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ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
06-10-2021

Posted by on 6:09 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT06-10-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
June 10, 2021

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
.

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

 

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

SITE ACCESS: 
Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will finally reopen on June 14, 2021 after a lengthy convalescence from public abuse last year. Check out these websites before you go:

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

There aren’t as many offerings at the moment due to the drought. It’s affecting the quality and quantity of our local flower shows, particularly the breathtaking expanse of sand coreopsis at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve that have decided to take the year off. Right now, I really like spending my mornings at Spears Woods and Wolf Road Prairie, where hundreds of ephemeral blue flowers open to meet their one-and-only day, then dissolve into a gem of purple liquid. Yes, if you’ve been following my reports, you know that I’m talking about Ohio spiderwort. They are now melting hearts around Chicago as they continue their monthlong show. You can find them at many preserves around the area. Click here to read my poem about it.

Another plant that’s taking center stage is foxglove beardtongue (our Plant of the Week) with its pearly trumpet-shaped flowers. I love this plant because of its gloriously disgusting and life-affirming aroma. In the fall, their seeds smell exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit!

The list of blooming events is short, this week. So if you can’t make it to the best shows, just find a nature experience at any of our showcase preserves. You’ll love it!

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (6/8+): This preserve is presenting the finest show of the week despite the drought, especially if you visit in the mornings while Ohio spiderwort is in bloom. Joining these melting blue blossoms are the many whites of foxglove beardtongue and wild quinine along with a sprinkling of white wild indigo. Thanks to spring’s prescribed fire, the prairie is green and clean, uncluttered by last year’s tan skeletons. Spears Woods is one of the most beautiful sites in the region, where your walk will take you through woodlands, prairies, and wetlands.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (6/9+): This is only a “Go!” for the morning hours to experience the show of Ohio spiderwort amidst a dramatic glowing backdrop of aortic prairie dock foliage. However, the blue flowers will be gone by afternoon, especially if it’s hot. Along the way, you’ll also experience the tall and fluffy purple meadow rue, white wild quinine, daisy fleabane, and small displays of the heart-stopping yellow prairie sundrop. The textures and colors of the foliage adds to excitement, including the blue-greens of rattlesnake master and hundreds of prairie dock hearts.

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (6/5+): Due to the drought, the expanses of golden of sand coreopsis are not flowering, this year. And there isn’t much of a flower show, but you can definitely find these flowers to add color to your visit: Ohio spiderwort, sand coreopsis, pasture rose, hoary puccoon, and downy phlox. This preserve is beautiful and enjoyable with or without big displays of flowers. WATCH OUT! THERE’S A LOT OF POISON IVY!

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (6/8+): I’m recommending this preserve for its morning blooms of the ephemeral Ohio spiderwort. Their blue flowers open around sunrise, but only last a few hours until they shrivel away into a purple liquid. Very cool! Click here to read my poem about spiderwort’s miraculous melting flowers.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (6/5+): If you live up north, and you don’t want to come down south, just visit Somme Prairie Grove to enjoy the greenery. This preserve has a nice feel to it. In the woodland, you’ll experience the occasional white flat-topped flower heads of cow parsnip, which is a little bit poisonous and can irritate the skin. So, no touchy-feely with this plant. Throughout the preserve, you’ll find various lush textures and green hue from forbs, sedges, grasses, and bloomers-to-be, including the floppy hairdos of prairie dropseed, heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock, desert-looking rattlesnake master, and fern-looking leadplant. The only color seemed to come from a few beautiful groups of red Indian paintbrush. The flowering cauliflower heads of wild quinine are now blooming along with a smattering of white wild indigo.

 

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: FOXGLOVE BEARDTONGUE

 
In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms in profusion at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin and many other preserves. In the fall, the seeds smell EXACTLY like vomit! Be still my heart.*

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Ohio Spiderwort is Our Morning Star

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

In late May or early June, Ohio spiderwort begins a performance that will last a month or longer, starring a cluster of buds that releases only a couple of flowers each day. Each morning, a new bud opens into a delicate blue or purple flower. You can find spiderwort, right now, at Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, Pembroke Savanna, Powderhorn Prairie, Miller Woods, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and more.

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

As the day wears on, each blossom begins to wither—then miraculously melts into a gem of royal jelly. An enzyme in the flower causes it to slowly decompose, and hot weather speeds up the process. It’s noon, and this flower is already shriveling.

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

By midafternoon, this spiderwort bloom was melting blue between my fingertips. Do you notice my purple fingers? I was arrested earlier that morning.

The blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet a new day at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

This is the scene from Wolf Road Prairie, as blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet the new day.*

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and ferns cover the side of the dunes.

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and bracken fern cover the side of the dunes.*

Now that you know a little something about spiderwort, click here to read my poem about this plant from my book, My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders.

 

Hoary Puccoon

At Illinois Beach State Park, hoary puccoon blooms in here in the dunes and also throughout the sandy preserve.*

The golden blooms of hoary puccoon can be found, here, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and many other preserves around the region including Miller Woods, Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and more.*

 

Purple Meadow Rue Towers in Some Spring Prairies

In June, purple meadow rue towers above the blue morning blooms of Ohio spiderwort at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

In June, purple meadow rue towers above the blue morning blooms of Ohio spiderwort at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

 

Indian Paintbrush

Indian paintbrush in morning light at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois*

Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Indian paintbrush brightens up the foggy morning landscape. You can also find this flower at Gensburg-Markham Prairie and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Pale Purple Coneflower is Just Beginning to Flower

 
Each day, Mother Nature chooses from an array of natural elements and then fashions them into new works of art. Most Junes at Belmont Prairie, dazzling mosaics like this go on exhibit. Assembled from over one hundred pale purple coneflowers, the final work, not the individual pieces, draws our attention.*

Each day, Mother Nature chooses from an array of natural elements and then fashions them into new works of art. Most Junes at Belmont Prairie, dazzling mosaics like this go on exhibit. Assembled from over one hundred pale purple coneflowers, the final work, not the individual pieces, draws our attention.*

The predawn clouds take on the colors of the pale purple coneflowers at this dolomite limestone prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois.*

The predawn clouds take on the colors of the pale purple coneflower at this dolomite limestone prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois. You can usually find this majestic plant growing most prominently at Bluff Spring Fen.*

 

Sand Coreopsis is Blooming, but in Small Numbers (nothing like in these pictures)

In a celebration of life, blooms of sand coreopsis spread with golden joy along the banks of the Dead River at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.*

In a celebration of life, blooms of sand coreopsis spread their golden joy along the banks of the Dead River at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.*

The turning earth is the dimmer switch, gradually recasting every dim dewdrop, petal, and blade of grass into a galaxy of blazing bulbs and lustrous lamps. On this morning in late May, blooms of golden coreopsis and New Jersey tea are set aglow alongside shimmering spider webs that cling to last year’s grasses.*

The turning earth is the dimmer switch, gradually recasting every dim dewdrop, petal, and blade of grass into a galaxy of blazing bulbs and lustrous lamps. On this late-spring morning at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, blooms of golden sand coreopsis and New Jersey tea are set aglow alongside shimmering spider webs that cling to last year’s grasses.*

 

Blue Flag Iris

A phalanx of blue flag iris towers over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois*

Due to the dry spring and the fact that this plant likes to grow in standing water, this isn’t the best year for blue flag iris. During a previous season, a phalanx of blue flag iris towered over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs. But you can see it in good wetlands throughout the area.*

 

The Charismatic Foliage of 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 plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, while the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

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

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
06-03-2021

Posted by on 9:42 am in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT06-03-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
June 3, 2021

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
.

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

 

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

SITE ACCESS: 
Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will finally reopen on June 14, 2021 after a lengthy convalescence from public abuse last year. Check out these websites before you go:

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

From what I can tell, the drought is affecting the quality and quantity of our local flower shows, particularly plants that enjoy wet environments like blue flag iris and yellow water buttercup. The ground is very dry and even drier where they burned because there is no dead plant material to lock in the moisture.

The best wildflower show of the week is still the blue-and-white blooms of wild lupine and golden hoary puccoon at Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach in Indiana Dunes National Park. You can also see a nice show at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, where sand coreopsis blossoms are beginning to unfold. Peak bloom should be coming soon. This performance of coreopsis is so dramatic that my picture of it was featured in the world famous 2020 Sierra Club Wilderness Wall Calendar.

Nice performances of golden Alexander are happening at Somme Prairie Grove and Chiwaukee Prairie, preserves that also feature a wide variety of other blooms and verdant textures. The ephemeral melting blooms of Ohio spiderwort (our Plant of the Week) are now melting hearts around Chicago as they begin their monthlong show. You can find them at many preserves around the area. Click here to read my poem about it. And the pearly trumpet-shaped flowers of foxglove beardtongue are just starting. I love this plant because, in the fall, their seeds smell exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit!

NOTE: It is illegal to remove any plant or mushroom, from any preserve in the Chicago region.

