Chicago Nature Now! Alert
June 20, 2019
“Weekly Wildflower Reports with
Chicago’s Best Wildflower Walks & Outdoor Outings”
Plan Your Weekend Wildflower Walk!
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BECOME A NATURE SCOUT! Each week, we cover up to 5,000 square miles to bring beauty, peace, and hope to Chicago-area residents. Lean about becoming a nature scout. It’s a rich and rewarding experience.
WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR WEEKEND OUTDOOR OUTING IN CHICAGO NATURE:
Like last week, the floral stars of the week are sand coreopsis and pale purple coneflower in glorious expanses, and the miraculous melting flowers of Ohio spiderwort. But if you want to see spiderwort’s blooms, don’t sleep in. The blue flower only opens for a few hours before it begins to turn into a purple liquid! And if spiderwort weren’t weird enough, you can now see a plant called porcupine grass with a seed that drills itself into the soil. Porcupine grass is, again, our Plant of the Week. See the real-time video of the drilling seed, below. And then there are the pearly blooms of foxglove beardtongue that is now in full flower. I love this plant because, in the fall, their seeds smell exactly, and I mean “exactly,” like vomit! In contrast, right now, you can find a most wonderful fragrance by dropping to your knees to inhale the intoxicating scent of the sublime pasture rose.
Experience the magnificent vastitude of sand coreopsis at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/16). See pictures in Photo Section. A wondrous expanse of pale purple coneflower is yours at Bluff Spring Fen (6/18). And you’ll find spiderwort at several preserves around the region, including Belmont Prairie (6/19), Wolf Road Prairie (6/18), Bluff Spring Fen (6/18), Fermilab Prairie, Powderhorn Prairie, Paul H. Douglas Trail, Chiwaukee Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/16), and Pembroke Savanna (6/20). Finally porcupine grass (our Plant of the Week) can be found at Belmont Prairie (6/19), Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/16), Pembroke Savanna (6/20), and Powderhorn Prairie.
PRESERVES TO VISIT THIS WEEKEND FOR A 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 special “Preserves for You to Scout” section for those preserves that we couldn’t get to this week, but that you can help us explore!
THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (6/16): This preserve tops our list because the show of golden sand coreopsis in the sand prairie (along the Dunes Trail) is one of the region’s most beautiful performances of the year. In fact, the Sierra Club thinks that it rivals any place in the country, as the image (below) will represent the month of July in their upcoming 2020 Sierra Club Wilderness Wall Calendar. But sand coreopsis is not the only flowers to see here. The wild lupine is still looking good, along with hoary puccoon, sand cress, and sandwort, pasture rose., and porcupine grass.
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (6/18): The breathtaking show of the gorgeous pink blooms of pale purple coneflower is on. Also, look for porcupine grass and the pearly flowers of foxglove beardtongue and white wild indigo
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (6/19): You’ll find several displays of spiderwort across the preserve and many more flowers, as well, including foxglove beardtongue, daisy fleabane, blue flag iris, and the start of wild quinine. And I can’t forget mentioning the beautiful foliage of prairie dock and compass plant.
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (6/19): Find a beautiful symphony of color and texture at this intimate remnant prairie nestled within a quiet neighborhood. Playing the starring role, this week, is pale purple coneflower, supported by textured sprays of porcupine grass and colorful blooms of scurfy pea and spiderwort. However, to experience the ephemeral flowers of spiderwort, you must get there by 8:00 am. Their purple flowers open with the sun and only last a few hours before shriveling and turning to liquid. Learn about spiderwort’s miraculous melting flowers. When you arrive early, you’ll be treated to the gorgeous leaves of prairie dock and compass plant that glow a bright green in the low sun.
Here is my most profound recommendation for enjoying your time in nature. If the preserve allows, arrive before first light. A morning rendezvous with nature is a magical experience that vastly transcends what’s possible at other times of day. In the early bright, the world expands beyond the usual three dimensions, as the transformation from darkness into light excites more than just the visual sense. As night gives birth to dawn, and the landscape gently turns from azure to gold, the soft and changing light is a spectacle for the eyes. A moist fog or a splash of crisp dew against your skin affirms your existence. The still atmosphere concentrates the fragrances floating in the air and provides a tranquil stage for birds to project their crystal melodies. In the morning, you’ll find all this, along with the promise of a new day.
Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (6/20): If you want to see spiderwort, this is the place. It’s almost everywhere! But as stated before, you need to get here early. The spiderwort is mixed in with a prolific display of daisy fleabane, along with some pasture rose and remaining hairy puccoon. And you’ll also see lots of porcupine grass.
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (6/18): Like Belmont Prairie, this preserve is a “Go!” for the Ohio spiderwort but only if you visit by 8:00 am. You might be able to get away with a later time, but the flowers fade pretty quickly, especially when it’s hot. In the prairie, you’ll also find downy phlox and the large beautiful leaves of prairie dock.
GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
Miller Woods (at Paul H. Douglas Environmental Center for Education) in Indiana Dunes National Park (report by park ranger on 6/18): The preserve is large and provides a nice long hike to the beach. The most prominent blooming flower is hairy puccoon, and there’s a lot of spiderwort, too. Along your hike, you’ll also see two-flowered Cynthia, wild columbine,, pasture rose, and downy phlox. And then there are the beavers! See photo and caption below to learn where to find them. After your hike, consider checking out Tolleston Dunes.
PRESERVES FOR YOU TO SCOUT:
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.
Kickapoo Prairie in Riverdale: Let us know what’s going on at this beautiful south-side prairie.
Powderhorn Marsh & Prairie in Chicago (last scouted on 5/31): This high-quality preserve is located inside the city of Chicago.
PLANT OF THE WEEK: PORCUPINE GRASS
You can find porcupine grass at Belmont Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Pembroke Savanna, Bluff Spring Fen, and Powderhorn Prairie.
Watch this video to see porcupine grass drill itself into the soil as you watch!
Sand Coreopsis at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Pale Purple Coneflower is in Full Flower
The Wonderfully Large Leaves of Compass Plant & Prairie Dock
Beaver Activity at Miller Woods (just off the Paul H. Douglas Trail)
If you find this website of Chicago nature information useful, please consider donating or purchasing my nationally-acclaimed book that poetically celebrates all of the preserves featured on this website.
© 2019, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.