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Chicago Nature Now! Alert
July 11, 2019

“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Wildflower Walks & Outdoor Getaways”

Plan the Best Outdoor Weekend Getaway in Chicago!

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Chicago Wildflower Report & Info - 07/11/2019

SHARE YOUR JOY FOR NATURE BY BECOMING A NATURE SCOUT! Each week, we help our neighbors find peace. Lean about becoming a nature scout.

WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR WEEKEND GETAWAY IN CHICAGO NATURE:

The floral star and our Plant of the Week is the beautiful orange butterfly weed. The best shows can be found at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and Miller Woods. A beautiful display of rattlesnake master is taking place at Belmont Prairie and in the prairie just outside the fence around Shoe Factory Road Prairie. The golden blossoms of prairie coreopsis is quite prolific at Shoe Factory Road Prairie, though they’re past their prime. The miraculous melting flowers of Ohio spiderwort can still be found in the cooler, northern preserves. However, 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 nice expanses of the now-fading pale purple coneflower at Bluff Spring Fen and Belmont PrairieThe unexpected eastern prickly pear cactus may still be found blooming at Miller Woods and other sandy preserves including Powderhorn Marsh & Prairie, Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, and Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve

To experience a most intoxicating fragrance, you’ll have to drop to your knees to inhale the scent of pasture rose. On a personal note, I bent down to smell the pink blossom when I scouted Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, this week. As my nose reached the petals, I felt a sting beneath my lower lip. Poison ivy! In over twenty-five years photographing Chicago nature, this is the first time I’ve come into contact with it. And it isn’t because I try to avoid it. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I could identify it. To remove the irritating oils that cause the body to overreact with a rash, I applied a product called TecNu that I purchased at the pharmacy near the entrance of the park. As of this writing, there’s just a little bit of blistering, probably because I decided to finish my scouting mission before applying the antidote. I made a rash decision.

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!”):

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (7/9): The black oak savanna is full of color with the orange blossoms of butterfly weed starting its prolific run. You’ll also find lots of spiderwort, hairy puccoon, downy phlox, pasture rose. common milkweed, short green milkweed, the start of flowering spurge, and the finish of porcupine grass. We’re still a little early for prickly pear cactus flowers. And look for the sublime red prairie lily.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (7/11): This is a tiny preserve with a beautiful feel to it. The star of this week’s show is rattlesnake master with dense stands of plants presenting their white Tinker-Toy flower heads. You also find the fading blooms of pale purple coneflower alongside new blooms of butterfly weed, wild quinine, and false sunflower. I particularly like the whimsical nodding tassels of prairie brome that frolic between the forbs. And look for the spectacular foliage of prairie dock and compass plant that glow a bright green in the low sun. See Photo Section for a picture of the leaves.

Miller Woods (at Paul H. Douglas Environmental Center for Education) in Indiana Dunes National Park (7/11 phone report from park ranger): We need scouts to cover this rich Indiana preserve. Lean about becoming a nature scout. According to a report from a ranger at the educational center, there are many flowers to see along your walk. The most prominent blooms come from orange butterfly weed, golden black-eyed Susan and hairy puccoon, plus pink pasture rose and downy phlox. There’s much to explore at Miller Woods. You can make a day of it, especially when there are other places in the park to visit. Check in at the visitor center at Miller Woods for guidance. After your hike, consider checking out Tolleston Dunes.

 

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates (7/10): This is a very small preserve with short trails that will quickly take you to the best flower shows. The most exciting blooms come from prairie coreopsis and wild quinine, though the former is now fading. You’ll also find the beginnings of common milkweed and leadplant. Dense stands of rattlesnake master can be found in the prairie located beyond the fence at the base of the southern hill. NOTE: Consider visiting Bluff Spring Fen while you’re here. It’s roughly in the neighborhood.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (7/9): There are many species in bloom, but not in great prominence. At the moment, we’re still waiting for the grand show of leadplant. Until then, you’ll find spiderwort, daisy fleabane, black-eyed Susan, New Jersey tea, white wild indigo, foxglove beardtongue, prairie phlox, prairie sundrop, and wild quinine. The orange sprays of butterfly weed are sprinkled throughout the sunny areas. 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 drive around the “Detour” barricade because it’s open to local traffic. The preserve entrance is located on the left side about 500 feet beyond the barricade. Due to the construction, Google Maps instructs you to park on Ferndale. Ignore it! Park in the main lot, or use the alternate parking location found on our web page for this preserve.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (7/9): Right now, there is no big bloom, except for the expanse of fading pale purple coneflowers by the “switchback kame” in the northeast section. Still, there is a mix of flowers to see along your stroll, including butterfly weed, wild quinine, pasture rose, common milkweed, and the beginnings of wild bergamot, yellow coneflower, spotted Joe-Pye weed, and leadplant . NOTE: Consider checking out nearby Shoe Factory Road Prairie.

Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin (7/9): There isn’t big show featuring any big stars, but there is some decent color that comes from a number of flowering plants. The pink marsh phlox and the golden black-eyed Susan are probably the most prominent blooms. Spiderwort is still putting out new flowers each day, but some have reached their limit for the season. On my visit, I also saw the blossoms of shrubby cinquefoil and pale-spiked lobelia. Ubiquitous grasses, sedges, and ferns give the prairie a rich texture.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham (unscouted): Normally at this time, there are widespread blooms of rattlesnake master and wild quinine combined with marsh phlox. If you visit, please let us know if I’m correct.