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park (Last scouted on 5/26. This report is an estimate of what to expect.): The show of wild lupine should still look decent combined with the golds of hoary puccoon. Adding to the mix are the blue hues of blue-eyed grass, red-and-yellow blossoms of wild columbine, golden tones of two-flowered Cynthia, and flashes of white from wild strawberry and bastard toadflax. Keep your eyes open, and you may even find the gorgeous red Indian paintbrush. While you’re here, take the trail to the lakeshore. Along the way, the path crosses a wide gravel path that goes straight east-west. Head west, and you’ll find beaver lodges and activity. If you arrive early or remain late in the day, chances are you’ll be greeted by a beaver slapping its flat tail against the water to alert others of its kind about that human lurking about. This abandoned railroad right-of-way isn’t as intimate as the official narrow trail, but I like the views better. After your hike, consider checking out the lupines at Tolleston Dunes and West Beach. NOTE: The trail can be covered in water in some area. We recommend high boots. Or just slosh on through!

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (Last scouted on 5/26. This report is an estimate of what to expect.): Come to see vibrant shows of blue-and-white wild lupine, golden hoary puccoon, and bubble gum pink downy phlox. For the best performances, take the wide gravel trail (Dunes Trail) that heads south from the parking lot. The lupines aren’t nearly as dramatic as at Miller Woods, but this preserve is a dream. The brilliant yellow flowers of sand coreopsis are now in bloom, which will soon create a dramatic show across the preserve. In open shade of the black oak savanna, the buttery yellow blooms of the occasional western goat’s beard are now open for business along with the three-petaled blossoms of Ohio spiderwort, but the flower doesn’t last long. Each morning, a few buds open to reveal resh blue flowers that dissolve in the heat of the day into drops of purple liquid. Along the way, you’ll also find the delightful blue-eyed grass, little white sparkles of sand cress and sandwort, and the red glow of red Indian paintbrush. And while you’re here, consider visiting nearby Chiwaukee Prairie (see review below). 

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/31+): This preserve has a nice feel to it. In the woodland, experience the yellow flat-topped umbrellas of golden Alexander along with the occasional flat-topped white flowers of cow parsnip. The latter is a little toxic and can irritate the skin. So, no touchy-feely with this plant. You’ll find a variety of flowering species in bloom under the sun, including golden balsam ragwort, shooting star, ivory buttons of bastard toadflax, the occasional shooting star, the delicately elegant stout blue-eyed grass, and the heart-stopping red Indian paintbrush. Wow! Along the way, look for the beautiful creamy blooms of cream wild indigo. And don’t forget to appreciate the lush green textures that come from the foliage of forbs, sedges, and grasses, including the floppy hairdos of prairie dropseed and the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock. This is also the time of year to experience blue flag iris and yellow water buttercup, but the drought has prevented them from blooming this year. Native plants are hearty. Both species are alive and well under the soil, waiting for next year to flower.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (6/2+): This is “Go!” for the morning only to see the tremendous show of Ohio spiderwort (our Plant of the Week) along the southeast edge of the preserve near Wolf Road. However, those flowers will be gone by afternoon, especially if it’s hot. In the prairie, you’ll also find a small mix of other flowers including downy phlox and daisy fleabane. I particularly love the emerging tones and textures of prairie dock, rattlesnake master, and compass plant.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (6/2+): Like Wolf Road Prairie, this preserve is a “Go!” during the morning hours to experience the ephemeral blooms of Ohio spiderwort. Their purple flowers open around sunrise, but only last a few hours until they shrivel away into a purple liquid. Very cool! Click here to read my poem about spiderwort’s miraculous melting flowers.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (Last scouted on 5/22. This report is an estimate of what to expect.): Visit for a variety of flowers. The beautiful shooting star is at the end of its run, and golden Alexander is on wide display across the preserve, though fading. Adding to the yellows are hoary puccoon and yellow star grass. Ohio spiderwort is now blooming. You will certainly find some wild lupine along the edges. And occasional fluffy seed heads of common cottongrass help to brighten up the wetlands. If you’re lucky, you just may find patches of yellow Indian paintbrush. While you’re here, you should definitely visit Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, which is easily provides the best nature experience in the region.

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: OHIO SPIDERWORT

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

In late May or early June, Ohio spiderwort begins a performance that will last a month or longer, starring a cluster of buds that releases only a couple of flowers each day. Each morning, a new bud opens into a delicate blue or purple flower. You can find spiderwort, right now, at Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, Pembroke Savanna, Powderhorn Prairie, Miller Woods, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and more.

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

As the day wears on, each blossom begins to wither—then miraculously melts into a gem of royal jelly. An enzyme in the flower causes it to slowly decompose, and hot weather speeds up the process. It’s noon, and this flower is already shriveling.

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

By midafternoon, this spiderwort bloom was melting blue between my fingertips. Do you notice my purple fingers? I was arrested earlier that morning.

The blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet a new day at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

This is the scene from Wolf Road Prairie, as blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet the new day.*

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and ferns cover the side of the dunes.

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and bracken fern cover the side of the dunes.*

Now that you know a little something about spiderwort, click here to read my poem about this plant from my book, My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders.

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Wild Lupine is at Peak Bloom

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine, of species Lupinus perennis, seems to love poor soil. However, in ancient times, it was believed that the lupines were creating the bad soil by wolfing down the nutrients. Hence, the name comes from the Greek word “Lupus,” or “wolf”. In reality, lupine brings nutrients to the soil just like other legumes, such as leadplant, white wild indigo, scurfy pea, and purple prairie clover. Around Chicago, lupine can be found growing in sandy soil under the trees of black oak savannas, including Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

 
Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.*

Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana. While you’re in the park, you also can find them at Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach.*

Biodiversity is about the many, not the few. Here, it’s springtime in the savanna, where blue lupines share precious space with hoary puccoon. But, as the season advances, both will fade, making room for an array of other species, in a cycle where each has its time in the sun and then returns to the soil.*

Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, you can find wild lupine blooming alongside golden hoary puccoon and pink downy phlox.*

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner world of wild lupine.

 

Hoary Puccoon

At Illinois Beach State Park, hoary puccoon blooms in here in the dunes and also throughout the sandy preserve.*

The golden blooms of hoary puccoon can be found, here, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and many other preserves around the region including Miller Woods, Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and more.*

 

Shooting Star

The beautiful blooms of shooting star

If the celestial blooms of shooting star don’t capture your attention, then nothing will. The origin of the name is pretty obvious at first sight, and also for the moniker of “prairie pointer” given to the plant by early pioneers. I once thought that the flowers only grew under the sun of prairies and savannas, like Chiwaukee Prairie, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove, until I found them thriving under the dappled canopy at Black Partridge Woods. Cleansing fires benefit this plant because dead vegetation can smother it. The most common pollinator is the queen bumblebee. It uses “buzz pollination” to dislodge the pollen by vibrating its wing muscles (but not the wings).

Springtime wildflowers bloom in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.*

Though now fading, you can still find shooting star, hoary puccoon, yellow star grass, and others blooming at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can also find the plant at Black Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Sand Coreopsis is Beginning at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

In a celebration of life, blooms of sand coreopsis spread with golden joy along the banks of the Dead River at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.*

In a celebration of life, blooms of sand coreopsis spread their golden joy along the banks of the Dead River at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.*

The turning earth is the dimmer switch, gradually recasting every dim dewdrop, petal, and blade of grass into a galaxy of blazing bulbs and lustrous lamps. On this morning in late May, blooms of golden coreopsis and New Jersey tea are set aglow alongside shimmering spider webs that cling to last year’s grasses.*

The turning earth is the dimmer switch, gradually recasting every dim dewdrop, petal, and blade of grass into a galaxy of blazing bulbs and lustrous lamps. On this late-spring morning at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, blooms of golden sand coreopsis and New Jersey tea are set aglow alongside shimmering spider webs that cling to last year’s grasses.*

 

Golden Alexander

Golden Alexander brightens the oak savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

Golden Alexander of species Zizia aurea appears to have large flowers, but what you are seeing is a cluster of miniature one-eighth-inch blooms. The pollen and nectar of the flowers benefit insects with short mouthparts. The plant grows in both high-quality and degraded habitats. The golden blooms can be found brightening up the panoramas at preserves that include Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, and Chiwaukee Prairie.*

In May at Chiwaukee Praiire, golden Alexander bloom amidst the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock.*

In May at Chiwaukee Prairie, golden Alexander blooms amidst the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock.*

Light shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts their shadows.*

Green glow describes leaves that glow a bright green from sunlight shining through them. Here, we see a special kind of green glow that results in a shadow play, as sunlight shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts its distinctive silhouette.*

 

Stout Blue-Eyed Grass

Common blue-eyed grass

The sublime blooms of stout blue-eyed grass are now being revealed at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois. And you can find them at other preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie, Miller Woods, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Indian Paintbrush

Indian paintbrush in morning light at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois*

Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Indian paintbrush brightens up the foggy morning landscape. You can also find this flower at Gensburg-Markham Prairie and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Wild Columbine

Wild columbine of species Aquilegia canadensis at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park.*

Wild columbine reflects the afternoon light at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park.

