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!