgency):

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

 

Chicago Outdoor Adventure Info & News – 08/17/2017

Posted by on 9:11 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Chicago Outdoor Adventure Info & News – 08/17/2017

Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 17, 2017

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

MORE SCOUTS NEEDED! CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE.

ENJOY THE INFO WE PROVIDE? CONSIDER BUYING MY BOOK!

 

Here are some highlights to help you plan your Chicago weekend getaway:

Chicagoland is putting on great performances of tall flowers and grasses. Again, Somme Prairie Grove tops this week’s list. Then comes Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie. This is also a time to watch hummingbirds, see fanning ferns, and go on a canyon tour. Yes, we have a canyon! And, if you’re near Zion, I’m never going to stop you from visiting Illinois Beach Nature Preserve. You never know what you’ll discover there.

Thank you to Dave Hodge and the volunteers at Bluff Spring Fen for clearing the trails of overgrowth.

NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear raingear or you’ll become drenched in dew.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A CHICAGO OUTDOOR GETAWAY


Somme Prairie Grove
in Northbrook: There are many flowers in bloom throughout the preserve. The trails are narrow and, currently, overgrown. So watch your step. If you visit in the morning, wear raingear or the plants will drench you with dew. The big show is under the trees where the thousands of yellow woodland sunflowers and taller brown-eyed Susans combine with skybound pale-purple plumes of sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the sunny areas of the savanna, you’ll find yourself travelling through tunnels of big bluestem grass and Indian grass, which is probably the reason for the misnomer “tallgrass prairie.” It’s a misnomer because most of the species in a prairie are actually forbs (flowering plants). Still, when the first settlers travelling from the forest of the east came across the late-summer prairies, the towering grasses of Illinois would have been a unexpected obstacle. As you pass through, look carefully for the tiny flowers upon their tassels and plumes. You’ll find dense stands of molecular rattlesnake master, along with mountain mint, wild quinine, ironweed, obedient plant, and newly emerging blooms of goldenrod. Then, there’s the skyward stalks of compass plant that can easily reach eight feet into the air, along with its tall cousin prairie dock with its enormous heart-shaped leaves. (See comparison below in the large Photo Section.) In addition to appreciating the kaleidoscopic colors, notice the rich textures, including the symmetrical sprays of prairie dropseed.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Towering displays of purplish sweet Joe-Pye weed can be found under the oak savanna that opens the preserve. As you continue, you’ll see tall yellow sunflowers. One is wingstem, which you can identify by the flange running down the stem. Another is cutleaf coneflower, with its the deeply lobed leaves. Then you’ll also see cup plant, especially in the wetter areas. It has large opposing leaves that join at the stem and holds pooled water for birds and insects. Other yellow flowers include rosinweed, shrubby cinquefoil, skyrocketing compass plant, and goldenrods like stiff goldenrod and grass-leaved golderod. Experience that alabaster tones of wild quinine, flowering spurge, and rattlesnake master. Along with the purplish sweet Joe-Pye weed, experience the pinks and purples of cylindrical blazing star, rough blazing star, American bellflower, nodding wild onion, wild bergamot, and, in the wetter areas, swamp milkweed and spotted Joe-Pye weed. At this time of year, the grasses are prominent, including Canada wild rye, little bluestem, big bluestem, Indian grass, all acting as brushes loaded with morning dew. Notice the minute flowers atop the tassels of big bluestem and Indian grass. And then there’s the aptly named bottlebrush grass that can be found in the shade of the oak savanna.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman States offers wonderful displays of cylindrical blazing star and obedient plant atop the hill prairie, along with compass plant, rosinweed, round-headed bush clover, and the beginnings of goldenrod. Under cover of the oak savanna, you’ll find lots of woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the prairie outside the fence, look into the distance to see expanses of purple from the tassels of big bluestem. Then, immerse yourself by taking the wide trails through a vast panorama of big bluestem and Indian grass. And, don’t forget, Bluff Spring Fen is just fifteen minutes away by car.

 

IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, IT’S PROBABLY WORTH A TRIP TO:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (unscouted this week) always provides a wonderful and wild experience. Look for the emergence of rough blazing star in the prairie and savanna. This spectacular event is only days away.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park is about to explode with always provides a wonderful and wild experience. Look for the emergence of rough blazing star in the prairie and savanna. This spectacular event is only days away.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds, Hummingbirds!
The hummingbirds are still around and should be for the next couple of weeks. You can find them buzzing about at many nature centers including: Sagawau Canyon, Pilcher Park (at the nature center and south of the greenhouse), and Little Red Schoolhouse.

Ferns & Canyon Tours
Cowles Bog Trail, Miller Woods, and Hoosier Prairie (all in northwestern Indiana) are leaping with gymnastic ferns. 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, Illinois is 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

Woodland Sunflowers

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.*

 

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed

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 and other preserves, discover summer tall, feathery blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

Compass Plant & Prairie Dock

These are the large leaves of the prairie's most iconic plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.

These are the large leaves of the prairie’s most iconic and unmistakable plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is from a cousin called compass plant.*

 

Compass plant towers into the sky.*

This bloom of compass plant reaches for the sky.*

 

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 many preserves, including Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest. It’s 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 heart-shaped 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.*

 

Landscape of Compass Plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of Compass Plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

 

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, at Lake in the Hills Fen, you can find knee-high carpets of grass-leaved goldenrod and a soaring stands of prairie dock.*

 

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 Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, Gensburg Markham Prairie, Kickapoo Woods and Prairie, Spears Woods, Theodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next several weeks.*

 

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

Look closely for miniature flowers that delicately hang from the tassel of big bluestem grass.*

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.*

 

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

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

 

Bluff Spring Fen

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 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 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.*

 

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 golden 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.

 

SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, August 24 (in rough order of urgency):

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