 

Blue Flag Iris

A phalanx of blue flag iris towers over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois*

Due to the dry spring and the fact that this plant likes to grow in standing water, this isn’t the best year for blue flag iris. During a previous season, a phalanx of blue flag iris towered over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs. But you can see it in good wetlands throughout the area.*

 

Foxglove Beardtongue is Just Starting to Flower

In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms in profusion at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin and many other preserves. In the fall, the seeds smell EXACTLY like vomit! Be still my heart.*

 

The Charismatic Foliage of 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 plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, while the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

 

Beaver Activity at Miller Woods

Along the Paul H. Douglas Trails, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana, this path was made by beavers as they moved from their pond in one swale, over a dune, and into an adjacent swale.*

On the gravel road that rides a ridge at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park, beavers created this dark thoroughfare as they moved across the ridge from one swale to another.*

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

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
05-27-2021

Posted by on 3:19 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT05-27-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
May 27, 2021
Memorial Day Edition

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
.

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

 

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

SITE ACCESS: 
Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will finally reopen on June 14, 2021 after a lengthy convalescence from public abuse last year. Check out these websites before you go:

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

This is the time when the blooming moves out from shade of the woodlands into the open skies of the prairies and savannas.

The best wildflower show of the week is the jaw-dropping displays of blue-and-white blooms of wild lupine and golden hoary puccoon at Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach in Indiana Dunes National Park. You can also see a nice show at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

Nice performances of golden Alexander (our Plant of the Week) are happening at Somme Prairie Grove and Chiwaukee Prairie, preserves that also feature a wide variety of other blooms and verdant textures.

The ephemeral melting blooms of Ohio spiderwort are now melting hearts around Chicago as they begin their monthlong show. Click here to read my poem about it.

By the Memorial Day weekend, you may start seeing the pearly trumpet-shaped flowers of foxglove beardtongue. I love this plant because, in the fall, their seeds smell exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit!

NOTE: It is illegal to remove any plant or mushroom, from any preserve in the Chicago region.

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park (5/22+): On the day of scouting, the show of wild lupine was at peak bloom and the hoary puccoon looked fabulous. It should still look very nice for the Memorial Day weekend. Adding the mix are the blue hues of blue-eyed grass, red-and-yellow blossoms of wild columbine, golden tones of two-flowered Cynthia, and flashes of white from wild strawberry and bastard toadflax. Keep your eyes open, and you may even find the gorgeous red Indian paintbrush. While you’re here, take the trail to the lakeshore. Along the way, the path crosses a wide gravel path that goes straight east-west. Head west, and you’ll find beaver lodges and activity. If you arrive early or remain late in the day, chances are you’ll be greeted by a beaver slapping its flat tail against the water to alert others of its kind about that human lurking about. This abandoned railroad right-of-way isn’t as intimate as the official narrow trail, but I like the views better. After your hike, consider checking out the lupines at Tolleston Dunes and West Beach. NOTE: The trail can be covered in water in some area. We recommend high boots. Or just slosh on through!

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (5/26+): Come to see a vibrant shows of wild lupine, hoary puccoon, and downy phlox. For best performances, take the wide gravel trail (Dunes Trail) that head heads south from the parking lot. The lupines aren’t nearly as dramatic as at Miller Woods, but this preserve is a dream. Along the way, you’ll also find the delightful blue-eyed grass, little white sparkles of sand cress and sandwort, and the red glow of red Indian paintbrush. And while you’re here, consider visiting nearby Chiwaukee Prairie (see review below). 

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/24+): This preserve has a nice feel to it, right now. In the woodland, experience the beautiful display of golden Alexander with its yellow flat-topped umbrellas. Also under the trees are the flat-topped white flowers are cow parsnip, which is a little toxic and can irritate the skin. So, no touchy-feely with this plant. And you’ll find the final blooms of wild geranium and wild hyacinth. You’ll find a variety of species in bloom under the sun, including golden balsam ragwort, shooting star, ivory buttons of bastard toadflax, the occasional shooting star, the delicately elegant stout blue-eyed grass, and the heart-stopping red Indian paintbrush. Wow! Along the way, look for the beautiful creamy blooms of cream wild indigo. And don’t forget to appreciate the lush green textures that come from the foliage of forbs, sedges, and grasses, including the floppy hairdos of prairie dropseed and the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock. This is also the time of year to experience blue flag iris in the wetland, but it’s been extremely dry, and I didn’t see one flower. The same is true for yellow water buttercup. The area where it grows is bone dry with cracked soil.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (5/22+): Visit for the variety of flowers. The beautiful shooting star is ending its run and golden Alexander is on wide display across the preserve, Also adding to the yellows are hoary puccoon and yellow star grass. The sublime blues of stout blue-eyed grass is also flowering, though it may not be open first thing in the morning. You may find some wild lupine along the edges. And occasional fluffy seed heads of common cottongrass help to brighten up the wetlands. And if you’re lucky, you just may find patches of yellow Indian paintbrush. While you’re here, you should definitely visit Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, which is easily provides the best nature experience in the region.

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: GOLDEN ALEXANDER

Golden Alexander brightens the oak savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

Golden Alexander of species Zizia aurea appears to have large flowers, but what you are seeing is a cluster of miniature one-eighth-inch blooms. The pollen and nectar of the flowers benefit insects with short mouthparts. The plant grows in both high-quality and degraded habitats. The golden blooms can be found brightening up the panoramas at preserves that include Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, and Chiwaukee Prairie.*

In May at Chiwaukee Praiire, golden Alexander bloom amidst the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock.*

In May at Chiwaukee Prairie, golden Alexander blooms amidst the heart-shaped leaves of prairie dock.*

Light shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts their shadows.*

Green glow describes leaves that glow a bright green from sunlight shining through them. Here, we see a special kind of green glow that results in a shadow play, as sunlight shines through a translucent leaf of prairie dock, as golden Alexander casts its distinctive silhouette.*

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Wild Lupine is at peak bloom

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine, of species Lupinus perennis, seems to love poor soil,. However, in ancient times, it was believed that the lupines were creating the bad soil by wolfing down the nutrients. Hence, the name comes from the Greek word “Lupus,” or “wolf.” In reality, lupine brings nutrients to the soil just like other legumes, such as leadplant, white wild indigo, scurfy pea, and purple prairie clover. Around Chicago, lupine can be found growing in sandy soil under the trees of black oak savannas, including Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

 
Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.*

Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana. While you’re in the park, you also can find them at Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach.*

Biodiversity is about the many, not the few. Here, it’s springtime in the savanna, where blue lupines share precious space with hoary puccoon. But, as the season advances, both will fade, making room for an array of other species, in a cycle where each has its time in the sun and then returns to the soil.*

Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, you can find wild lupine blooming alongside golden hoary puccoon and pink downy phlox.*

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner world of wild lupine.

 

Hoary Puccoon

At Illinois Beach State Park, hoary puccoon blooms in here in the dunes and also throughout the sandy preserve.*

The golden blooms of hoary puccoon can be found, here, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and many other preserves around the region including Miller Woods, Powderhorn Marsh and Prairie, Wolf Road Prairie, Gensburg-Markham Prairie, and more.*

 

Shooting Star

The beautiful blooms of shooting star

If the celestial blooms of shooting star don’t capture your attention, then nothing will. The origin of the name is pretty obvious at first sight, and also for the moniker of “prairie pointer” given to the plant by early pioneers. I once thought that the flowers only grew under the sun of prairies and savannas, like Chiwaukee Prairie, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove, until I found them thriving under the dappled canopy at Black Partridge Woods. Cleansing fires benefit this plant because dead vegetation can smother it. The most common pollinator is the queen bumblebee. It uses “buzz pollination” to dislodge the pollen by vibrating its wing muscles (but not the wings).

Springtime wildflowers bloom in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.*

Though now fading, you can still find shooting star, hoary puccoon, yellow star grass, and others are blooming in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can also find the plant at Black Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Ohio Spiderwort and its Melting Flowers

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

In late May or early June, Ohio spiderwort begins a performance that will last a month or longer, starring a cluster of buds that releases only a couple of flowers each day. Each morning, a new bud opens into a delicate blue or purple flower. You can find spiderwort, right now, at Wolf Road Prairie, Belmont Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, Pembroke Savanna, Powderhorn Prairie, Miller Woods, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and more.

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

As the day wears on, each blossom begins to wither—then miraculously melts into a gem of royal jelly. An enzyme in the flower causes it to slowly decompose, and hot weather speeds up the process. It’s noon, and this flower is already shriveling.

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

By midafternoon, this spiderwort bloom was melting blue between my fingertips. Do you notice my purple fingers? I was arrested earlier that morning.

The blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet a new day at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

This is the scene from Wolf Road Prairie, as blossoms of Ohio spiderwort open to meet the new day.*

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and ferns cover the side of the dunes.

At Miller Woods (Indiana Dunes National Park), spiderwort and ferns cover the side of the dunes.*

Now that you know a little something about spiderwort, click here to read my poem about this plant from my book, My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders.

 

Stout Blue-Eyed Grass

Common blue-eyed grass

The sublime blooms of stout blue-eyed grass are now being revealed at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois. And you can find them at other preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie, Miller Woods, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Indian Paintbrush

Indian paintbrush in morning light at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois*

Here at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Indian paintbrush brightens up the foggy morning landscape. You can also find this flower at Gensburg-Markham Prairie and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Wild Columbine

Wild columbine of species Aquilegia canadensis at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park.*

Wild columbine reflects the afternoon light at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park.

