Chicago Nature Now! Alert
May 24, 2019
Memorial Day Edition
“Weekly Wildflower Reports with
Chicago’s Best Wildflower Walks & Outdoor Adventures”
Plan Your Spring Wildflower Walk This Weekend!
Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
Click here to subscribe to receive FREE wildflower alerts!
Last week, WTTW Chicago Tonight told a beautiful television story about ChicagoNatureNOW!. Watch it here.
WE NEED SCOUTS! Each week, we cover up to 5,000 square miles to bring beauty, peace, and hope to Chicago-area residents. Consider volunteering for us by becoming a nature scout. It’s a rich and rewarding experience.
Wildflower highlights to help you plan your weekend adventure in Chicago nature:
The flower of the week is the sublime blue-and-white wild lupine. Believe it or not, the show is just as breathtaking as the Virginia bluebell performances of previous weeks. Last week, O’Hara Woods was transformed into an azure ocean of bluebells. But when I visited on Wednesday, virtually every flower had fallen off, and the preserve has returned to an emerald sea. The flowering of our woodlands fade as the tree canopy fills with leaves and the sunlight under the trees becomes more scarce. Now, we begin to turn our attention away from the woodlands and to our light-filled oak savannas and sun-drenched prairies.
The best place to experience wild lupine is in Indiana Dunes National Park at Paul H. Douglas Trail (formerly Miller Woods), Tolleston Dunes, and West Beach,. Alongside breathtaking displays of wild lupine, you’ll find golden hoary puccoon and hairy puccoon blooming in great numbers. Wild geranium was screaming at Messenger Woods (5/22,) Black Partridge Woods (5/22), and Oldfield Oaks (5/23). And wild hyacinth is beginning to flower at Wolf Road Prairie (5/23) Messenger Woods (5/22), and it’s reached peak bloom at Oldfield Oaks (5/23). I love the beautiful foliage displays of umbrella-like mayapple, spears of wild leek, the grand sprawling leaves of skunk cabbage, and the hearts of wild ginger. Look for flowers hiding under the foliage of wild ginger and double-leafed mayapples. (Mayapples with one leaf do not produce a flower. See picture below.) Note that the bloom times for the northern preserves are about a week behind those in the south.
WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER WALK AROUND CHICAGO:
The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best. See our “Go, if You’re in the Neighborhood” section for sites that are worth visiting if you can’t get out to our top preserves. And we have a new section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore!
THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):
Paul H. Douglas Trail (formerly Miller Woods) in Indiana Dunes National Park (5/19): This preserve is a dream, right now. With its vast display of wild lupine mixed with hoary puccoon, this preserve easily tops this week’s list. See the picture below for an example of the glory you might experience. While you’re here, take the trail to the lake. Then check out Tolleston Dunes and West Beach.
Black Partridge Woods in Lemont (5/23): There are several dense and prominent displays of wild geranium atop the bluffs which is why it is ranked as a “Go.” However, we aren’t sure how long the flowers will last. In any case, this preserve gives an immersive emerald experience that will steal your heart. Its bubbling, sparkling stream is the most beautiful in the region. And the bluffs add to the fairy-tale feel. The lush, green feel is prominent in the lowland area where plants of all sorts show off their foliage, including skunk cabbage, wild leek, mayapple, and wild ginger. Look under the leaves of wild ginger to find a fuzzy burgundy blossom. Moving now to the trails atop the bluffs, I found several dense and prominent displays of wild geranium, but they’re past peak and I don’t now how long it will last. This is why I put it under this category. Woodland phlox is the next most prominent flower which, like geranium, can be found in many spots. The wild hyacinth is just starting to bloom, while shooting star is at its peak.
Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (5/24): We visit this preserve at this time of year because the display of shooting star can be spectacular. Amongst the newly blooming shooting star, you’ll find some beautiful, colorful patches of hoary puccoon, wood betony, and birdfoot violet.
GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
Messenger Woods in Homer Glen (5/22): Normally, this preserve would be rated among “This Week’s Best” because the wild geranium is fantastic. However, on our visits, water covered the trail entrance and the bridge over the creek. Yet, our intrepid scouts, John Boldt and Zeke Wei, we not dissuaded. John, in particular, was not going to let a little water stop him after driving over 150 round-trip miles to scout the place. Both men rolled up their pants, took off their shoes and socks, and waded across in their bare feet. Please contact Forest Preserve District of Will County and ask them to fix the bridge, otherwise this will keeping happening, as it has for years. After our visits, it rained a couple more times. So, if you’d like a little adventure and want to make your Memorial Day weekend memorable, come and wade through the knee-deep water (at your own risk). You’ll probably have the preserve to yourself, and the experience should be well worth it. And bring a towel!
Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates (5/24): The flowers of the spring prairie grow very low to the ground and aren’t as showy as the woodlands. But take a closer look and you’re in for a treat, as the hill prairie is covered with large patches of golden hoary puccoon, alongside purple birdfoot violet, golden Alexander, and shooting star. Yellow star grass can be found outside the fence. And, in the woodland, there is a clump of the fascinating Jack-in-the-pulpit.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/23): There are some nice flowers blooming around the preserve, but not in great densities. The bloom with the greatest population throughout the site is wood betony. Other flowers showing their stuff are balsam ragwort, hoary puccoon, large-flowered trillium, red trillium, blue-eyed grass, and hoary puccoon. Golden Alexander is just starting out.
PRESERVES FOR YOU TO SCOUT (A NEW CATEGORY):
This is a new category for those who’d like do a little exploring for us. The preserves listed below were not scouted, this week, but may be worth the trip. Please send us your findings and images by email or, better still, join our Friends of ChicagoNatureNOW! Facebook page. While visiting a preserve, take mostly scenic pictures, tell us which flowers are blooming, and then give us your bottom-line opinion of your experience. Tell us if it’s a “GO,” a “Go, if you’re in the neighborhood,” or a “NO.” If you’d like to scout more regularly, then learn about becoming an official Nature Scout.
Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee: Check for wild geranium and woodland phlox , which could be past peak. If you find wild hyacinth, it should be at peak. And check on the status of false Solomon’s seal, which will soon be putting on a nice show.
Fermilab Prairie & woodland (Fermilab Natural Areas) in Batavia: In last week’s report, “The woodland offers a large number of woodland phlox and mayapple. The gorgeous large-flowered trillium blooms alongside red trillium. Also look for swamp buttercup. The prairie is showing the sprouting foliage of soon-to-bloom golden Alexander, the red-leafed wood betony, and the sublime shooting star.” You mission is to first check the woodland to see what remains. Then visit the prairie where you’ll find golden Alexander, wood betony, and the sublime shooting star.
Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: In last week’s report, “Visit this world-class sand savanna for its vast display of birdfoot violet and sand phlox. Starry false Solomon’s seal is now in bloom with it’s geometric leaves, and stout blue-eye grass is also beginning to flower. On his scouting mission, John was startled by a turkey as he hiked the trail! I’ve twice been startled by quail that suddenly flew out from the brush.” For this week, check for the same flowers and let us know if you notice anything else.
Wild Lupine in Our Black Oak Savannas (Sand Savannas)
Wild Hyacinth in Our Woodlands
Hoary Puccoon at Shoe Factory Road Prairie
Stout Blue-Eyed Grass
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.
© 2019, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.