Monday 28 July 2014. This Summer’s Prairie: Royal Catchfly and Its Fellows

This morning at 5:45 (I think) it was 61 degrees F and mostly clear. Tried yesterday to show the royal catchfly at Meadowbrook Park to a friend, but we decided it was too wet to walk on the (quite) soft path. So my goal this morning was to check on them.

But first, couldn’t resist a shot of the freshly sprung surprise lilies, the leaves of which appear early in the spring and photosynthesize a while then die and disappear completely, then the flowers of which pop up on bare stalks like mushrooms, just before my birthday.
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At Meadowbrook, saw the summer advance. Red blackberries made a bold accent among the yellow and mauve prairie flowers.
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The dark ripe ones were few, I think, because they get eaten as soon as they are ripe.
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The lead plant was still blooming. Yes, it’s one of those special plants that I pay a lot of attention to. Just my prejudice: I like it.

Locked Rhododendron to the rack near the organic gardens and walked to the soft path, to the middle of the prairie.

On the way, McCullough Creek babbled as it flowed over some tree roots, a little waterfall.

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Inside the prairie via the soft path, there were Monarda and Heliopsis against plenty of green.

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Found a compass plant in bloom, but it was one of very few, and the flowers didn’t seem especially fresh or vigorous.

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Found the royal catchfly. There was plenty of it!

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Noticed that Baptisia and rattlesnake master were very frequently close to them, as well as cream gentian (foliage) with the tops nipped off, as if they’d been picked, or eaten. In previous years, they’d have been blooming by now.

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Had a hard time focusing the iPhone camera on the red-star royal catchfly flowers, which themselves didn’t look as fresh as I’d remembered them. Made me wonder about the health of the prairie, whether this was the result of pathogens that flourished in the cool, wet summer we’d been having or whether this was just within the normal variation of one year’s bloom to the next. It’s easy to get worried about this little island of nature. And it’s easy, especially as years go by, to want the prairie to stay the beautiful way I saw it in a particularly burgeoning year. Have to remember to behold each year as it is, and maybe also hold the especially full years more dear, because they won’t be repeated.

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Saturday 26 July 2014. The Silence of the Corn

It was 68 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 5:40. There were some gaps in the clouds, but overall it was darker than it wold have been at this time if the sky were clear.

Stopped at “my” apple tree to get a shot of the mostly green but almost full-sized apples that have started to fall. Noticed they were not especially abundant, but the did seem to occur in clumps. 20140726-072025.jpg
Rode straight out Race Street–wanted this morning to ride more and stop less. Did not forbid myself to take photos but did have the aim of letting the images be. (Also didn’t want to have more to write about and get further behind on posting! Ha ha!)

Actually succeeded in going right past Meadowbrook Park without stopping. Wow. Just knew I would never get out of there if I did stop.

Would have seen the sun come up if the sky had been clear. It was ok either way. A lot of my concentration this morning was on pedaling smoothly to keep my knees happy, and that was pretty successful.

Did stop to get a few shots of the amazing corn, the first of which was a field of tiny plants, incredible for late July. Would they actually make it to harvest?
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Noticed then the vast quiet and solitude of a country road in central Illinois. The majority of the time it just feels open and free, but today it included “notes” of loneliness and exile, if distantly. Maybe it was the sprinkle of rain (which quickly passed) that made me aware of a need for companionship and shelter.

Along with the little corn was, of course, the majority of on-schedule July corn, with its dark green leaves, tassels without visible flowers, and huge ears.
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Is seemed like the silk on most of the ears was dark, even though the tassels didn’t seem to quite be in flower. Or did I miss that stage? Would they be pollinated? Seems likely; I’ve heard there should be a record harvest this year.

Rode until Race Street ran into county road 900 N (aka rte 18). The corn stretched out silently under the slightly punctuated cloudy sky.

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It was a good, keep-moving (mostly) kind of ride. Would like to have more and some longer of those, especially before the summer runs out!

Wednesday 23 July 2014. Budding Liatris, Blooming Tick Trefoil, Little Baptisia Pods: Work in Progress

This morning at 5:45 it was 73 degrees F with heavy clouds and a gusty, variable breeze.

Rode on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park for the latest installment of the prairie summer.

McCullough Creek was high.
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Was especially tuned in this morning to the sense of change and transition on the prairie.