 

Blue Flag Iris

A phalanx of blue flag iris towers over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois*

Due to the dry spring and the fact that this plant likes to grow in standing water, this isn’t the best year for blue flag iris. During a previous year, a phalanx of blue flag iris towered over the spring wetland at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois.*

Blue flag iris blooms in the late-May wetland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs. But you can see it in good wetlands throughout the area.*

 

Foxglove Beardtongue is Just Starting to Flower

In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms in profusion at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

In June, foxglove beardtongue blooms at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin and many other preserves. In the fall, the seeds smell EXACTLY like vomit! Be still my heart.*

 

The Charismatic Foliage of 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 plants. The heart-shaped leaf is that of prairie dock, and the long-lobed leaf is its cousin compass plant.

 

Beaver Activity at Miller Woods

Along the Paul H. Douglas Trails, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana, this path was made by beavers as they moved from their pond in one swale, over a dune, and into an adjacent swale.*

On the gravel road that rides a ridge at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park, beavers created this dark thoroughfare as they moved across the ridge from one swale to another.*

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

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
05-21-2021

Posted by on 6:27 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT05-21-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
May 21, 2021

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
.

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

 

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED INTEREST IN NATURE:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS
(which I hope to remove as more people are vaccinated)

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will be closed for a little while longer because the public abused the site, last year. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • Wear a mask if you’re not vaccinated.
  • Give each other some space.
  • Don’t block people’s progress by gathering along trails, trailheads, or intersections.

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

This is the time when the blooming moves out from shade of the woodlands and into the open skies of the prairies and savannas. 

At the famous Chiwaukee Prairie, shooting star (our Plant of the Week) is reaching peak bloom. The prairie is situated on the Lake Michigan shoreline on the Wisconsin side of the Illinois/Wisconsin border. The celestial white and pink flowers of shooting star span the prairie panorama alongside beautiful blooms of birdfoot violet. If you cannot make the trip to the cheese state, you can also head to the Hoosier State to experience the breathtaking performance of wild lupine at Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach in Indiana Dunes National Par. During the best years, the green dunes of the savanna are covered in blue. Many other species add to the mix, including the golden hoary puccoon and hairy puccoon. These puccoons, and quite possibly the sublime fringed puccoon, are blooming at many of our prairies and savannas as well, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Somme Prairie Grove, Bluff Spring Fen, Chiwaukee Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie.

The best show in Illinois comes from the dramatic show of wild hyacinth at Wolf Road Prairie, where a savanna of feathery plumes greets you as you hop out of your car (along 31st Street). You can also find these flowers at sites like Somme Prairie Grove, Oldfield Oaks, and Black Partridge Woods, but the show is not nearly as dramatic.

Somme Prairie Grove offers a whimsical array of flowers amidst a fresh, green, and clean backdrop, thanks to a recent prescribed fire that cleared away last year’s brambles.

Pembroke Savanna, near Kankakee, is calling out for conscientious human visitors, as the blue birdfoot violet carpets large areas of the savanna where it is often joined by sand phlox that varies in color from white to lavender to blue. And stout blue-eye grass will make your heart sing. Another phlox to look for, this week, is the fragrant blue woodland phlox. You can find it in all of our featured woodlands, including Black Partridge Woods, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, and Heron Rookery Trail.

This is still a big week for wild geranium, with flowers that float above the forest floor. Lucky for us, this pink flower with star-shaped foliage is a popular plant at all of our black soil woodlands. The best shows are taking place at Raccoon Grove and high atop the bluffs of Black Partridge Woods. The waxy, white flower of mayapple is fading, but you may still be able to catch it. Look for a single flower under any plant with two “umbrella” leaves.

As the curtain sets, you may still find some final performances of the alabaster large-flowered trillium. They take their final bow, aged with pink faces. The best preserves to try are Harms Woods, Captain Daniel Wright Woods, and possibly Meacham Grove. These preserves are not on our feature preserves list. If you live near any of these preserves or you’re a regular visitor, this is your chance to become a scout. Learn about how to scout for us. 

And finally, you can still immerse yourself, head to toe, in the emerald tones of our woodlands. In the shade of the chartreuse canopy, you’ll rarely see your shoes under a jade carpet of wild ginger, mayapple, wild leek, and skunk cabbage. Black Partridge Woods and Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve are perfect examples of this lushness.

In early May, Black Partridge Woods becomes an emerald dream as the tree canopy adds its lushness to the woodland floor.

Last Saturday, Black Partridge Woods became an emerald dream as the filigree of the tree canopy added a lacey lushness to the woodland.

NOTE: It is illegal to remove this plant, or any other plant or mushroom, from any preserve in the Chicago region.

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park (5/21+): The show of wild lupine is at peak bloom. Adding the to the blue hues are the sublime blue-eyed grass and the remaining birdfoot violet. The vibrant yellow blooms of hoary puccoon add a golden sparkle to the savanna as the buttery blooms of wood betony end their run. The red-and-yellow blossoms of wild columbine float above the understory of the savanna. And flashes of white come from wild strawberry and bastard toadflax. Keep your eyes open, and you may even find the gorgeous red Indian paintbrush. While you’re here, take the trail to the lakeshore. Along the way, the path crosses a wide gravel path that goes straight east-west. Head west, and you’ll find beaver lodges and activity. If you arrive early or remain late in the day, chances are you’ll be greeted by a beaver slapping its flat tail against the water to alert others of its kind about that human lurking about. This abandoned railroad right-of-way isn’t as intimate as the official narrow trail, but I like the views better. After your hike, consider checking out the lupines at Tolleston Dunes and West Beach. NOTE: The trail can be covered in water in some area. We recommend high boots. Or just slosh on through!

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (5/18+): The preserve is putting on its finest show of the year: the performance by the spectacular shooting star. It is joined by a colorful cast: hoary puccoon, wood betony, yellow star grass, blue-eyed grass, birdfoot violet, and wild strawberryGolden Alexander is just beginning to expose its bright yellow blossoms. And check along the edges for soon-to-bloom wild lupine. While you’re here, you should definitely visit Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, which is easily provides the best nature experience in the region.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (5/14+): Just get out of your car, and there it is, the whitish blue hues of wild hyacinth that cover the floor of the oak savanna. And they’re out in the prairie, too. The floating blossoms of wild geranium adds magical sparks of pink to the Mother Nature’s floral arrangement. And I just love the geometrically shaped leaves of starry false Solomon’s seal and their beautiful ivory plumes. Under the sun, you’ll experience yellow flashes of hoary puccoon, golden Alexander, and fading wood betony. Pretty blossoms of wild strawberry are scattered about. And the new bloom on the block is the bubble-gum pink downy phlox. When I say “block,” I mean it literally. On the south end of the preserve, a grid of concrete sidewalks divides the prairie and savanna into city blocks. The walkways were left behind from home construction that never took place, thanks to The Great Depression, or in this case, The Great Save!

Black Partridge Woods in Lemont (5/16-): This is the week when pink wild geranium has reached peak bloom, with the greatest density atop the bluffs. It’s still a dreamy time to experience the lushness of the woodland. It’s so green—from the new leaves of the tiered tree canopy to the dense carpet of foliage on the woodland floor. Thanks to wild ginger that has fully leafed out, you can hardly see the ground beneath. I love the miniature forests of mayapple with their parasol-shaped leaves where you may still be able to find lonesome waxy white blossom hiding under the plants with two umbrellas. Exciting patches of acrobatic skunk cabbage leaves add to the whimsy. Wild leek‘s emerald swords put up a defense, along with the star-like leaves of wild geranium. And look for the floating filigreed foliage of early meadow rue.  A very nice display of wild hyacinth is starting to take off atop the bluffs toward the back. A smattering of white and pink shooting star can also be found above. The fragrant woodland phlox is fading, but still blooming in good numbers. If you find a larger patch of phlox, you may not even have to put nose to petal to detect its fabulous scent. The combination of woodland phlox, wild geranium, and shooting star is wonderful sight.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/14+): Visit this week for the variety of flowers and the fresh green look and feel of the preserve. The preserve was recently burned, which cleared away the brambly dead growth from last year, leaving behind verdant emerging sprouts against a backdrop of bare black soil. It’s quite garden-like and pleasing to the eye because all of the new greenery stands out. I especially like the many bright-emerald tufts of prairie dropseed. In the shade, you’ll find some large numbers of wild geranium alongside a smattering of wild hyacinth. And while you’re under the trees, look for three-petaled blossoms of large-flowered trillium in the woodland. The golden blooms of balsam ragwort adds beautiful highlights in many places throughout the preserve alongside the final flowers of wood betony. And golden Alexander is also displaying its yellow blossoms like flat-topped umbrellas. The aptly named shooting star (our Plant of the Week) is scattered about the preserve. And look closely for the small flowers hiding low to the ground, in particular, the white bastard toadflax, the pink violet wood sorrel (with its clover-like leaves) and the purple prairie violet. There’s one spot on a knob where I found a handful of Indian paintbrush, which might just make your day. And then there’s the delicately elegant stout blue-eyed grass that makes my heart skip a beat. Back in the woods, there’s a beautiful pond under a canopy of magical cottonwoods and yellow water buttercup that should be experienced as the rays of sunlight pass through the flowers and the emerald wetland foliage. It’s breathtaking.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Unscouted. Last Scouted on 5/8=): A couple of weeks ago, the preserve was putting on a beautiful show of blue and white as carpets of sapphire birdfoot violet and sparkling sand phlox flowed across the savanna. Both were in peak condition. If you go, don’t leave without bending down to enjoy the fragrance of these two jewels. You’ll also find the white of sand cress and starry false Solomon’s seal, and the golds of two-flowered Cynthia and newly flowering hoary puccoon, that should now be much more prominent. On your visit, you’ll notice mysterious sand mounds throughout the preserves. They are the handiwork of the plains pocket gopher. This rarely seen underground gopher excavates tunnels, and the extra sand has to go somewhere.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (Unscouted. Last scouted on 5/13+): During our last scouting mission, the preserve was lush with carpets of green that included colonies of floppy-eared skunk cabbage and mayapple umbrellas. Check under the parasols for mayapple’s poisonous waxy white flower. The most prolific blooms were happening under the sun with shining displays of wood betony and golden Alexander. Then add to that the brilliant yellow blossoms of hairy puccoon and the last of marsh marigold. You’ll also find ivory tones from bastard toadflax in the prairie and fluffy plumes of common cottongrass in the soggy areas. Under the protection of the savanna’s canopy, look for woodland phlox, wild geranium, shooting star, and the sublime stout blue-eyed grass

Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee (5/20+): The show of pink wild geranium blossoms is quite prominent, though that’s pretty much the only flower in bloom as we await the dramatic plumes of false Solomon’s seal. The foliage on the woodland floor has fully matured as the trees are pushing out fresh delicate leaves in the canopy overhead. Spread across the woodland floor are the jade hues and lush patterns of wild leek, mayapple, and the omnipresent wild ginger. And you may still be able to catch a glimpse of the shy drooping trillium.

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: SHOOTING STAR

 
The beautiful blooms of shooting star

If the celestial blooms of shooting star don’t capture your attention, then nothing will. The origin of the name is pretty obvious at first sight, and also for the moniker of “prairie pointer” given to the plant by early pioneers. I once thought that the flowers only grew under the sun of prairies and savannas, like Chiwaukee Prairie, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove, until I found them thriving under the dappled canopy at Black Partridge Woods. Cleansing fires benefit this plant because dead vegetation can smother it. The most common pollinator is the queen bumblebee. It uses “buzz pollination” to dislodge the pollen by vibrating its wing muscles (but not the wings).

 

PHOTO SECTION

Wild Lupine is nearing peak bloom at Indiana Dunes National Park:

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine, of species Lupinus perennis, seems to love poor soil,. However, in ancient times, it was believed that the lupines were creating the bad soil by wolfing down the nutrients. Hence, the name comes from the Greek word “Lupus,” or “wolf.” In reality, lupine brings nutrients to the soil just like other legumes, such as leadplant, white wild indigo, scurfy pea, and purple prairie clover. Around Chicago, lupine can be found growing in sandy soil under the trees of black oak savannas, including Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

 
Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.*

Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana. While you’re in the park, you also can find them at Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach.*

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner world of wild lupine.

 

Birdfoot Violet & Sand Phlox are putting on a show at Pembroke Savanna:

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet."

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet.”

 

Wild Hyacinth is at peak bloom:

Wild hyacinth at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Wild hyacinth at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Each May, wild hyacinths bloom in woodlands and oak savannas across the Chicago region including, here, at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

Each May, wild hyacinth blooms in woodlands and oak savannas across the Chicago region including, here, at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

 
Wild hyacinths bloom in abundance at Oldfield Oaks in Darien.*

Wild hyacinth blooms in abundance at Oldfield Oaks in Darien.*

 

Wood Betony:

Wood betony blooms in the May savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.

Wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis) is also known as lousewort because it was erroneously thought to bring lice to grazing sheep and photographers who get too close. For some of its nutritional needs, the plant uses its roots to feed off of grasses, mycorrhizal fungi, and possibly other plants. I said “some” nutritional needs. Therefore, that plant is a parasite, but only partially so. Hence, it’s a hemi-parasite, more of a nibbler, as opposed to a full-fledged sap-sucking parasite. Though the leaves at the base exude a beautiful reddish tone, the green color above is the giveaway. The verdant hue shows that it’s not totally lazy, and creates its own energy through sunlight and chlorophyll production. In fact, wood betony can grow just fine even when its host plants aren’t around. Due to its nibbling nature, wood betony is known to stunt the growth of surrounding grasses. This is why it’s sometimes used in habitat restoration to quell the aggressiveness of towering grasses. In May, wood betony blooms in the best open woodlands, prairies, and savannas, like Black Partridge Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois. *

On this May morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, wood betony blooms under a red sunrise.*

On this May morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, wood betony awakens to the light of a red sunrise.*

 

Beaver Activity at Miller Woods

Along the Paul H. Douglas Trails, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana, this path was made by beavers as they moved from their pond in one swale, over a dune, and into an adjacent swale.*

On the gravel road that rides a ridge at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park, beavers created this dark thoroughfare as they moved across the ridge from one swale to another.*

 

Stout Blue-Eyed Grass

Common blue-eyed grass

The sublime blooms of stout blue-eyed grass are now being revealed at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois. And you can find them at other preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie, Miller Woods, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

 

Woodland Phlox is adding some newfound color to our woodlands:

Woodland phlox at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.*

Many of our featured woodlands are home to the blue and purple woodland phlox. Here at Black Partridge Woods, they flow in a serpentine wave up the bluff..*

 

Wild Geranium is flowering in all of our woodlands:

You can find wild geranium at all featured woodlands. Here, at Black Partridge Woods, the pink blooms float above its star-shaped foliage.*

You can find wild geranium in all of our featured “sandless” woodlands and at many other preserves across the Chicago region. Here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, the pink flower hovers above their celestial star-shaped foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

 

Shooting Star, including Chiwaukee Prairie’s famous show:

Springtime wildflowers bloom in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.*

Shooting star, hoary puccoon, yellow star grass, and others are blooming in profusion at Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. You can also find the plant at Black Partridge Woods, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

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

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

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

This is a scene of shooting star and woodland phlox from atop a bluff at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.”

 

Large-Flowered Trillium is at the end of its bloom:

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

Trillium is Latin for “triple,” and the plant lives up to the word.  The showy plant is comprised of three leaves, three sepals, and three petals. The gorgeous white blooms of large-flowered trillium can now be found at our featured preserves of O’Hara Woods Preserve, Pilcher Park, and Messenger Woods and at other preserves like Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Metawa Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale, and, here, at Harms Woods in Glenview. Notice how the flowers turn pink as they fade.*

In May, large-flowered white trillium cover the woodland floor at Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

At Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, large-flowered trillium have reached peak bloom. It’s a magnificent sight.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the woodland floor at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, Illinois.*

Messenger Woods in Homer Glen offers a decent display of large-flowered trillium. But don’t get too excited.. It doesn’t look like the above picture, anymore. Most of the plants have been eaten by deer due to decades of willful neglect by the county.*

Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display at J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve in Chesterton, Indiana.*

This is a scene from J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve, a preserve that supplements our featured preserve. Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display here in Chesterton, Indiana.

 

Mayapple:

In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, like here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, April showers bring out the umbrellas in the form of mayapples. And the white flowers of false rue anemone sparkle like raindrops.*

In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, like here at Black Partridge Woods, in Lemont, springtime showers bring out the umbrellas in the form of mayapples. And the white flowers of false rue anemone sparkle like raindrops. Soon, a waxy, white flower will appear, like a pedestrian under a parasol. (See the mayapple flower in the photo below.)*

 

Wild Ginger:

At Black Partridge Woods, take a look underneath the fanning mayapple leaf, and you may find a hidden waxy, white bloom. You may also discover a burgundy flower hiding beneath the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.*

At Black Partridge Woods, the green foliage is the star of the springtime show. Here you see the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger alongside a single blooming mayapple. The flowers of both plants can be found hiding beneath the leaves. All of our featured woodlands feature both of these plants.*

 

Skunk Cabbage:

It's springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down.*

It’s springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down. You’ll find many at Pilcher Park Nature Center, Black Partridge Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Trout Park, and O’Hara Woods.*

 
 

 

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

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If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
05-13-2021

Posted by on 12:35 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT05-13-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
May 13, 2021

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
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PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED INTEREST IN NATURE:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS
(which I hope to remove as more people are vaccinated)

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will be closed for a little while longer because the public abused the site, last year. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • Wear a mask. Period. This keeps your exhalations from taking to the air.
  • Give each other ten feet of space.
  • The wind carries the virus. When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.
  • Don’t block people’s progress by gathering along trails, trailheads, or intersections.

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

In last week’s alert, I wrote of my emerald dream. And the next morning, I found it (and photographed it) at Black Partridge Woods. This week, I’m starting off with that picture, and to let you know that you can still experience it for yourself.

In early May, Black Partridge Woods becomes an emerald dream as the tree canopy adds its lushness to the woodland floor.

Last Saturday, Black Partridge Woods became an emerald dream as the filigree of the tree canopy added a lacey lushness to the woodland.


This is my favorite time to visit the woodlands, especially Black Partridge Woods and Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve. Cross the threshold into a world of geometric jade to receive an emerald embrace from a protective canopy of lace. Oh, and there are wildflowers, too!

Our Plant of the Week is wood betony, a beautiful plant that feeds off the sun while also feeding off of other plants and fungi. Right now, the best show is at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook.