 

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: Tell us 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.

Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park: This black oak savanna is one of the rarest habitats on planet earth. No kidding! Scout for goat’s rue, leadplant, flowering spurge, etc.

Miller Woods at Indiana Dunes National Park: We’re looking for a scout to regularly visit this big, beautiful preserve. Let us know if you’re interested.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham: There should be wide-spread blooms rattlesnake master and wild quinine combined with marsh phlox.

COMING NEXT WEEK: LEADPLANT, WILD BERGAMOT, and MORE!

PLANT OF THE WEEK: BUTTERFLY WEED (MILKWEED)

Butterfly Weed (or Butterfly Milkweed)

Here at Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, the bright orange flowers of butterfly weed makes a colorful statement.*

Here at Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, the bright orange flowers of butterfly weed makes a colorful statement.*

PHOTO SECTION

Rattlesnake Master

Rattlesnake master

Rattlesnake master is a wonderful Chicago prairie flower that looks resembles Tinker Toys or molecular structures, or something you might find in Arizona or Texas. To experience rattlesnake master, visit Belmont Prairie, Somme Prairie Grove, Shoe Factory Road PrairieWolf Road PrairieFermilab PrairieGensburg Markham PrairieKickapoo Woods and PrairieSpears WoodsTheodore Stone Preserve, and other local prairies over the next few weeks.*

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus

Eastern prickly pear cactus blooms can be found in late June in sandy preserves around the Chicago area.*

Eastern prickly pear cactus blooms can be found in late June in sandy preserves around the Chicago area, including Illinois Beach Nature PreserveMiller WoodsPowderhorn Marsh & Prairie, and Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve.*

Pasture Rose

Pasture Rose grows in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve. The fragrance of pasture rose is transcendent—a spiritual experience. Over several weeks in late spring, it blooms barely inches from the ground. During that time, whenever we’re together, I partake in a sacred ritual. I drop to my knees and bow in reverence, nose to petal.*

Pasture Rose grows here in the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve. And you can also find it at Bluff Spring Fen and Pembroke Savanna. The fragrance of pasture rose is transcendent—a spiritual experience. Over several weeks in late spring, it blooms barely inches from the ground. During that time, whenever we’re together, I partake in a sacred ritual. I drop to my knees and bow in reverence, nose to petal.*

The Wonderfully Large Leaves 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 from a cousin called compass plant.

Ohio Spiderwort

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

Each morning, Ohio spiderwort opens a new bud or two that only last a few hours before turning into a purple liquid. This process can repeat for more than a month. The flowers do not open based on the clock, but they do like the sunlight. The process is also affected by temperature. On warmer mornings, the buds can begin opening before sunrise. On cooler mornings, you may not see many flowers until an hour or longer after sunrise. Then, eventually, the blooms will close up. From my observations, if you visit between 7:30 and 10:00 am, you should find all of the flowers in bloom, though they can last into the afternoon on cool, cloudy days. You can find spiderwort, right now, at Belmont Prairie, Bluff Spring Fen, Pembroke Savanna, Powderhorn Prairie, Miller Woods, Middlefork Savanna,  Wolf Road Prairie, and more.

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

Butterfly milkweed (or butterfly weed) blooms in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Butterfly milkweed (or butterfly weed) is now blooming in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois. And you can find it at many other preserves in the region, including Belmont Prairie, Powderhorn Prairie, and Somme Prairie Grove.*

Near the Lake Michigan shore, the low light of morning revealed shapes in the sand that chronicled the secrets of time and affirmed the existence of wondrous creatures and invisible forces.*

Near the Lake Michigan shore at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, the low light of morning revealed shapes in the sand that chronicled the secrets of time and affirmed the existence of wondrous creatures and invisible forces.*

Chicago Wildflower Report & Info - 07/11/2019

A common snapping turtle trudges through the sandy Lake Michigan shoreline on its way to the Dead River at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois.*

The Dead River, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, is the only remaining river in Illinois that flows into Lake Michigan. The name comes either from deep pools of quicksand hidden along the banks that devour unsuspecting hikers or from water that remains still and barely flows. On this sapphire morning, the latter was true.*

The Dead River, at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, is the only remaining river in Illinois that flows into Lake Michigan. The name comes either from deep pools of quicksand hidden along the banks that devour unsuspecting hikers or from water that remains still and barely flows. On this sapphire morning, the latter was true.*

Gensburg-Markham Prairie May Look Like This, Right Now

The summer sun goes down on wild quinine and marsh phlox as nonstop tollway traffic rolls past its eastern aorder. Each hour of each day, people drive by, unaware of the natural treasures they’d discover by taking the West 159th Street exit.*

We weren’t able to scout this preserve, this week. But this is the time when you should find large expanses of wild quinine sometimes combined with marsh phlox *

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


Chicago Wildflower Report & Info - 07/11/2019

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.

—Mike

© 2019, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.

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