Saw wild petunia; I think not native, but pretty. 20140724-131831.jpg
The tick trefoil had recently been blooming in lots of places; many where
I hadn’t seen them last year.
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Found the Liatris patch between the two little trees in the wet area. It would be blooming soon.

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The delicate flame-like Culver root flower spikes were getting dark in the middle: seeds in progress.

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Noticed a sinuous flower stalk of Baptisia with little incipient pods in the middle, flowers at the far end, and larger pods closer to the ground.
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Took a photo just to document the most abundant flowers on the prairie at this stage of the process of the growing season (today): yellow coneflower, purple coneflower, Monarda.
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Was amazed at how drawn out the lead plant bloom is this year.
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I guess it looks more lush and showy for more of the little flowers to bloom at once, but it’s nice to see buds (more to come!) even when some spikes are pretty much finished.

Was happy to see the Freyfogel Overlook free of fencing and open for observation. Liked the sentiment of the sign.
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It’s what life, as demonstrated by the flow and ebb of the prairie bloom, is about.

Saturday 19 July 2014. Back to High Cross Road, at Last!

At 5:45 this morning, it was 55 degrees F and mostly clear.

Was excited to at last be heading east and north to High Cross Road, especially to check on what was blooming on the edge of Brownfield Woods.

Was greeted as I crossed the intersection of Main and Vine by a full, red sun disc, just free of the horizon. Was happy to see it.

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Once again enjoyed the bike lane on Main.

At Weaver Park noticed a low layer of fog creeping out toward Main Street from the park. Was tempted to check out foggy Weaver

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but knew I’d never make it to Brownfield if I did.

Avoided the construction at University and High Cross by cutting through the Beringer subdivision. Much better than going through that intersection! Think it will be my new default for this route.

Stopped at the possum bones site (by the northeast corner of the I-74 bridge), but it was completely grown over with sweet clover, etc., and not one bone nor part thereof was visible. So that’s how a living, moving creature goes back to the earth.

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Saw fog out in the country as I rode out High Cross, lovely layers lying over the dew-covered and terribly vigorous soybeans, though somehow the iPhone camera eliminated some of the mist.

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High Cross Road, recently refinished, was smooth and ever so pleasant on which to ride, especially in contrast to all the still-hazardous winter-potholed streets in town.

At Brownfield Woods looked for Joe Pye weed, which I’d noticed in someone’s yard earlier along Main Street. It was there blooming vigorously,

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along with jewelweed

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and the lovely blue American bellflower, with its vigorous, fresh early blooms.

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Past Brownfield a little ways saw spikes of little pale pinkish flowers I didn’t recognize

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Looked them up later to discover they were American Germander
(Teucrium canadense)
. Thought the juxtaposition of these three geographic references rather curious. Was not able (from the first page of results) to tell the significance of “Germander” apart from the name of a plant. Did kind of like the mystery of it.

Turned back at Olympian Drive.

Really enjoyed that smooth road, flanked by its woods an giant corn and beans.

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Thought of the word “freedom” as the road slid by and I felt patient and comfortable, if not exactly euphoric. Thoughtc of how glad I was to be riding there and then in such comfort and beauty, because the opportunity is never guaranteed.

Friday 18 July 2014. First Liatris, at Sunrise

This morning it was 63 degrees F at 5:10, the sky partly cloudy.

It was good to get a reasonably early
start, but then it was still too dark to get a shot of McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

Heard the squawk of a great blue heron, then saw two of them flying overhead east to west, just past the half moon. Made me think of the line from “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music, “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings.” I think herons are even better.

Took the big loop at a pretty good clip and stopped at the Windsor-Vine bridge where the beavers used to swim. The water was a whole lot clearer than it was when the beavers were there, but didn’t see any fish, as I did when the water was more turbid, which seemed counterintuitive. Must say I didn’t spend a lot of time looking, which actually is often necessary to spot fish from a bridge.

Stopped to get a shot of the flowers that were blooming together inside the “small loop” along Windsor Road: most noticeably Heliopsis, yellow and purple coneflowers, Monarda, with the dawn sky behind them.

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Turned left onto the path that cut between Meadowbrook and Clark-Lindsey village and got a shot of the “To” statue. Must take note of its official title next time.

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Nearby were a few Liatris, the first I’ve seen in bloom this year at Meadowbrook, at the very beginning of its bloom. One common name for this plant is “blazing star;” and the individual open flowers do evoke that image. At this stage the inflorescence looks to me like a burning (blazing) stick, a torch over the summer prairie.

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At the edge of the Clark-Lindsey Village lawn was a small group of deer, at least one buck, looking something like lawn ornaments that hadn’t yet been set in their places.

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Almost to the beginning of the Peg Richardson Hickman wildflower walk was a clump of milkweeds still mostly in bloom. The sun was coming up behind them.

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The sky on this lovely morning was just a little dramatic and seemed like an invitation to go out boldly and embrace the day.

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Thursday 17 July 2014. Yellow and Shades of Purple at the Prairie Garden

It was another really short but oh so beautiful (clear, 54 degrees F) morning, so just zipped over to the prairie planting (garden, really) to see how much of what was in bloom.

As always, was richly rewarded:

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Monarda and rosinweed.

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A bunch of Monarda, close shot.

20140717-081415.jpg Ironweed, Monarda, yellow coneflower

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Blue vervain

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Lead plant. Didn’t see any open flowers, and the plant was pretty small. Maybe it takes a few years for the plant to grow to any size and have a lot of blooms. Or maybe the conditions here aren’t optimal for it.

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Mountain mint

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Asters (they weren’t quite this blue) and foliage of stiff goldenrod. I think this must be an early-blooming species of aster–there are lots of asters and I can’t really tell them apart. Yet.

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Rattlesnake master, iron weed, and yellow coneflowers.

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Mighty spade-shaped leaves of prairie dock, and a small lobed leaf of compass plant, which is not so abundantly blooming (saw none at all at this site) this year.

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Prairie dock with flower stalk. Made me think of the word “overachiever” the way is rises above the other already quite respectably tall other plants.

Once again, I’m grateful for the effort that goes into bringing the beauty of the prairie so close to its admirers in town.

Tuesday 15 July 2014. Royal Catchfly! And, of Course, Other Flowers, and a Large Caterpillar

Today all day it was so cool and breezy and comfortable (70 degrees F at 4:15 pm!) it was possible to take a comfortable ride in the late afternoon, which I did. Funny thing about the afternoon, even when the weather is perfect; it takes more resolve and energy to shift gears from the day’s activities and reach escape velocity.

But escape I did, to Meadowbrook Park, which was crowded with people, compared to how it usually is in the morning. The goal was to see whether the royal catchfly had started to bloom.

Took the big loop and waded into the wet area not far past the rabbit-statue bridge to photograph some swamp milkweed, which leaned in the breeze.
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Admired the Culver root, which are so abundant this year.
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At the beginning of the soft (yes, and now quite wet) path to the middle of the prairie (and hopefully the royal catchfly), got off of Rhododendron and walked. 20140719-083630.jpg
Not far into the middle of the prairie a milkweed plant bearing a large monarch caterpillar caught my eye! Saw a couple of adults earlier but wasn’t able to photograph them. Glad at least a few are still here.
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Walked on searching for royal catchfly but didn’t see it, and was just about ready to resign myself to this difference from last summer, when the intensely red little stars popped into the left side of my field of vision!20140719-084422.jpg
Talk about taking your breath away! And they were so nicely foiled by the Baptisia and rattlesnake master. 20140719-084608.jpg
A little farther down, on the other side of the path were more, in the same place and pretty much with the same distribution I remembered from last year. 20140719-084819.jpg
Life is change, but oh, how happy we are when something we like stays the same! Or especially, returns after an absence.

Turned and retraced my steps back to the rest of the big loop, and noticed yet another spot for prairie clover on the way out.

20140720-170906.jpg They must like the rain we’ve been having. I liked the clouds behind them, also.

And could not resist the latest stage of the lead plant bloom.

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This plant has everything from small buds to seeds, I think, and a few of those gorgeous little dark purple blossoms on between.

Spotted some smallish individual poppy-like magenta flowers that were new me in the very flower-rich area near Windsor Road and the border of Clark-Lindsey Village.

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It’s purple poppy mallow, Callirhoe involucrata. Not exactly native to Illinois but striking.

Got a lot of shots I rather liked, of clouds, rosinweed, purple and yellow coneflowers, for example, even with the intense afternoon light, but I think I’ll stop with this. So many flowers, so little time. A nice problem to have.