The blue-and-white blossoms of wild lupine are beginning to bloom in Indiana Dunes National Park at Miller Woods, Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach. During the best years, the green dunes turn blue. And many other species add to the mix, including the golden hoary puccoon and hairy puccoon. These puccoons are also blooming at many other preserves including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Somme Prairie Grove, Wolf Road Prairie, and Chiwaukee Prairie.

Remote Pembroke Savanna is screaming out for conscientious human visitors, as the blue birdfoot violet carpets large areas of the savanna where it is often joined by sand phlox that varies in color from white to lavender to blue. And stout blue-eye grass will make your heart sing. Another phlox to look for, this week, is the fragrant blue woodland phlox. You can find it in all of our featured woodlands, including
Black Partridge Woods, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, and Heron Rookery Trail.

This is also a big week for wild geranium that seems to float above the forest floor. Lucky for us, this pink flower with star-shaped foliage is a popular plant at all of our woodlands, except for the sandy sites. And shooting star is making an appearance atop the bluffs of Black Partridge Woods. See picture under our Photo Section.

The sublime light blue plumes of wild hyacinth are just beginning to emerge at Wolf Road Prairie, Black Partridge Woods, and Oldfield Oaks in Darien. And I expect some very nice performances.

The dramatic shows of large-flowered trillium are ending as their alabaster blossoms elegantly age into a delicate pink. You can experience them at Heron Rookery Trail (at Indiana Dunes National Park), with an even better display at nearby J. Timothy Ritchie Preserve. In Illinois, check out Meacham Grove, Harms Woods, and Captain Daniel Wright Woods. The last four aforementioned preserves are not on our feature preserves list because we remain shorthanded. If you live near any of these preserves or you’re a regular visitor, this is your chance to become a scout. Learn about how to scout for us. Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve is home to the shy drooping trillium and the last of the elegant and understated prairie trillium are also flowering throughout the region.

And let’s not forget the glorious green leaves of spring: the sprawling elephant ears of skunk cabbage, the umbrellas of mayapple, and the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger. Right now, take a close look underneath the leaves of wild ginger to find their fuzzy burgundy flowers. And the large waxy white blossoms of mayapple are beginning to show. To find them, look beneath the umbrellas of the two-leafed plants. And then there are the spears of wild leek—the plant that gives Chicago its name. In the late 1600s, Potawatomi Indians who paddled the area rivers were commonly heard yelling “Chicagoua!” after catching a strong whiff of chicagoua, or wild leek, growing prolifically along the wooded banks. Wild leek is part of the onion family, hence the Chicago nickname, “The Big Onion.”

NOTE: It is illegal to remove this plant, or any other plant, from any preserve in the Chicago region.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

 

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Black Partridge Woods in Lemont (5/13=): Again, it’s a “Wow!” for the dreamy lushness and the varied cast of flowers. I mean, this place is green—from the new leaves of the tiered tree canopy to the dense carpet of foliage on the woodland floor. Thanks to wild ginger that has fully leafed out, you can hardly see the earth beneath. Check deep underneath the leaves of wild ginger to find a fuzzy burgundy blossom. Currently, my favorite show at this preserve, comes from the miniature forests of mayapple with their parasol-shaped leaves where you can now find a lonesome waxy white blossom hiding under the plants with two umbrellas. Exciting patches of acrobatic skunk cabbage leaves add to the whimsy. Wild leek‘s emerald swords put up a defense, and the star-like leaves of wild geranium give a glimpse into the heavenly pink flower that is now blooming strong. And look for the floating filigreed foliage of early meadow rue.  A very nice display of wild hyacinth is starting to take off atop the bluffs toward the back. A smattering of white and pink shooting star can also be found above. The fragrant woodland phlox is blooming  in large numbers. If you find a good patch of phlox, you may not even have to put nose to petal to detect its fabulous scent. The combination of woodland phlox, wild geranium, and shooting star is wonderful sight. The shimmering highlights of white false rue anemone, rue anemone, and the pinkish spring beauty add to the springtime experience. You can still find a smattering of prairie trillium and common blue violet. And although the spiraling buttery blooms of wood betony are now fading, the shy yellow blooms of large-flowered bellwort are still hanging on as they cling to the sides of the bluffs.

Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park (We got a tip on 5/14+): The show of wild lupine has begun with peak bloom coming soon. Adding the to the blue hues are the sublime blue-eyed grass and the remaining birdfoot violet. The vibrant yellow blooms of hoary puccoon add a golden sparkle to the savanna as the buttery blooms of wood betony end their run. The red-and-yellow blossoms of wild columbine float above the understory of the savanna. And flashes of white come from wild strawberry and bastard toadflax. While you’re here, take the trail to the lakeshore that starts at the nature center. Along the way, the trail crosses a wide gravel path that goes straight east-west. Head west, and you’ll find beaver lodges and beaver activity. If you arrive early or remain late in the day, chances are you’ll be greeted by a beaver slapping its flat tail against the water to alert others of its kind about that human lurking about. This abandoned railroad right-of-way isn’t as intimate as the official narrow trail, but I like the views better. After your hike, consider checking out the lupines at Tolleston Dunes and West Beach. NOTE: The trail can be covered in water at some places. We recommend high boots. Or just slosh on through!

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Updated on 5/8=): The preserve is putting on a beautiful show of blue and white as carpets of sapphire birdfoot violet and sparkling sand phlox flow across the savanna. Both are in peak condition. Don’t leave without bending down to enjoy the fragrance of these two jewels. You’ll also find the white of sand cress and starry false Solomon’s seal, and the golds of two-flowered Cynthia and newly flowering hoary puccoon. On your visit, you’ll notice mysterious sand mounds throughout the preserves. They are the handiwork of the plains pocket gopher. This rarely seen underground gopher excavates tunnels, and the extra sand has to go somewhere.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/10+): The preserve has a lush, green look and feel thanks to a burn that cleared away the old gray foliage. The nicest show comes from the beautiful hemi-parasitic wood betony with colonies scattered in patches across the preserve. You’ll also find white and pink shooting star, golden Alexander in early bloom, pink violet wood sorrel (with its clover-like leaves), and prairie violet. Under the trees, look for prairie trillium and miniature forests of mayapple. Park at the main parking lot for this preserve, located at Somme Woods, and then follow the narrow trail to Somme Prairie Grove. To avoid any confusion, visit our web page for complete details or forever hold your peace. 

Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee (5/8+): I love this place, right now, for its springtime lushness amidst a smattering of wild geranium and woodland phlox. The foliage on the woodland floor has fully matured as the trees are pushing out fresh delicate leaves in the canopy overhead. Spread across the woodland floor are the jade hues and lush patterns of wild leek, mayapple, and the omnipresent wild ginger. And the latter two are now blooming! A rich variety of flowers can be found at this preserve. Upon entering, you’re immediately greeted by a nice display of woodland phlox, which is currently the most prominent flower in bloom as the Virginia bluebells have faded away. Like the bluebell, phlox has a wonderful fragrance that you can probably smell as you stroll by. The pink blossoms of wild geranium are now at peak bloom, rivaling phlox as the star of the show. Still adding some sparkle to the forest floor are rue anemone, false rue anemone, common blue violet, common yellow violet, and swamp buttercup. I found a couple of Jack-in-the-pulpit and a handful of the shy drooping trillium. The strange and wonderful prairie trillium is blooming in very large numbers, and you may find some that look yellow. And finally, If you take it slow and remain very quiet as you approach the bridge, you may see frogs resting along the muddy banks. 

Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park (5/2=): On the days of our visits, the large-flowered trillium was at peak bloom here. But it’s now five days later, and I’d estimate that the trillium is on the other-side-of-peak. However, they are no less beautiful, as the alabaster blossoms turn pink as they take their final bows. The display of trillium is even better at the nearby J. Timothy Ritchie Preserve owned by Shirley Hines Land Trust. The gently rolling landscape and river appeal to me at Heron Rookery Trail. But Timothy Ritchie, our new supplemental preserve to Heron Rookery Trail, is the big winner this week for trillium displays. At Heron Rookery Trail, you’ll also find blooms of sparkling spring beauty, rue anemone, and false rue anemone. The otherworldly prairie trillium is flowering, but fading. Woodland phlox is scattered about. And large numbers of bright-yellow swamp buttercup wade in wet and muddy areas. The lush, green springtime experience is further enhanced by the spreading foliage of wild leekmayapple, and wild ginger.

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (5/13+): The preserve is lush with carpets of green that include colonies floppy-eared skunk cabbage and mayapple umbrellas. Check under the parasols for mayapple’s poisonous waxy white flower. The most prolific blooms are happening under the sun with shining displays of wood betony and golden Alexander. Then add to that the brilliant yellow blossoms of hairy puccoon and the last of marsh marigold. You’ll also find ivory tones from bastard toadflax in the prairie and fluffy plumes of common cottongrass in the soggy areas. Under the protection of savanna’s canopy, look for woodland phlox, wild geranium, shooting star, and the sublime stout blue-eyed grass

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (5/14+): The wild hyacinth is nearing peak bloom. The pink flowers of wild geranium add well-needed color under the trees and you can experience flashes of buttery wood betony in the prairie. But there are several other plants that are also about to blossom, including hoary puccoon, golden Alexander, and lots of wonderful starry false Solomon’s seal.

