Sunday 4 September 2016. Cardinal Flowers and Their Companions

It was 57 degrees F at 6:15, already light under a mostly clear sky

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this morning after I dropped off my friend Anne at the train station. Was grateful to have been required to be present outside at just this hour, to have had to dispense with all the little activities that tend to keep me in the house longer than I intend.

Stopped at the apple tree I used to monitor so carefully and got a photo of the sweet peas growing under it.

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There were few apples this year, but did see one on the street.

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Rode south on Race street and stopped to check under the spruce trees for mushrooms, but there was no sign of them.

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The emptiness was remarkable, given what had been there the past two years at this time. They may be back some time, but you just can’t take mushrooms for granted.

Soon was at Meadowbrook, speeding toward the rabbit-statue bridge, not hitting the brakes till the turn on the far side. Turned back toward the bridge and the cardinal flower site and was immediately impressed by the richness of the yellow flowers: wingstem, goldenrod, black-eyed Susan, tickseed, sneezeweed.

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It was especially impressive in a year that seemed to feature plant disease and muted bloom.

And it got better, with the pink-purple of thistles

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and the abundant flaming red cardinal flowers!

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It took some serious bushwhacking through the stickers and thorns, not to mention the abundant hungry mosquitos, to get close to them. But oh, it was well worth the discomfort!

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There were plants on the near side of the creek, so could have gotten a good view of cardinal flowers without getting into the stream bed. But when I did climb down into it was rewarded by the sight of multiple towers of red flower spikes.

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Besides the cardinal flowers being gorgeous on their own, they were accompanied by a profusion of yellow flowers, an accent of light purple thistle, the tree trunks and foliage, and to the right and far behind, the rising sun beginning to illuminate the prairie.

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Could not imagine any place more lovely or pleasant or wanting to be anywhere besides right where I was just then. Even as I’m writing this, days after, still have an imprint of that eternal moment.

But moving farther along, there was even more: a perfect cup plant flower,

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the sky with tiny puffs of clouds,

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a spray of little, palest pink Gaura flowers.

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The air smelled strongly, intoxicatingly of fresh mint; was surprised by it so late in the season.

Stopped at the “upland” cardinal flower site and at first did not see any cardinal flowers at all. So just walked in from the path and toward where they had been, and on the way noticed, among the newly burgeoning tickseed, some white flowers that I supposed could have been a species of aster I hadn’t noticed before.

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Then realized they were mountain mint (usually present earlier in the summer) having a second bloom. Explained the fragrance.

Nearby noticed an almost bloomed-out cardinal flower spike.

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and a variety of other flowers:
great blue Lobelia

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tickseed

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blue vervain,

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the last of which were many and especially handsome here this morning, covered with fine dew, begging to be photographed.

Saw more cardinal flowers farther out and allowed myself to be drawn there, to the “holy of holies,” where the Park District probably does not want me to go (though of course not without reason). My defense, such as it was, was that I was there to witness and honor the treasure of the place and would be very careful to minimize my steps and not stay long.

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Out of the corner of my eye saw large white flowers I assumed were cream gentians but that seemed higher above the ground than cream gentians ordinarily are. Closer inspection revealed them to be turtlehead, which I’d never seen at Meadowbrook before.

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Always exciting to add a new species to the “life list!”

Their bloom seemed to be just getting started.

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Was amazed at how I could previously have missed something (was it there?) now so obvious and abundant.

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Got a “bouquet” farewell shot of the cardinal flowers

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and moved on toward the Marker statue.
Already had witnessed two miraculous places and now was seeking more. Bring on the abundance!

On the way to the Marker statue were a lot of handsome white-flowered, dark-green leafed boneset (Eupetorium– yes, the official common name), though it was hard to get a photo to do it justice. Here is a nice clump,

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and I liked the russet-brown oak leaf (they’re starting to fall!) caught up on end among the blooms, like a butterfly wing.

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At the Marker statue observed someone sitting on the nearby bench, perhaps wanting solitude. So I quickly nodded, checked for bottle gentians, saw none, and moved on.

Then, almost ran over a deer that was about to cross the path. On the other side were two good-sized fawns, likely waiting for the first deer.

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Got off the bike and walked slowly, took a few photos. Was glad I didn’t disturb them into bolting.

Wanted to stop at the Freyfogel overlook, but it, too was occupied: a woman of some years with cropped white hair stood on one leg, the other extended in front of her and supported on the rail, a pose close to Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. It was her turn to stand above the prairie and bask in solitude (but who knows, she may have welcomed company) though I did walk in front of the platform long enough to get a shot of cream gentians.

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Was not disappointed by not getting to linger privately at the previous two stops. It all all was good.

Heading back along Windsor Road saw yellow flowers and brown seed heads

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and the sculptural, ever-irresistible, indigo pods.

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Lingered a while to watch the yellow birds of happiness: twittering goldfinches,


and headed home.

Then noticed how eager I was, after one near-religious experience after another with light, flowers, and animals, to get back, sit down with a cup of coffee, and look at the photos. Too funny!

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