Saturday 18 August 2018. An Abundance of Cardinal Flowers and Cream Gentians

It was 67 degrees F and partly cloudy at about 6:30 this beautiful morning as I headed on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park.

On the way stopped at the stand of spruce trees where I had in the past seen great numbers of Amanita muscaria mushrooms. At first saw no evidence of them, but closer examination of a bit of debris revealed the remains of moldy mushroom. Found a couple more

but that was all. Wondered what role disease (if that was what was happening here) plays in the cycles of mushroom life.

Then headed straight to Meadowbrook, eager to see whether there still were any royal catchfly, whether the cream gentians had made their subtle but great manifestation, how and where the cardinal flowers were, and what kind and how many yellow composite flowers there were.

Stopped for a view after crossing the rabbit-statue bridge at high speed, even with tapping the breaks twice (my 1973 Schwinn Sierra, restored by the wizards at Neutral Cycle, SO rocks!) The prairie “baton” was being passed from the yellow coneflowers and compass plants to the goldenrods.

But then another late-summer bloomer asserted its presence in my field of vision: great blue Lobelia!

Which I didn’t see at Meadowbrook last year.

Turned back toward the bridge and looked down at McCullough Creek and the mostly dry bed of Douglas Creek, looking for cardinal flowers.

They were not in evidence here, so walked along the creek farther upstream then walked through the undergrowth, and there they were!

Noticed many plants distributed up and down the creekbed. Of course had to get a closeup.

Nearby were late but still vigorous compass plants. Even late into their bloom, compass plantS with flowers are compelling.

Also predictably compellingly were the dangling stamens of the big bluestem

Walked a little farther up Douglas Creek then toward the creekbed, and there were more cardinal flowers!

And still more!

Felt reassured that the population was healthy.

On the opposite side of the path, in the willowy area spotted pink hibiscus,

but did not venture in to get a closeup.

Saw abundant sprays of Gaura

and did get a closeup of them.

Then saw a large caterpillar, upside down, like it was about to pupate.

A luna moth! Or perhaps a Polyphemus.

Then spotted more cardinal flowers!

for which there was nothing to do but go in through the wet vegetation (and wet ground) to get a closer view.

Also saw vervain,

but did not see the turtlehead that had been in this area in past years around this time.

And saw EVEN more cardinal flowers!

Was glad I wore proper shoes in anticipation of getting them wet.

And was extremely satisfied to witness so many gorgeous cardinal flowers!

Heard a bird (did not see it) whose song had the melody of the theme of the old Woody Woodpecker cartoon (“ha-ha-ha-HA-ha”).

Then ventured to the soft path to look inside the prairie for royal catchfly and cream gentians.

The path was quite obstructed by wet, leaning big bluestem.

Knew from this that it would be less pleasant than the the preceding bike ride, but in I went.

Actually thought about turning back, but inertia (an object in motion…) prevailed and continued forward.

Though did have the feeling, for a while, that I wasn’t so comfortable, was not feeling one with nature, that I kind of wanted to go back to the “man-village.”

Did not see gentians at first, but looked carefully all along the path because they can pop up in unexpected places from year to year; so far did not see any.

And then there they were, behind the brown-eyed Susans.

Then they seemed to be everywhere

in their understated splendor!

They beckoned; more irresistible images.

Then looked for royal catchfly but did not find any, alas. Remembered that it had taken a while to find them before, but was satisfied with the results of the search and wanted to get back.

On the way back saw bush clover, with its modest flowers and handsome foliage

Then, on the way out, was greeted by

a lovely caterpillar, which at first I assumed was a monarch. But half of its black stripes were broken lines, and it lacked false antennae. Also it had recently munched a lot of Queen Anne’s lace, suggesting it was a black swallowtail.

A splendid late summer prairie morning it was!


Tuesday 14 August 2018. Homer Lake, at Last!

It was 64 (I think) degrees F at 6:50 this morning as I headed out on Rhododendron toward Homer Lake. Did not totally commit to the destination at that point; thought a trip to St Joseph on the KRT bike trail might be enough and played it by ear.

Stopped for a view of the oak grove across Main Street from the Dart plant (saw no foxes today)

and for a view of Weaver Park, where the cup plants seem to mostly have finished blooming.

Then rode and rode east on the KRT, first through the little “woods” just east of Walmart

and then on through the farm fields.

Noticed common ragweed growing rather far into the trail

and giant ragweed near Full’s Siding.

There were prairie plants here and there: prairie dock,


as well as cup plants and the occasional compass plant, but they were too far from the trail to photograph easily.

And there was plenty of common milkweed, this one still blooming and with its own monarch butterfly. Thanks

Didn’t see them exactly swarming, but saw several individuals on the way. Saw evidence of feeding on this plant

But did not see a caterpillar.

Saw a little mouse-like rodent (briefly, but how often do you see those?) on the south side of the trail.

The trail spun out before me and I enjoyed comfort of temperature, light, and movement. The present was an attractive place to be. The landscape and I communed. Joy, joy, joy, and more joy!

Got a shot of blue morning glory on the Salt Fork bridge

before riding straight across,–what a lovely part of the trail it is!–traveling high above the water.

At which point there seemed no reason not to head on to Homer Lake.

Turned into and around St. Joe and headed toward Homer Lake Road on County Road 2200 E, which was busy enough to have a center stripe, but encountered only a few vehicles.

Saw an impressively large, handsome horse with covered eyes.

Then turned left on Homer Lake Road, which had been recently resurfaced, perfect for a road bike.

The body parts were pretty much happy; the top of the right knee reminded me it was there and the ring finger of the right hand had felt a bit numb for a while but all else was happy.

And there was Homer Lake!

Dismounted Rhododendron to look for cardinal flowers (found one medium sized flower spike about half way through its bloom) and then my phone ran out of charge, which was at once frustrating and liberating.

Heard great blue herons and saw the edges of one or two flying away as I intruded on them as well as other waterfowl on the other side that I couldn’t identify.

It looked like goldenrod was overgrowing the place where there had been more cardinal flower, swamp milkweed, and great blue Lobelia. It takes some management to make a planting look like our preferred picture of nature, otherwise goldenrod takes over.

Was glad to have made it to Homer Lake.

On the way back stopped at Geschenk Coffee Haus for a Florentine egg and cheese wrap and latte,and to charge the phone and blog a little.

On the way back on the KRT stopped for a woolly worm that was crossing the road at what looked like full caterpillar speed.

saw more early goldenrod than I’d noticed on the way out. And got closer shots of prairie dock,

which seem to be more abundant along the KRT than any other place where I cycle.

There was Gaura,

again, a little far from the trail to get a close photo.

Checked a lot of milkweed plants and even saw a lot of frass on one,

but saw no monarch caterpillars.

Noticed a lot of partridge pea on the way out but it seemed even more on the way back.

Once I was back in town stopped at Walmart to pick up a “water-flosser” and julienne peeler.

Explored the pond behind the store, which had a path on one edge and also a chain link fence

Again disturbed a great blue heron.

With this visit to Homer Lake felt like I’d fulfilled at least the minimum requirement for a complete summer!

Wednesday 9 August 2018. KRT to Cottonwood and Olympian Drive, with Occasional Native Flowers and Monarch Butterflies

It was 68 degrees at 7:30 (not sunrise, alas, but I did get a solid 15 minutes of Pranayama and a dog-walk in) this morning as I readjusted Rhododendron’s seat, topped off the tires, and headed east and north to check in with the mid-summer countryside and get in a little bit of bike mileage.

Tried not to obsess about not swimming or practicing Asana during that time and to just enjoy the cycling. Which I did easily enough, though worries of how to take time from my paid work with a dear client to take a friend to an event (that and methods to help myself and others detach with love) continued intermittently to assert themselves. But thankfully it was clear that the road and its surrounding features were the dominant reality and the worries just boxes with limited contents.

So pedaled with a light heart eastward on Main Street and stopped first at the edge of Weaver Park, where there were cup plants and rosinweed blooming vigorously side by side.

and caught a honeybee visiting a fresh cup plant flower.

Saw the tallgrass prairie-defining big bluestem and Indian grass.

The dangling, trembling yellow stamens of big bluestem always draw my attention.

Examined a common milkweed plant and discovered a small (second instar?) monarch caterpillar!

Saw a bit of pink-purple tick trefoil with developing pods, which always dresses up a prairie composition.

stopped for the few compass plants, with their stacks of bold, welcoming yellow faces.

Kept on eastward on Main Street to the beginning of the KRT and onward.

The flower-bearing stalks of mullein plants along the trail were ever stately though brown and pretty much bloomed out.

Saw American bellflowers,

though on the raised trail it was hard to get close enough for a good shot.

At Cottonwood Road turned north and crossed I-74, which was in the middle of some extensive construction.

On Cottonwood rode past Trelease Woods, along which were some very late spiderwort

and also, I’m pretty sure, poison ivy, as well as Joe Pye weed.

A little farther down, past the woods was a little patch of ironweed and yellow coneflowers,

a bright accent to the uniform farm fields.

Saw monarch butterflies, which definitely have been more abundant this year than they have for the last few.

At Olympian Drive turned west

and then south at High Cross Road.

Saw blue morning glories twined around corn

and possum bones embedded in the asphalt like a modern fossil.

Saw jewelweed

and stinging nettle

along Brownfield Woods.

Back on the KRT near Main Street stopped to observe partridge pea,

which for some reason I usually tend to pass by. Funny how some plants call one to stop and others a lot less so.

And then headed home.

Sunday 5 August 2018. A Second Intensive Nature Walk

It was, about 65 degrees F under partly cloudy skies at 5:45 this morning as U headed out with fellow yoga student Erin to Meadowbrook Park for a repeat of yesterday’s nature walk.

It was a morning very much like the one before, but of course you can’t step into the same prairie twice!

We took the same route as yesterday, entering the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie from the side of the Sensory Garden near the organic garden plots.

On the way we saw goldfinches and common yellowthroats, which bobbed through the air, perched atop compass plants and tall Coreopsis, and sang their songs.

In the prairie there were obedient plants,

and delicately dangling stamens of big bluestem grass,

Today, again, there was mist over the prairie that condensed into water-beads of different sizes, capturing tiny inverted landscapes.

(It’s one of the few conditions that make me wish for a real camera.)

We saw ironweed in counterpoint with compass plants.

Then in all their regal glory were the royal catchfly!

We walked a little way into into the wet vegetation to discover more of these red-flowered plants that were hidden from view from the path.

Saw plump green pods of Baptisia,

fresh purple coneflowers

dewy Desmodium (tick trefoil).

All around were the radiating faces of compass plant blooms, lined up on their tall stalks, many and glorious against the blue sky.

Then on the path back toward Race Street we explored more thoroughly the area where yesterday there were cardinal flowers.

Their flower spikes were relatively small, but we were happy to see so many plants along the bed of Douglas Creek.

From here we returned with full spirits, ready for the yoga intensive.

Saturday 4 August 2018. Intensive Nature Walk

It was 72 degrees F and clear at 6:30 this morning as I rode on Shadow to Meadowbrook Park.

Had announced the previous day at the yoga intensive that there would be a nature walk through Meadowbrook Park at 6:30 am, but, surprisingly, only one other stalwart nature-lover made it for the event. Which was fine. We parked our bikes near the organic garden plots and headed toward the unpaved path through the middle of the Art and Billie Spomer prairie.

Although had not noticed fog on the way, there was a layer of mist on the prairie that had begun to condense on the plants. Looking toward the sunrise saw dew-beaded big bluestem and tall coreopsis.

Nearby saw obedient plant,

wild senna and Monarda.

Saw mist-like switch grass (pretty sure that’s what it was) among compass plants.

There were Monarda and cup plant,

spiderweb strands strung from which looked more like the warp of a fairy’s loom than the beginning of a spider’s web.

Checked a chewed up milkweed plant for monarch caterpillars but instead found a mass of milkweed tussock moth caterpillars.

Saw purple coneflowers.

side-oats gramma grass,

not quite bloomed out.

Heading back toward the rabbit-statue bridge we checked the banks of Douglas Creek for signs of cardinal flowers, and there they were, young plants in early bloom.

Looked forward to following the progress of the bloom.

It was a delightfully typical midsummer morning on the prairie that we were privileged to sample: colorful, fresh, uplifting! We returned to the yoga studio ready to receive the gifts of the Intensive!