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: WOOD BETONY

 
Wood betony blooms in the May savanna at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois.

Wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis) is also known as lousewort because it was erroneously thought to bring lice to grazing sheep and photographers who get too close. For some of its nutritional needs, the plant uses its roots to feed off of grasses, mycorrhizal fungi, and possibly other plants. I said “some” nutritional needs. Therefore, that plant is a parasite, but only partially so. Hence, it’s a hemi-parasite, more of a nibbler, as opposed to a full-fledged sap-sucking parasite. Though the leaves at the base exude a beautiful reddish tone, the green color above is the giveaway. The verdant hue shows that it’s not totally lazy, and creates its own energy through sunlight and chlorophyll production. In fact, wood betony can grow just fine even when its host plants aren’t around. Due to its nibbling nature, wood betony is known to stunt the growth of surrounding grasses. This is why it’s sometimes used in habitat restoration to quell the aggressiveness of towering grasses. In May, wood betony blooms in the best open woodlands, prairies, and savannas, like Black Partridge Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, Chiwaukee Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Illinois. *

On this May morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, wood betony blooms under a red sunrise.*

On this May morning at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, wood betony awakens to the light of a red sunrise.*

 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Birdfoot Violet & Sand Phlox are putting on a show:

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet."

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet.”

 

Wild Hyacinth is the newest dramatic bloom:

Wild hyacinth at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Wild hyacinth at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

Each May, wild hyacinths bloom in woodlands and oak savannas across the Chicago region including, here, at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

Each May, wild hyacinth blooms in woodlands and oak savannas across the Chicago region including, here, at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.

 
Wild hyacinths bloom in abundance at Oldfield Oaks in Darien.*

Wild hyacinth blooms in abundance at Oldfield Oaks in Darien.*

 

Wild Lupine is beginning to bloom in our sand savannas

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine, of species Lupinus perennis, seems to love poor soil,. However, in ancient times, it was believed that the lupines were creating the bad soil by wolfing down the nutrients. Hence, the name comes from the Greek word “Lupus,” or “wolf.” In reality, lupine brings nutrients to the soil just like other legumes, such as leadplant, white wild indigo, scurfy pea, and purple prairie clover. Around Chicago, lupine can be found growing in sandy soil under the trees of black oak savannas, including Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park and Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion.

 
Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods Nature Preserve, part of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Gary, Indiana.*

Atop this spring dune thrives wild lupine at Miller Woods, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana. While you’re in the park, you also can find them at Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach.*

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner world of wild lupine.

 

Beaver Activity at Miller Woods

Along the Paul H. Douglas Trails, part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana, this path was made by beavers as they moved from their pond in one swale, over a dune, and into an adjacent swale.*

On the gravel road that rides a ridge at Miller Woods in Indiana Dunes National Park, beavers created this dark thoroughfare as they moved across the ridge from one swale to another.*

Stout Blue-Eyed Grass

Common blue-eyed grass

The sublime blooms of stout blue-eyed grass are now being revealed at Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park, Illinois. And you can find them at other preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Chiwaukee Prairie, Miller Woods, and Somme Prairie Grove.*




Large-Flowered Trillium is still in bloom:

Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display at J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve in Chesterton, Indiana.*

This is a scene from J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve, a preserve that supplements our featured preserve  Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display at J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve in Chesterton, Indiana.

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

Trillium is Latin for “triple,” and the plant lives up to the word.  The showy plant is comprised of three leaves, three sepals, and three petals. The gorgeous white blooms of large-flowered trillium can now be found at our featured preserves of O’Hara Woods Preserve, Pilcher Park, and Messenger Woods and at other preserves like Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Metawa Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale, and, here, at Harms Woods in Glenview. Notice how the flowers turn pink as they fade.*

In May, large-flowered white trillium cover the woodland floor at Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

At Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, large-flowered trillium have reached peak bloom. It’s a magnificent sight.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the woodland floor at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, Illinois.*

Messenger Woods in Homer Glen offers a decent display of large-flowered trillium. But don’t get too excited.. It doesn’t look like the above picture, anymore. Most of the plants have been eaten by deer due to decades of willful neglect by the county.*

 

Woodland Phlox is adding some newfound color to our woodlands:

Woodland phlox at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.*

Many of our featured woodlands are home to the blue and purple woodland phlox. Here at Black Partridge Woods, they flow in a serpentine wave up the bluff..*

 

Wild Geranium is now flowering in all of our woodlands:

You can find wild geranium at all featured woodlands. Here, at Black Partridge Woods, the pink blooms float above its star-shaped foliage.*

You can find wild geranium in all of our featured “sandless” woodlands and at many other preserves across the Chicago region. Here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, the pink flower hovers above their celestial star-shaped foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

 

Shooting Star:

The beautiful blooms of shooting star

The beautiful blooms of shooting star can be found in prairies and woodlands, alike.

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

This is a scene of shooting star and woodland phlox from atop a bluff at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.”

 

 

False Rue Anemone:

False rue anemone

False rue anemone is a beautiful flower that often blooms in clusters. They’re closed up into little white balls at the beginning and end of each day.

 

Prairie Trillium:

Red trillium and setting sun.*

This wonderful flower can be found at most of our featured woodlands. But Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve is my favorite place to see them because they grow in such large numbers. Here at O’Hara Woods in Romeoville, prairie trillium rises as the sun sets.*

 

Mayapple:

In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, like here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois, April showers bring out the umbrellas in the form of mayapples. And the white flowers of false rue anemone sparkle like raindrops.*

In woodlands across northeastern Illinois, like here at Black Partridge Woods, in Lemont, springtime showers bring out the umbrellas in the form of mayapples. And the white flowers of false rue anemone sparkle like raindrops. Soon, a waxy, white flower will appear, like a pedestrian under a parasol. (See the mayapple flower in the photo below.)*

 

Wild Ginger:

At Black Partridge Woods, take a look underneath the fanning mayapple leaf, and you may find a hidden waxy, white bloom. You may also discover a burgundy flower hiding beneath the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger.*

At Black Partridge Woods, the green foliage is the star of the springtime show. Here you see the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger alongside a single blooming mayapple. The flowers of both plants can be found hiding beneath the leaves. All of our featured woodlands feature both of these plants.*

 

Skunk Cabbage:

It's springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down.*

It’s springtime at Pilcher Park and sunlight shines through the enormous fanning foliage of skunk cabbage which, if broken, releases a strong scent reminiscent of skunk, though sweeter and not nearly as overpowering. If you’re someone who, like me, finds the powerful essence of skunk to be an invigorating and life-affirming experience, the skunk inside the cabbage will definitely let you down. You’ll find many at Pilcher Park Nature Center, Black Partridge Woods, Bluff Spring Fen, Trout Park, and O’Hara Woods.*

 
 

 

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

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If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.

—Mike

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT
05-07-2021

Posted by on 3:35 pm in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

ChicagoNatureNow! ALERT05-07-2021

Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
May 7, 2021

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”

 

Plan the Best COVID-19 Walks & Getaways Around Chicago!

Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE nature alerts!

Each week, we offer you opportunities to find peace during this trying time!
PLEASE DONATE IF WE’VE HELPED YOU FIND SOLACE IN NATURE
.

Donate to Our GoFundMe Campaign

 

PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE VISITING OUR SHOWCASE PRESERVES DURING THIS TIME OF INCREASED INTEREST IN NATURE:

ChicagoNatureNOW! preserves are Sacred Cathedrals of Nature, NOT playgrounds or amusement parks. Please treat these sanctuaries with reverence, and behave as you would in any house of worship:

    • Stay on the trails.
    • Walk, don’t run.
      • If your kids need to run around, there are THOUSANDS of more appropriate places to play.
    • Speak quietly as to not interfere with the spiritual experiences of others.
    • Don’t pick flowers or remove anything from a preserve.
      • Share cherished moments through photography, drawing, painting, and writing.
    • Many of these preserves do NOT allow pets, even if they’re leashed.
    • If a rule isn’t listed here, then ask yourself, “Would I do this in church?”

IMPORTANT COVID-19 SITE ACCESS & SAFETY TIPS
(which I hope to remove as more people are vaccinated)

SITE ACCESS:

Most sites and trails that are owned by Chicago-area counties and Indiana Dunes National Park are open, except for visitor centers, buildings, and bathrooms. Fermilab Prairie woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia is closed. Period. And Shoe Factory Road Prairie will be closed for a little while longer because the public abused the site, last year. Check out these websites before you go:

BE SAFE:

  • Wear a mask. Period. This keeps your exhalations from taking to the air.
  • Give each other ten feet of space.
  • The wind carries the virus. When people are present, be conscious of the wind and its direction.
    • When having a conversation, position yourselves so that the wind is blowing from the left or the right.
  • Don’t block people’s progress by gathering along trails, trailheads, or intersections.

 

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

Now that the show of the Virginia bluebell is over, the woodlands are now an emerald dream. This is my favorite time to visit—to cross the threshold into a world of geometric jade to receive an emerald embrace from a protective canopy of lace. Oh, and there are wildflowers, too!

