Chicago Nature Now! Alert
August 16, 2019
“Weekly Wildflower Reports Featuring
Chicago’s Best Weekend Getaways & Nature Trips”
Plan the Best Outdoor Getaways Around Chicago!
Don’t miss one beautiful moment.
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SHARE YOUR LOVE OF NATURE BY BECOMING A NATURE SCOUT! Each week, we help your neighbors find peace. Lean about becoming a nature scout.
The summer blooms have been so frequent and dramatic that I’m worried that you’re taking the beauty for granted and not actually getting out there. Let us know what you’ve been up to by using the comment section (below) or by posting your messages and pictures on our Friends of ChicagoNatureNOW! Facebook group.
WILDFLOWER HIGHLIGHTS TO HELP YOU PLAN YOUR OUTDOOR WEEKEND GETAWAY IN CHICAGO NATURE:
by Stan Slaughter
Prarie_eee_eee where the grass grows tall and the wind blows free
Prarie_eee_eee you know it’s the way the land is supposed to be
You’re never gonna see just plain old dirt
Nature’s makin’ life for all she’s worth
Bison and coyote and prairie chicken
If you go once you’ll go back again
Most of the prairie has now been plowed
All of the bison have changed to cows
If we plant a prairie, we can just relax
Nature takes over and grows great grass
Get lost in the ocean of wild sweet flowers
Where the wind’s old song s you can hear right now
Where the roots grow deep into the ground
Where the fires sweep over, but you can’t burn down
Where the earth sends the sky a great big smile
Where the grass rolls on for mile after mile
When the prairie grows wild we”ll have no lack
Won’t you help us to bring ’em back.
Did you follow our past few weeks’ posts to visit the best prairies in Chicagoland? If you did, I bet you “got lost in the ocean of wild sweet flowers.” From April to September, there are non-stop wild flower and plant shows at the featured woodlands or prairies in Chicagoland. There is no national park that has such a long blooming season. Every week there is something new happening. This week, the tall grass that defines our prairie are in good shape. In a week or two, another wave of blazing star – rough blazing star will carpet some of the featured prairies here.
Our Plant of the Week is still flowering spurge, which you can find at many prairies and savannas across the region. It has reached peak condition. Big bluestem and Indian grass are quickly filling the prairies. These tall grasses look great in the early morning when the first sunlight hits the heads of the grasses with morning dew. Prairie blazing star and marsh blazing star have done their duty in the prairie. The grand show of woodland sunflower might have just passed the peak, but still looking good along with sweet Joe-Pye weed.
According to our last year’s record, Prairie dock and compass plant should be displaying their golden sunflowers upon tall stalks that can easily reach ten feet high. When growing in a group, they look like forests. See if you can find these dreamy prairie forests at Wolf Road Prairie, Fermilab Prairie, Kickapoo Prairie,and Somme Prairie Grove. We did not scout all of these preserves as we are short handed right now, but let us know what you find out if you do visit.
NOTE: Prairies are wet in the morning, so wear rain gear to avoid being drenched in dew.
PRESERVES TO VISIT THIS WEEKEND FOR A WILDFLOWER WALK 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 like on the coming weekend: “+” is Probably Better; “-” is Probably Less Dramatic; “=” is Probably the Same. Notice the word “probably.”
THIS WEEK’S BEST (“GO!”):
Spears Woods in Willow Spring (8/13=): If you were impressed by woodland sunflower, early goldenrod, and prairie blazing star in this preserve last week, you will be impressed again by the new bloom of flowering spurge. There are good coverage of this flower in both prairie and savanna. The delicate pearly blooms of flowering spurge create newfound sparkle, reminiscent of baby’s breath in a floral bouquet. Many of the flowers that were blooming in the past few weeks started to show age, but still look good. The turkey-foot tassels of big bluestem are filling the prairie quickly. In the woodland, you can still find peak blooms of the towering pinkish sweet Joe-Pye weed and woodland sunflower.
Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest (8/13=): Many dramatic plants are still blooming in large quantities. The most conspicuous and widespread are wild bergamot, cup plant, yellow coneflower, rattlesnake master, and rosinweed. Dramatic purples of prairie blazing star and ironweed add visual excitement. Skyward sawtooth sunflower and pale Indian plantain make an impression. And there’s much more to see: mountain mint, blue vervain, obedient plant, Culver’s root, prairie sundrop, nodding wild onion, and the gloriously red cardinal flower. In the wetter areas, you’ll find the gorgeous pink blooms of swamp milkweed, the bright pink blooms of spotted Joe-Pye weed, the spectacular purple spikes of pickerel weed, and the large pink blossoms of swamp rose mallow.
Somme Prairie Grove in Northbrook (Last 8/7+): We did not scout this preserve this week. Here is the report from the same week of last year: “The woodland surrounding the preserve is gorgeous, featuring a grand display of woodland sunflower, brown-eyed Susan, ironweed, and sweet Joe-Pye weed. Under the sun. peruse the panoply of prairie plants, including early goldenrod, prairie dock, flowering spurge, and prairie dropseed. The long hairlike leaves of dropseed are turning yellow, making a beautiful combination of color and texture against the sprays of brown seed heads of prairie clover. The plumes of prairie dropseed smell like slightly burnt buttered popcorn. Flowers are beginning to appear on obedient plant, rough blazing star, and the lovely, understated round-headed bush clover.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: There is construction on Dundee Road east of Waukegan Road, but 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.
Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove (8/10=): This intimate remnant prairie is rich in blooms. Walk slowly to absorb the special moments. The main players are flowering spurge, early goldenrod, rattlesnake master, and, to a lesser extent, prairie blazing star. The flowering and towering big bluestem grass runs throughout the preserve, especially along one trail where it feels like you’re walking through a tunnel. Notice the wondrous 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.
Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester (Last 8/5=): We did not scout this preserve this week. Please let us know what you find if you visit. Here is the report from the same week of last year: “Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much prairie dock in one place. As you enter the oak savanna from the 31st Street trail head you’ll pass through a beautiful expanse of woodland sunflower and sweet Joe-Pye weed. In the prairie, you’ll find towering stalks of prairie dock. Look around for the tallest prairie dock plant. I found at nine-footer! Many other flowers are part of the prairie mix, as well, including flowering spurge, rosinweed, compass plant, and early goldenrod.”
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve in Zion (8/10=): The site offers a varied terrain and a mix of habitats that bring interest and an added dimension to your visit, and there are good blooms of many flowers: flowering spurge, nodding wild onion, mountain mint, blue vervain, early goldenrod, and still some butterfly weed. In a week or two, the sand prairie will be exploded with rough blazing star.
Pembroke Savanna in Hopkins Park (Last 8/5-): We did not scout this preserve this week. According to last year’s record, this preserve may still be covered with flowering spurge and partridge pea. And rough blazing star may just start to bloom and will only get better in the coming weeks.
Fermilab Prairie in Batavia (8/13=) is looking its best in the prairie. There are large quantity of showy tick-trefoil in the prairie. You can find many other flowers such as early goldenrod, prairie dock, flowering spurge, nodding wild onion, brown-eyed Susan, queen-anne’s lace, bull thistle, showy patridge pea, etc.
GO, IF YOU’RE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
Shoe Factory Road Prairie in Hoffman Estates (Last 8/4=): We did not scout this preserve this week. The show of cylindrical blazing star was early this year, so should be done by now. According to last year’s report, you may find western sunflower, flowering spurge, nodding wild onion, and the emerging blooms of obedient plant and rough blazing star. Note: Bluff Spring Fen is located nearby.
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.
Powderhorn Marsh & Prairie in Chicago: This high-quality preserve is located inside the city of Chicago.
Chiwaukee Prairie in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin: This prairie-by-the-lake offers cooler temperatures during the hot summer months. Let us know what you find!
COMING SOON: OBEDIENT PLANT, ROUGH BLAZING STAR
PLANT OF THE WEEK: FLOWERING SPURGE
Prairie & Marsh Blazing Star
Big Bluestem Grass
Canada Wild Rye
The Wonderful Large Leaves of Compass Plant & Prairie Dock
Swamp Rose Mallow
Illinois Beach Nature Preserve
Somme Prairie Grove
Bluff Spring Fen
Wolf Road Prairie
Prairie Root System
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.
—Zeke & Mike
© 2019, Mike MacDonald. All rights reserved.