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Chicago Nature NOW! Alert
August 26, 2021

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

 

Chicago’s Best Weekend Walks & Outdoor Getaways!

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WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURES INTO CHICAGO’S WOODLANDS:

The late-summer blooms are have emerged with the pinks and purples of obedient plant, cylindrical blazing star  and rough blazing star alongside the yellows of tall coreopsis, rosinweed, sunflowers, and goldenrods. And we can’t forget the many species of grasses from which the tallgrass prairie gets its name, including Indian grass, big bluestem, little bluestem, switch grass, side-oats grama, and Canada wild rye (our photogenic Plant of the Week, especially when covered in dew). 

Wolf Road Prairie still offers its forests of prairie dock alongside tall coreopsis, goldenrod, and kooky expanses of rattlesnake master.

Bluff Spring Fen is featuring at least three dramatic shows amidst a wide array of flowers in a serene and magical setting.

Spears Woods is looking great with new blooms of sunflowers and goldenrods. The walk through the prairies, woodlands, and wetlands is probably the best experience in the region. This preserve also provides great trails far away from traffic, varied habitats, and dramatic vistas. And while you’re there, catch a final glimpse of the aquatic American lotus in Hogwash Slough. The pale yellow blossoms resemble those of a water lily, but they’re much larger—up to eight inches wide atop stems that can reach six feet high. And that isn’t all. The circular leaf is gorgeous and enormous, up to two and a half feet in diameter! See the Photo Section below for images of American lotus (and where to find it) along with the many flowers featured in this report.

NOTE: It’s August. But I sometimes call it Foggust because August is the foggiest month of the year. So, if you visit a preserve in the morning, wear rain gear because you could end up soaked to the skin from the dew. A pioneer of the prairie once remarked, “Walking through a dewy stand of big bluestem is like jumpin’ in the creek.” And I can vouch for that.

Shoe Factory Road Prairie is bursting with obedient plant, rough blazing star, and many other flowers. Somme Prairie Grove is aflower in the woodland and the savanna. Illinois Beach Nature Preserve (and probably Pembroke Savanna) is starting to show the purple hues of rough blazing star, which is often a great show. 

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 of this, along with the promise of a new day.

If you’re looking for longer walks, try our larger preserves: Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Spears Woods, Somme Prairie Grove, Middlefork Savanna, and Lake in the Hills Fen.

 

WHERE TO GO THIS WEEKEND FOR A SPRING WILDFLOWER GETAWAY AROUND CHICAGO:

We’ve ranked the preserves on this week’s list 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-rated preserves. And our “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 tells you when we last scouted the preserve. After the date, you may see one of these three mathematical symbols: +, , = (plus, minus, equal). They represent our prediction about how the flowers will look on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”

THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):

The order of the preserves below is based on the quality of the wildflower experience, starting out with the best.

Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (8/24+): Most of the action is taking place in the southern portion of the preserve, but the northern half is beginning to ramp up towards its spectacular annual show of sawtooth sunflower. The spectacular soaring jungles of golden prairie dock, again, steal the show. The oak savanna is alive with fading blooms of woodland sunflower alongside tawny fluffs of sweet Joe-Pye weed and bristly sprays of bottlebrush grass. The prairie is overflowing with all manner of flowers, including incredible forests of golden flowering prairie dock and compass plant, with tall coreopsis, rosinweed, sawtooth sunflower, and goldenrods, all contributing a matrix of yellow to the palette. The white bursts of flowering spurge add a beautiful lift of contrast to the prairie bouquet as playful scenes of rattlesnake master bring their usual delight. Royal puffs of ironweed, pink trumpets of obedient plant, and the occasional purple rough blazing star add beautifully to the mix of gold and silver, as the late-summer grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass soften the sharp textures. NOTE: Theodore Stone Preserve and Spears Woods are not too far away.

Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin (8/21=): There are many species in flowers across the preserve, which is why I say it ties for first place with Wolf Road Prairie. Depending on your perspective, it could be #1. Begin your hike at the main trailhead that winds you under the trees and along the kames of the oak savanna, around the sunny prairie, and through the main fen. Enter the oak savanna from the kiosk to find browning mauve plumes of sweet Joe-Pye weed along with pale Indian plantain, starry campion, brown-eyed Susan, and whimsical bottlebrush grass. At the troll bridge, where friendly trolls have helped to restore the adjacent wetland habitat, look to your right for a breathtaking expanse of purple spotted Joe-Pye weed with golden cutleaf coneflower and a sprinkling of tall ivory cowbane. Continuing under the protection of oaks, on your right at the base of the kame, you’ll see another wonderful show of golden cutleaf coneflower and wingstem. The two flowers can look the same, but the leaves are quite different. Like the name suggests, cutleaf coneflower has a deeply lobed or “clawed” shape, whereas wingstem features traditional foliage. I can usually tell from a distance just by spying the leaves. Wingstem, as you can imagine, has a winged stem, with a ridge that extends along its length. But it’s hard to see unless you’re up close. When you reach the big kame, take the narrow trail on your left to the top. On your way up, look for a display of sprawling and whimsical bottlebrush grass. Once at the gravelly peak, you’ll experience a unique view of the preserve. At your feet, there’s pink cylindrical blazing star at peak bloom, a few obedient plant, and many fading pink balls of nodding wild onion. Go back down from whence you “kame,” turn left on the main trail, and then make a right as you reach the end of the wooded savanna. Once under the sun, you’ll find fading wild bergamot, spindly tall coreopsis, creamy tuberous Indian plantain, pearly flowering spurge, golden rosinweed, the start of stiff goldenrod, the flowering tassels of big bluestem, beautiful flourishes of Canada wild rye, and a “forest” of compass plant in the southwest corner. To experience the best skin exfoliation service that Chicago nature has to offer, twist and turn through a tangle of delightfully bristly compass plant stalks. Talk about the best arm-scratcher ever! As the trail veers left to the east, you’ll again pass through sprawling stands of blooming big bluestem and into a gravelly area. (This is exactly the kind of place where you’ll get drenched to the skin in morning dew, so wear your rain gear.) Ahead to your right is the “transplant kame.” In 1990, Healy Road Prairie, located six miles away, was being mined for its gravel, and a community of hundreds of volunteers dug it up and transplanted it here. (Read more about it here and here.) Years before, the transplant kame was also mined to the ground, but it was reconstructed to become the new home of Healy Road Prairie. Make a left at the end of the kame to descend into the bowl of the fen where you’ll discover goldenrods, rosinweed, flat-topped aster, swamp thistle, and a few great blue lobelia. Move slowly and watch your step as you pass through dense willows (which desperately need trimming). Be careful not to trip on the narrow boardwalk that immediately awaits you by the willows! Cross the boardwalk to find some spotted Joe-Pye weed, and boneset. After you cross the second boardwalk, stay straight (don’t veer left), as the trail ducks under a low tree so that you can scale up the side of the switchback kame where a peak bloom cylindrical blazing star awaits alongside the start of purple rough blazing star. As the trails steers left and down, you’ll see some of the same species as before. Continue left across the creek and to the left of the big kame that winds right and takes you back to the trailhead.
NOTE: If you visit early in the morning, wear rain gear or you’ll end up soaked to the skin from dew. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (8/24=): This preserve is looking great, right now. The woodland surrounding the savanna was making a statement with yellow-petaled sweet coneflower, woodland sunflower, sneezeweed, and large flowered false foxglove alongside alabaster boneset, starry campion, browning plumes of sweet Joe-Pye weed, purple buttons of ironweed, and the perfectly named bottlebrush grass. Under the open sky, golden rays of prairie dock, compass plant, tall coreopsis, and sawtooth sunflower reach for the clouds. Closer to the ground are scores of other flowers that might take your breath away with sparkling textures and colors that include: the elegant cream gentian and blue bottle gentian, white filigrees of flowering spurge, different goldenrods, pinks of obedient plant, and purples of pasture thistle and rough and savanna blazing star. If you run into the yellow-flowered rosinweed, run your fingers over the stiff foliage and you’ll instantly understand the name. You’ll fine waves of tall grasses that will douse you with early morning dew. Then there there’s prairie dropseed, with its floppy stringy hairdos and fragrant plumes that smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. But watch your step. They’re very easy to trip over. NOTE: If you visit in the morning, wear waterproof pants and shoes, otherwise you’ll probably get soaked from the dew. 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates (Unscouted. Last scouted on 8/17.): This Illinois Nature Preserve is located inside the fence, where the color is dominated by large patches of pink with a mix of yellow and white. Last week, the star of the show was obedient plant with its pink hinged blooms that flourish in large colonies. But this week, its similarly colored costar of cylindrical blazing star is growing in large numbers and are more widely distributed. Still, don’t ignore the new purple blossoms of rough blazing star, which should also be putting on a big show. A smattering of fading nodding wild onion adds flashes of ivory and salmon, while flowering spurge provides a brilliant sparkle. As you pan across the landscape, the golden blooms of the Silphium genus dominate the yellows with prairie dock and compass plant towering overhead and rough-leaved rosinweed grounded below. A handful of tall coreopsis also contributes to the golden show alongside the goldenrods of stiff and field that are just showing their buttery buds. Western sunflower is starting, too. The woodland is flushed with the yellows of woodland sunflower, cup plant, tall coreopsis, and prairie dock. Outside the fence, you’ll also find an abundance of blooms and seas of late-summer-toned grasses. NOTE: Consider visiting Bluff Spring Fen while you’re here. It’s roughly in the neighborhood.

Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (8/24+): This is a large preserve with wide trails made for hiking and biking. Many dramatic plants are blooming in large numbers, providing colorful vistas of yellow and gold from the goldenrods (grass-leaved, stiff, tall, etc.), rosinweed, and the towering composite blooms of cup plant, sawtooth sunflower, tall coreopsis, and prairie dock. Highlights of pearl can be seen in flowering spurge and tall boneset alongside the fading blooms of rattlesnake master and mountain mint. The dramatic purples of prairie blazing star are gone, but those of ironweed add visual excitement. And there’s much more to see: obedient plant, lots of wild bergamot, and the start of New England aster. In the wetter areas, you’ll find the deep-pink blooms of spotted Joe-Pye weed and the spectacular blossoms of halberd-leaved rose mallow.

Spears Woods in Willow Springs (Unscouted. Last scouted on 8/18.): This preserve is just beautiful at this time of year, with various blooms and habitats that you can experience while you’re hiking about. Based on what I saw last week, here are my interpolations for this week:
In the prairie, the most conspicuous wildflowers come from rosinweed, tall coreopsis, grass-leaved and other goldenrods, and the start of sawtooth and long-bracted tickseed sunflower. These two sunflowers often provide dramatic shows in September. You’ll also find fading blooms of flowering spurge, woodland sunflower, compass plant, and prairie dock alongside the towering grasses of big bluestem and Indian grass. Occasional hints of purple come from pasture thistle and ironweed. The lush woodland features the looming brown tufts of sweet Joe-Pye weed. And the magnificent aquatic American lotus flower may have reached the end of its bloom at the north end of Hogwash Slough. Its cream-colored blossoms resemble those of a water lily, but they’re much larger—up to eight inches wide atop stems that can reach six feet high. NOTE: Theodore Stone Preserve and Wolf Road Prairie are not too far away.

GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (8/17+): Often at the very end of August into the first week of September, the preserve puts on a beautiful show of the purple rough blazing star amidst sprays of western sunflower, flowering spurge, the glorious showy goldenrod, and the feathery Indian grass. However, as we wait for the big performance to begin, flowering spurge is already blooming beautifully across the preserve as it’s costars are still just entering the stage. You can now experience the the round trumpeted yellow blossom of large flowered false foxglove, the remaining blooms of purple prairie clover, some grass-leaved and tall goldenrod, and shrubby cinquefoil.

Lake in the Hills Fen in Lake in the Hills (8/22+.): This preserve offers a dramatic panoramic view that is best enjoyed at edges of daylight, when it’s not hot and sunny. Enjoy an array of flowers that flow along the vast rolling landscape of the prairie and fen as the landscape is awash in the golden hues of late summer, mostly coming from the goldenrods with the help of tall coreopsis, rosinweed, and prairie dock. And oceans of tall grasses wave in the warm prairie winds. As you walk the high and low trails, you’ll find an abundance of blossoms, including the pinks of obedient plant, cylindrical blazing star, and spotted Joe-Pye weed along with the purples of pasture thistle and rough blazing star. Next to the the fens you may find grass-of-Parnassus, great blue lobelia, and swamp betony. White goldenrod is blooming on a gravelly kame near the entrance. However, it looks nothing like goldenrod and more like an aster. NOTE: If you visit in the morning, wear waterproof pants and shoes, otherwise you’ll probably get soaked from the dew. 

Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins (Unscouted. Last scouted on 8/18.): I expect you’ll find rough blazing star blooming in the gravel on the eastern prairie. And I also expect the sea of grasses and the mix of yellow flowers to be prominent. Experience the beautiful flowing grassland that includes many species: Indian grass, big bluestem, little bluestem, switch grass, Canada wild rye, and side-oats grama. The yellow hues are made up of the dainty blooms of tall coreopsis, prairie dock, along with compass plant, rosinweed, sweet coneflower, and a few different goldenrods. The occasional deep pinks of ironweed add a little extra sumpin’ sumpin’ to the panorama. And you’ll also find lots of rattlesnake master along with fading wild quinine and mountain mint. Look for the beautiful pink swamp milkweed in the low or wet areas. NOTE: Spears Woods and Wolf Road Prairie are not too far away.

Gensburg-Markham Prairie in Markham (Unscouted.) Though we didn’t scout it, you should definitely give it a try, if you’re in the area. NOTE: The preserve is NOT LOCKED. It only looks that way. The chain is just draped over the top of the gate. Just move the chain and enter. Once inside, I suggest walking all of the trails because of how the prairie and flowers vary along the way. NOTE: Under the summer sun, this prairie can feel hot and bright. For a more enjoyable time, visit in the morning or late-afternoon.

Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (8/24-): Visit to experience the flavescent prairie with tall grasses, a sprinkling of gold from compass plant and rosinweed, and a smattering of purple from rough blazing star and pasture thistle. I was surprised to see that rough blazing star was already in the middle to the end of its bloom. That’s quite early based on my past observations. But nature is nature.

 

PLANT OF THE WEEK: CANADA WILD RYE

 
The plume of Canada wild rye covered drenched in morning dew at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

As a photographer, the grass called Canada wild rye is a favorite of mine. The flower heads resemble those of wheat or rye. Rabbits and deer like this plant for the taste of its young foliage. But the seed heads are much less appetizing. Each seed head is a sharp awn, a little spear that can easily puncture the mouths of deer and cause problems as it travels through their digestive tracts. The drooping heads beautifully capture the morning dew for everyone to see  and to feel as they swoosh to-and-fro across your body. They are the paintbrushes of the prairie. I photographed this perfect plume of Canada wild rye with my clothes soaked from my trek through the dew-drenched prairie. On this day, the landscape painted the artist.

 
 

 

PHOTO SECTION

 

Wolf Road Prairie: A State of Glorious Chaos

A "forest" of compass plants reach for the sky at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, Illinois.*

A jungle of prairie dock reaches for the sky at Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester.*

 

Bluff Spring Fen is Teeming with Blooms

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Soon after entering Bluff Spring Fen, you’ll find yourself in an intimate oak savanna, where majestic bur oaks with outstretched limbs protect you in their nurturing embrace.*

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

Sweet Joe-Pye weed grows tall in the oak savanna at the side of a kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Bottlebrush grass and wild bergamot glow in the morning light in the oak savanna at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

In August, cylindircal blazingstar covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

In August, cylindrical blazing star covers the northeast kame at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin.*

 

Shoe Factory Road Prairie

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view.*

Atop this hill prairie called Shoe Factory Road Prairie, obedient plant and Indian grass take in the view.*

 

Illinois Beach Nature Preserve

In late summer, early flowering spurge and purple rough blazing star blanket the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.

In late summer, early flowering spurge and purple rough blazing star blanket the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

At the end of this late-summer day, large-flowered false foxglove blooms across the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park. You can also experience this plant in large numbers at Bluff Spring Fen, Indiana Dunes National Park, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Pembroke Savanna, and more.*

In late summer, large flowered false foxglove blooms in profusion in the black oak savanna at Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois. You can also experience this flower at Pembroke Savanna, Indiana Dunes National Park, and Bluff Spring Fen.*

 

Obedient Plant

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

Obedient plant can be found at many local preserves, like here at Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook, Shoe Factory Road Prairie, and Wolf Road Prairie. Use your finger to pivot the flower on the stem and it will obediently remain in place, hence the name. Though, grow it in your garden, and it has a habit of spreading and not staying put.*

 

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed

Morning arrives at the flowery seep of the fen at Bluff Spring Fen Nature Preserve in Elgin, Illinois.

At Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, the morning light arrives at the edge of a flowery seep where spotted Joe-Pye weed thrives.*

 

Cylindrical Blazing Star

In August, cylindrical blazingstar blooms in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Park. You can also find it Illinois Beach Nature Preserve and, in large numbers, at Shoe Factory Road Prairie and Bluff Spring Fen.*

Cylindrical blazing star (Liatris cylindracea if you care) likes dry sunny conditions. I often find it growing in gravel or moist sand. The plant only stands two feet tall, which is short for a late-summer bloomer. But it makes up for its above-ground stature by possessing the deepest roots of any prairie or savanna species, reaching down as far as fifteen feet. In August, cylindrical blazing star blooms, here, in the sand savanna at Indiana Dunes National Park and in the gravelly prairies of Bluff Spring Fen and Shoe Factory Road Prairie. *

 

Swamp & Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow

The beautiful blooms of swamp rose mallow is a plant that can be found in August around some of Chicago's wetlands.*

This is the big beautiful bloom of swamp rose mallow. It can be found in August around some of Chicago’s wetlands along with its cousin halberd-leaved rose mallow.*

 

Rattlesnake Master

In my prairie garden, amidst lavender blooms of butterfly-loving wild bergamot, are the strange spherical flower heads of rattlesnake master, a neighbor you can find living in Chicago’s prairies and savannas. Rattlesnake master gets its name because some Native Americans brewed a tea from the rootas an antidote for rattlesnake venom. To prevent bites, some chewed on the root, then spat on their hands before handling a rattlesnake. Of course, I’m interested to know if this really works. What’s more, the research may not even require a flight to the desert. That’s because, believe it or not, the rare and endangered eastern massasauga rattlesnake lives right here in the Chicago area. So, if you perform the experiment, please get back to me with the results, either you or next of kin.

Rattlesnake master is a whimsical Chicago prairie flower with heads that resemble Tinker Toys, or molecular structures, plants you might find in Arizona or Texas. The plant gets its name because Native Americans brewed a tea from the root as an antidote for rattlesnake venom. To prevent bites, some chewed on the root, then spat on their hands before handling a rattlesnake. Of course, I’m interested to know if this really works. What’s more, the research may not even require a flight to the desert. That’s because, believe it or not, the rare and endangered eastern massasauga rattlesnake lives right here in the Chicago area. So, if you perform the experiment, please get back to me with the results, either you or next of kin. 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.*

 

Sweet Joe-Pye Weed

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, Illinois, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

In the open woodland at Spears Woods in Willow Springs, summer brings tall blooms of sweet Joe-Pye weed.*

 

Woodland Sunflower

At Somme Prairie Grove, woodland sunflowers surround this majestic bur oak in the savanna.*

At Somme Prairie Grove, masses of woodland sunflower take over the grove to envelope this majestic bur oak.*

 

Flowering Spurge

Flowering spurge glows in the summer morning light on the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

Flowering spurge glows in the summer morning light on the sand prairie at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion, Illinois.*

In August, the white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois.*

The floating white blooms of flowering spurge erupts across the sand savanna at Pembroke Savanna Nature Preserve in Hopkins Park, Illinois. And you can find this flower at many other of our showcase sites, including Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, Wolf Road Prairie.*

 

Compass Plant

This bloom of compass plant reaches for the sky.

The golden flowers of compass plant begin to bloom atop a stalk that reaches for the sky. They’re an iconic species that can be found in most of our mesic prairies. *

Landscape of compass plants at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, Illinois.*

Landscape of compass plant at Springbrook Prairie in Naperville.*

 

Mountain Mint

Summer storm clouds brew at Kickapoo Prairie where rattlesnake master, Indian grass, and compass plant glow in the sun.

Summer storm clouds brew at Kickapoo Prairie where mountain mint, rattlesnake masterIndian grass, and compass plant glow in the sun.*

 

American Lotus at Tomahawk Slough & Hogwash Slough

American Lotus at Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois

Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs fills with American Lotus. You can also see it from a distance at Hogwash Slough in Spears Woods.*

Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs, Illinois teeming with American lotus.

Tomahawk Slough in Willow Springs teems with the grand American Lotus. You an reach the wetland by first parking at the far end of Pulaski Woods parking lot and then walking a short distance along the trails.*

 

Grasses of the Season

Grasses sparkle with dew in the morning prairie Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

The grasses of Canada wild rye and big bluestem sparkle with dew in the morning prairie Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Big bluestem grass gives the true meaning to the term "tallgrass prairie."*

The towering height of big bluestem grass gives true meaning to the term “tallgrass prairie.” It can be found at every black soil prairie on our list.*

Miniature yellow flowers of big bluestem grass.

Miniature flowers delicately hang from the turkey-footed tassels of big bluestem grass.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and goldenrod.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, feathery plumes of dew-drenched Indian grass steal the show from rough blazing star and goldenrod.*

In the dolomite prairie at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois, a single stalk of prairie dock rises above the fog and the purples of rough blazing star and little bluestem grass.*

A single stalk of prairie dock rises above the fog and sea of little bluestem and rough blazing star at Theodore Stone Preserve in Hodgkins, Illinois *

Side-oats Grama grass blooms with delicate red flowers in the tallgrass prairie at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

Side-oats Grama grass blooms with delicate red flowers in the tallgrass prairie at Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.*

 

Marram Grass

Near the Lake Michigan shore at Illinois Beach Nature Preserve, amidst marram grass and bearberry, 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, amidst marram grass and bearberry, 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.*

 

Prairie Root System

The root system of some common prairie plants.

The root system of some common prairie plants. Note that cylindrical blazing star has the deepest root that reaches over fifteen feet! Click the image for a bigger view.

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

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