The show of the Virginia bluebell has ended, but don’t panic. Wonderful shows of white large-flowered trillium can be seen Heron Rookery Trail (at Indiana Dunes National Park), with an even better display at nearby J. Timothy Ritchie Preserve. In Illinois, check out Meacham Grove, Harms Woods, and Captain Daniel Wright Woods. The last four aforementioned preserves are not on our feature preserves list because we remain shorthanded. If you live near any of these preserves or you’re a regular visitor, this is your chance to become a scout. Learn about how to scout for us. Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve is home to the shy drooping trillium and the last of the elegant and understated prairie trillium are also flowering throughout the region.

Our Plant of the Week is birdfoot violet. At Pembroke Savanna, the blue flower carpets large areas of the savanna where it is often joined by sand phlox that varies in color from white to lavender to blue. Another phlox to look for, this week, is the blue woodland phlox. You can find it in all of our featured woodlands, including Black Partridge Woods, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, and Heron Rookery Trail.

This is also a big week for wild geranium that seems to float above the forest floor. Lucky for us, this pink flower with star-shaped foliage is a popular plant at all of our woodlands, except for the sandy sites. And shooting star is making an appearance atop the bluffs of Black Partridge Woods. See picture under our Photo Section.

And let’s not forget the glorious green leaves of spring: the sprawling elephant ears of skunk cabbage, the umbrellas of mayapple, and the heart-shaped leaves of wild ginger. Right now, take a close look underneath the leaves of wild ginger to find their fuzzy burgundy flowers. And the large waxy white blossoms of mayapple are beginning to show. To find them, look beneath the umbrellas of the two-leafed plants. And then there are the spears of wild leek—the plant that gives Chicago its name. In the late 1600s, Potawatomi Indians who paddled the area rivers were commonly heard yelling “Chicagoua!” after catching a strong whiff of chicagoua, or wild leek, growing prolifically along the wooded banks. Wild leek is part of the onion family, hence the Chicago nickname, “The Big Onion.”

NOTE: It is illegal to remove this plant, or any other plant, from any preserve in the Chicago region.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best or “Go!” The “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section is for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top-rated preserves. And our “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore! The date within the parentheses tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

 

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Updated on 5/5=): The preserve is putting on a beautiful show of blue and white as carpets of sapphire birdfoot violet and sparkling sand phlox flow across the savanna. Both are in peak condition. Don’t leave without bending down to enjoy the fragrance of these two jewels. You’ll also find the white of sand cress and starry false Solomon’s seal, and the golds of two-flowered Cynthia and buds of hoary puccoon. On your visit, you’ll notice mysterious sand mounds throughout the preserves. They are the handiwork of the plains pocket gopher. This rarely seen underground gopher excavates tunnels, and the extra sand has to go somewhere.

Black Partridge Woods in Lemont (5/7+): Wow! This place is green—from the new leaves of the tiered tree canopy to the dense carpet of foliage on the woodland floor. Now, thanks to wild ginger that has finally leafed out, you can hardly see the earth beneath. Check deep underneath the leaves of wild ginger to find a fuzzy burgundy blossom. Currently, my favorite show at this preserve, comes from the miniature forests of mayapple with their parasol-shaped leaves where you can now find a lonesome waxy white blossom hiding under the plants with two umbrellas. Exciting patches of acrobatic skunk cabbage leaves add to the whimsy. Wild leek‘s emerald swords put up a defense, and the star-like leaves of wild geranium give a glimpse into the heavenly pink flower that is now blooming strong. And look for the floating filigreed foliage of early meadow rue. A smattering of white and pink shooting star can be found atop the bluffs, and the fragrant woodland phlox is flowering in large numbers. If you find a good patch of phlox, pay attention to its fabulous scent. You may not even have to put nose to petal. The combination of woodland phlox, wild geranium, and shooting star is wonderful sight. The shimmering highlights of white false rue anemone, rue anemone, and the pinkish spring beauty add to the springtime experience. You can still find a smattering of prairie trillium and common blue violet. And although the spiraling buttery blooms of wood betony are now fading, the shy yellow blooms of large-flowered bellwort are still hanging on as they cling to the sides of the bluffs.

Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Park (5/2=): On the days of our visits, the large-flowered trillium was at peak bloom here. But it’s now five days later, and I’d estimate that the trillium is on the other-side-of-peak. However, they are no less beautiful, as the alabaster blossoms turn pink as they take their final bows. The display of trillium is even better at the nearby J. Timothy Ritchie Preserve owned by Shirley Hines Land Trust. The gently rolling landscape and river appeal to me at Heron Rookery Trail. But Timothy Ritchie, our new supplemental preserve to Heron Rookery Trail, is the big winner this week for trillium displays. At Heron Rookery Trail, you’ll also find blooms of sparkling spring beauty, rue anemone, and false rue anemone. The otherworldly prairie trillium is flowering, but fading. Woodland phlox is scattered about. And large numbers of bright-yellow swamp buttercup wade in wet and muddy areas. The lush, green springtime experience is further enhanced by the spreading foliage of wild leekmayapple, and wild ginger.

Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee (5/5+): I love this place, right now, for the wild geranium, woodland phlox, but especially for the springtime lushness that I mentioned in the weekly highlights. The foliage on the woodland floor has fully matured as the trees are pushing out fresh delicate leaves in the canopy overhead. Spread across the woodland floor are the jade hues and lush patterns of wild leek, mayapple, and the omnipresent wild ginger. And the latter two are now blooming! A rich variety of flowers can be found at this preserve. Upon entering, you’re immediately greeted by a nice display of woodland phlox, which is currently the most prominent flower in bloom as the Virginia bluebells have faded away. Like the bluebell, phlox has a wonderful fragrance that you can probably smell as you stroll by. The pink blossoms of wild geranium are now at peak bloom, rivaling phlox as the star of the show. Still adding some sparkle to the forest floor are rue anemone, false rue anemone, common blue violet, common yellow violet, and swamp buttercup. I found a couple of Jack-in-the-pulpit and a handful of the shy drooping trillium. The strange and wonderful prairie trillium is blooming in very large numbers, and you may find some that look yellow. And finally, If you take it slow and remain very quiet as you approach the bridge, you may see frogs resting along the muddy banks. 

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/7+): The preserve has a lush, green feel. You’ll find the beautiful hemi-parasitic wood betony scattered in patches across the preserve, often in the sunnier spots. And you’ll also find shooting star, prairie trillium, and golden Alexander in early bloom. Look for yellow water buttercup and miniature forests of mayapple that add to the whimsy. Park at the main parking lot for this preserve, located at Somme Woods, and then follow the narrow trail to Somme Prairie Grove. To avoid any confusion, visit our web page for complete details or forever hold your peace. 

 

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: BIRDFOOT VIOLET

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet."

In May, Pembroke Savanna is home to blooms of white sand phlox and rare birdfoot violet.”

 

PHOTO SECTION

Large-Flowered Trillium is still in bloom:

Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display at J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve in Chesterton, Indiana.*

This is a scene from J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve, a preserve that supplements our featured preserve  Large-flowered trillium of species Trillium grandiflorum covers the woodland floor in a spectacular annual display at J. Timothy Ritchie Nature Preserve in Chesterton, Indiana.

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

Trillium is Latin for “triple,” and the plant lives up to the word.  The showy plant is comprised of three leaves, three sepals, and three petals. The gorgeous white blooms of large-flowered trillium can now be found at our featured preserves of O’Hara Woods Preserve, Pilcher Park, and Messenger Woods and at other preserves like Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Metawa Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale, and, here, at Harms Woods in Glenview. Notice how the flowers turn pink as they fade.*

In May, large-flowered white trillium cover the woodland floor at Heron Rookery Trail at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*

At Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, large-flowered trillium have reached peak bloom. It’s a magnificent sight.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.

Large-flowered trillium carpet the floor of Captain Daniel Wright Woods in Mettawa, Illinois.*

Large-flowered trillium carpet the woodland floor at Messenger Woods in Homer Glen, Illinois.*

Messenger Woods in Homer Glen offers a decent display of large-flowered trillium. But don’t get too excited.. It doesn’t look like the above picture, anymore. Most of the plants have been eaten by deer due to decades of willful neglect by the county.*

 

Woodland Phlox is adding some newfound color to our woodlands:

Woodland phlox at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.*

Many of our featured woodlands are home to the blue and purple woodland phlox. Here at Black Partridge Woods, they flow in a serpentine wave up the bluff..*

 

Wild Geranium is now flowering in all of our woodlands:

You can find wild geranium at all featured woodlands. Here, at Black Partridge Woods, the pink blooms float above its star-shaped foliage.*

You can find wild geranium in all of our featured “sandless” woodlands and at many other preserves across the Chicago region. Here at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, the pink flower hovers above their celestial star-shaped foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

At Raccoon Grove, as evening nears in this beautiful spring woodland, the final streaks of sunlight penetrate the emerald canopy. The shining rays highlight the broad leaves of false Solomon’s seal and animate the soft, pink blooms of wild geranium, making all that is illuminated stand apart from the surrounding foliage.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

May brings glorious displays of wild geranium to Oldfield Oaks in Darien, Illinois, part of Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.*

 

Shooting Star:

The beautiful blooms of shooting star

The beautiful blooms of shooting star can be found in prairies and woodlands, alike.

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

This is a scene of shooting star and woodland phlox from atop a bluff at Black Partridge Woods in Lemont, Illinois.”

 

 

False Rue Anemone: