Chicago Nature Now! Alert
June 27, 2019
“Weekly Wildflower Reports with
Chicago’s Best Wildflower Walks & Outdoor Outings”
Plan Your Weekend Wildflower Walk!
Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
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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:
The floral star of the week and, also, the month is 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! Learn when to see this flower in the caption under the Photo Section. This week, you can also find beautiful expanses of sand coreopsis and pale purple coneflower.
Our Plant of the Week is eastern prickly pear cactus. No, we didn’t scout in Arizona, this week! Chicago has a cactus, and we spotted it the other day at Miller Woods. You can find its transcendent yellow blossoms at several other sandy preserves, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Powderhorn Marsh & Prairie, and Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve.
If spiderwort’s melting blooms weren’t weird enough, now you can see a plant called porcupine grass with a seed that drills itself into the soil. Watch a real-time video of the drilling seed under the Photo Section, below. And then there are the pearly blooms of foxglove beardtongue. 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 and inhaling the intoxicating scent of the sublime pasture rose.
I visited Miller Woods on Wednesday morning (6/26), and the spiderwort was spectacular! The show rivals the breathtaking display of wild lupine from late May. In other words, you should not miss this experience. The oak-covered dunes take on a faint purple hue of the spiderwort with highlights of golden hairy puccoon sprinkled about. You can see spiderwort at several preserves around the region, including Belmont Prairie (6/26), Wolf Road Prairie (6/25), Bluff Spring Fen (6/25), Fermilab Prairie, Powderhorn Prairie, Paul H. Douglas Trail, Chiwaukee Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/126), and Pembroke Savanna (6/20). Experience the magnificent vastitude of sand coreopsis at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/26). See pictures in Photo Section. A wondrous expanse of pale purple coneflower is yours at Bluff Spring Fen (6/25). And finally, porcupine grass can be found at Belmont Prairie (6/26), Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (6/26), Pembroke Savanna (6/20), and Powderhorn Prairie. A wondrous expanse of pale purple coneflower is yours at Bluff Spring Fen (6/25).
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 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 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! The date within the parentheses tell you when we last scouted the preserve.
THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):
Miller Woods (at Paul H. Douglas Environmental Center for Education) in Indiana Dunes National Park (6/26): Wow! The spiderwort will blow your mind, here. It’s everywhere, turning the dune-sides a faint shade of blue. Golden sprays of hairy puccoon, adds golden tones to the mix, and downy phlox provides splashes of pink. Along your hike, you’ll also see two-flowered Cynthia, pasture rose, sand coreopsis, and June grass. Walk the main trail that heads to the lake and you’ll find prickly pear cactus where it gets sandy. 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.
Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (6/25): The breathtaking show of the gorgeous pink blooms of pale purple coneflower is still happening, especially by the “switchback kame” in the northeast section. Also, look for porcupine grass, pasture rose, and the pearly flowers of foxglove beardtongue.
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (6/26): To appreciate the full color and texture of this prairie requires that you arrive in the morning before the purple blossoms of spiderwort melts away. 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. 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.
Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (6/25): This preserve is a “Go!” during the morning hours when the great expanse of Ohio spiderwort are in bloom. Also present are the white flowers of foxglove beardtongue and purple meadow rue. In the wetland, look for the alabaster blossoms of fragrant water lily.
Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (6/20): If you want to see spiderwort, this is a great spot to see it. It’s almost everywhere! But as stated before, you need to get here early. Joining the spiderwort are daisy fleabane, along with some pasture rose and remaining hairy puccoon. And you’ll also see lots of porcupine grass and, possibly, the white plumes of June grass.
GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (6/26): This preserve could probably be a “Go,” but the sand coreopsis in the sand prairie (along the Dunes Trail) is fading. While you’re here, look for hairy puccoon, downy phlox, sandwort, pasture rose., and porcupine grass.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (6/25): At the moment, the most prominent flower is foxglove beardtongue. You’ll find spiderwort, daisy fleabane, blue flag iris, tall plumes of purple meadow rue, along with the start of wild quinine. and black-eyed Susan. And I can’t forget mentioning the beautiful foliage of prairie dock, compass plant, and prairie dropseed. NOTE: Even though there is construction on Dundee Road east of Waukegan Road, you can still pass by the “Detour” barricade because it’s open to local traffic. The preserve entrance is located about 500 feet down on the left. Also consider using the alternate parking location mentioned in our web page for this preserve.
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (6/28):This preserve is only on this week’s list for the morning hours while the Ohio spiderwort is blooming. You might be able to get away with a later time on a cloudy day, but the flowers fade pretty quickly when it’s hot. In the prairie, you’ll also find the tall white plumes of purple meadow rue and the large leaves of prairie dock.
PRESERVES FOR YOU TO SCOUT:
This is a 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: This high-quality preserve is located inside the city of Chicago.
PLANT OF THE WEEK: EASTERN PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS
What!? Chicago has a cactus? Yes we do!
Pale Purple Coneflower is in Full Flower
Sand Coreopsis at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Porcupine Grass and it’s Spinning Seed
Watch this video to see porcupine grass drill itself into the soil as you watch!
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.