Chicago Nature Now! Alert
June 23, 2017
“Plan your Chicago nature adventure with Chicago nature info and news
to help you discover the region’s finest natural wonders.”
This has been a very busy week of scouting because so much is about to happen. In our prairies and woodlands, as one flower fades another is ready to take its place. At Bluff Spring Fen, pale purple coneflowers are ready to wilt, but in the wings are the rich purple hues of leadplant and golden blooms of prairie coreopsis. And, in many of our prairies, the whites of foxglove beardtongue are being replaced by wild quinine.
Here’s what’s happening in Chicago nature:
This week, the preserves with the best blooms are Bluff Spring Fen, Belmont Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove. The first two preserves offer impressive displays of pale purple coneflower, among other fascinating blooms, while the latter has many plants in flowers. Still blooming, but not as prolifically, is the miraculous species called spiderwort, but you will only find them blooming in the morning. By the afternoon, the flowers will have melted into a purple liquid! Learn more here. The kooky grass of the week is porcupine grass. Its long needle-like seed drills itself into the soil at a speed that you can actually watch. See my blog post and video. And then there’s foxglove beardtongue. In fall, it’s seed smells exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit! See my video below. Now, read on to learn where to find these three miracles of Chicago nature.
Somme Prairie Grove has many flowers in bloom, including tuberous (or prairie) Indian plantain, purple milkweed, prairie sundrop, white wild indigo, butterfly weed, and more. Leadplant is just starting and, next week, will be putting on a spectacular show.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve features lots of hoary puccoon, butterfly weed, and porcupine grass. There’s lots of wildlife, here, even if you just happen to see their tracks in the sand. (See photos below.)
PLAN YOUR CHICAGO NATURE TRIP THIS WEEKEND
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin: Your walk begins in the intimate oak savanna under the warm embrace and protection of majestic oaks. Soon, the trails emerge into the open prairie, where y0u’ll find foxglove beardtongue and large shows of pale purple coneflower. Porcupine grass can also be found here, as well as the milkweeds of orange butterfly weed and purplish common milkweed. As you walk deeper into the preserve, notice the grand emergence of leadplant on the southeast kame and prairie coreopsis on the northeast kame. Next week, it they will be fabulous!
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove: Experience the beautiful symphony of color and texture, this week, at this intimate remnant prairie that’s nestled within a quiet neighborhood of Downers Grove. Playing the starring role is pale purple coneflower, and supported by a cast of scurfy pea, butterfly milkweed, and porcupine grass. Spiderwort is fading fast, but can still be found flowering in the during the morning hours. However, as the day warms, the flowers shrivel and turn to liquid.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook: There are so many different species of colorful flowers in bloom, right now. It’s like taking a fun course in biology. And don’t forget to use this page on your phone to help identify the various plants. One of my favorite prairie plants is tuberous (or prairie) Indian plantain, which you can find soon after walking in. You’ll also see the gorgeous purple milkweed, but also take the time to take in its delicate fragrance. Along the way, you’ll also find another lovely plant—the yellow prairie sundrop. Foxglove beardtongue can be found, especially in the northwest corner of the preserve. On your way there, you’ll see a smattering of other blooming flowers, like white wild indigo and butterfly (milk)weed. Then, there’s leadplant, which is getting ready to bloom. So,visit next week for a dramatic show. I often speak of the flowering plants (known as forbs), but the texture of the grasses are also very beautiful, in particular, prairie dropseed or, as I like to call it, Cousin Itt plant. I love Cousin Itt. He made very few appearances on “The Addams Family,” which made that much more exciting to see Itt as a kid (and as an adult). But, now and though the fall, you can see his likeness at Somme Prairie Grove.
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion: This preserve is always a great experience, even if there aren’t a lot of blooms. Right now, under the canopy of oaks, you’ll find hoary puccoon in great numbers along with a smattering of butterfly weed and pasture rose. But don’t just view this beautiful rose. Get down on hands and knees and press your nose into the pink petals. It’s worth the effort. Out in the sand prairie, you’ll discover thousands of porcupine grass with their long, needlelike seeds still attached. This preserve is so rich and wild that you can easily spend most of your day exploring it. And, if you take your time and look closely, you may even find wildlife or their signs. (See photos below of animal tracks, a snapping turtle, and snapping turtle eggs.)
Spears Woods in Willow Springs: Foxglove beardtongue is blooming across the prairies. While you’re there, don’t forget to find your way to Hogwash Slough. Click here to visit the Spears Woods page to find the GPS coordinates for the prairie and the slough.
Shoe Factory Road Prairie is a nice place to visit, this week, if you’re in the neighborhood, which happens to be pretty close to Bluff Spring Fen. Come for the region’s first display of prairie coreopsis with leadplant just beginning to flower. Next week, this preserve will be a must-see experience.
Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) in Gary, Indiana: Last week, there were grand displays of hoary puccoon, spiderwort, and downy phlox. This week, we couldn’t get to this preserve because we still need at least a dozen more volunteer scouts. Please help us scout.
Experience Spiderwort: Head out to just about any http://spears woodof our featured prairies and savannas to discover spiderwort. However, to see the flowers, you need to arrive by 10 o’clock in the morning. At the start of each day over the time span of about a month, the plant produces new purple flowers that turn to liquid by afternoon! To experience this purple liquid, squeeze the closed buds that resemble slightly opened pistachios. For the rest of the day, people will look at your fingers and think you were recently arrested. Read about spiderwort and learn where you can find it.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Leadplant, Prairie Coreopsis, and Goat’s Rue
Pale Purple Coneflower & Foxglove Beardtongue
Watch this video from about this time last year at Bluff Spring Fen:
Miraculous Spiderwort with Flowers that Melt!
Miraculous Porcupine Grass and Its Spinning Seed!
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Pasture Rose at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve & Bluff Spring Fen
Bluff Spring Fen
NEXT WEEK At Somme Prairie Grove
* Photo is representational and was not recorded this year. Bloom times vary from year to year.
SCOUTING NEEDS for my next report on Thursday, June 22 (in rough order of urgency):
- Pembroke Savanna: Status of goat’s rue. This could be spectacular.
- Bluff Spring Fen: Status of leadplant, prairie coreopsis, pale purple coneflowers, foxglove beardtongue, etc.
- Shoe Factory Road Prairie: Status of prairie coreopsis and leadplant. This should be fantastic.
- Somme Prairie Grove: Status of leadplant and other blooms. This is going to be great.
- Illinois Beach Nature Preserve: Status of butterfly weed, etc.
- Belmont Prairie: Status of pale purple coneflower, scurfy pea, and butterfly weed
- Miller Woods: Status of hoary puccoon, phlox, and any other flowers that are coming in.
- Fermilab Prairie: General status.
- Wolf Road Prairie: General status.
- Middlefork Savanna: General status.
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.
© 2017, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.