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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
May 31, 2019

“Weekly Wildflower Reports with
Chicago’s Best Wildflower Walks & Outdoor Outings”

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Wildflower highlights to help you plan your weekend outdoor outing in Chicago nature:

The shows of the week comes from the breathtaking blue-and-white wild lupine and the sublime pinks of shooting star. These events are a must see!

The best place to experience wild lupine is in Indiana Dunes National Park at Paul H. Douglas Trail (5/27) and Tolleston Dunes,. Alongside breathtaking displays of wild lupine, you’ll find golden hoary puccoon and hairy puccoon blooming in great numbers. You can also see lupine and puccoon at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (5/30) and Chiwaukee Prairie (5/30). But the big reason to visit Chiwaukee Prairie is for the magnificent display of shooting star and the many other blooming species that accompany it.

Wolf Road Prairie is offering a nice display of wild hyacinth. And hoary puccoon is putting on a show at Shoe Factory Road Prairie.


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!


Paul H. Douglas Trail (formerly Miller Woods) in Indiana Dunes National Park (5/27): Like last weekend, this preserve is a dream and tops this week’s list. Come see the vast display of wild lupine mixed with hoary puccoon, along with beavers and rolling ridge-and-swale terrain. See the pictures below for an example of how beautiful it is. While you’re here, take the trail that starts at the nature center to the lakeshore. 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 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.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (5/30): Right now, the shooting star is the star of the show, and the colors of this prairie are gorgeous. Right away, the floral color begins at the parking area by the portable john, where you’re immediately greeted by stunning blue patches of wild lupine. The prairie sits upon an undulating topography known as “ridge and swale.” The swales are low and often wet, while the ridges are high, dry, and where you’ll find the flowers. The pinks and whites of shooting star cover large portions of the ridges along with a stunning mix of hoary puccoon, wood betony, birdfoot violet, golden Alexander, blue-eyed grass, yellow star grass, fringed puccoon, wild strawberry, bastard toadflax, and starry false Solomon’s seal.  It’s a breathtaking experience and this prairie’s most spectacular show of the year. After your visit, I suggest heading south to Zion to immerse yourself in the rich and beautiful habitats of Illinois Beach Nature Preserve.


Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (5/30): If you visit Chiwaukee Prairie to see the shooting stars, then you’ll be in the neighborhood of this stunningly beautiful preserve. There are many flowers blooming, right now, but not enough to call it a “Go.” Yet, this is the only preserve in the region that I’d recommend visiting even if there were no flowers blooming! And there are plenty blooming right now, including wild lupine, hoary puccoon, fringed puccoon, wood betony, blue-eyed grass, yellow star grass, sand cress, and the stunning Indian paintbrush.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (5/31): The prairie and savanna are featuring their beautiful springtime display of wild hyacinth. Usually, I find most of these flowers in the oak savanna. But this year, it’s flowering at many locations throughout the open prairie.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates (5/31): Large patches of golden hoary puccoon steal the show. Sharing the stage are golden Alexander, wood betony, yellow star grass, and a few remaining birdfoot violet.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (5/28): This preserve is known for its mix of flowers, and there’s a nice mix right now. The flower with the greatest population throughout the site is golden Alexander. In the woodland, there’s often a vast display. When we visited, the yellows were still a bit muted, but they’re getting better every day. Other flowers you’ll find are balsam ragwort, hoary puccoon, wood betonywild hyacinth, and my favorite flower of the moment, the heart-stirring blue-eyed grass (see picture below).


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.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: Two weeks ago, our report read, “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

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

Wow! This is the kind of bloom you can expect this weekend at Paul H. Douglas Trail (prev. Miller Woods), part of Indiana Dunes National Park in Gary, Indiana.*

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.*

The lupines at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion are looking good as they approach peak bloom. I suggest that you visit Chiwaukee Prairie and then go south to finish your trip here.*

Wild Lupine of species Lupinus perennis.

Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis. Notice how the flowers bloom from the bottom up.

Painterly image of Wild lupine of species Lupinus perennis

An exploration into the inner landscape of the lupine.

Beaver Activity at Paul H. Douglas Trail

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 the rides a ridge at Paul H. Douglas Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, beavers created this dark thoroughfare as they moved across the ridge from one swale to another.*

Shooting Star at Chiwaukee Prairie

The beautiful blooms of shooting star

The beautiful blooms of shooting star.

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

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

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

At Chiwaukee Prairie, there’s a mix of flowers that join the shooting stars. At this spot, on this day, yellow star grass, hoary puccoon, and wood betony add to the celebration.*

Indian Paintbrush

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

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

Wild Hyacinth

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

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

Wild hyacinth seem to take on the blue glow of evening at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

At Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois, these wild hyacinths take on the blue glow of evening.*

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

Like wild lupine, wild hyacinths also bloom from the bottom up. As you can see, these plants at Oldfield Oaks in Darien have flowers that are still waiting to open. Right now, you’ll find them blooming, but they peaked last weekend.*

Golden Alexander

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

At Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, a show like this savanna scene of golden Alexander is about to occur.*

Hoary Puccoon at Shoe Factory Road Prairie

Hoary puccoon and birdfoot violet glow in the morning light at the hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

Hoary puccoon and birdfoot violet glow in the morning light at the hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie.*

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.*

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

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.

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