Saturday 3 June 2017. Greeting the Early Sun and Catching the Abundance of Spiderwort and Penstemon

It was 67 degrees F under mostly clear, mostly calm skies at 5:17 this morning as I wheeled Rhododendron down the driveway and toward South Race Street.

Was determined to be present to receive the gift of additional daylight and thus additional time with which to take in the outdoors. I am a morning person but this year have not quite managed to get up with the birds and not squeeze in too many little activities to make it out the door before official sunrise. Until today!

The bike felt smooth and easy, and the morning was fresh and of a perfect temperature, but today I felt very much not quite awake. As an inveterate morning person, this does not happen to me very often, but when it does I think of the night-people who have to be awake early for something unusual and am sorry for my past insufficient empathy for their situation.

Stopped not far into the ride for the irresistible pastel cabbage roses

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and the fuchsia-colored sweet peas

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Looked like there were lots of little apples on “my” tree.

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Saw some Amanita mushrooms under the spruce trees,

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but not tons of shiny, new, succulent specimens.

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Saw also a couple individuals of another species,

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which looked healthy enough.

At Meadowbrook Park, was delighted to welcome the rising sun.

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Stopped at several spots to take it in, over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge

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and down the path a little way

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Wondered whether there still would be blue flag irises, and, oh, there were!

Framed by prairie dock leaves,

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and close-up.

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The park was empty, the morning fresh, already mint-fragrant!
the Penstemon

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and the spiderwort

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therapeutically abundant!

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Stopped at the Freyfogle overlook

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to check on the lead plant, which were in bud, but, alas, bearing a collection of robust shiny reddish-brown beetles on their foliage.

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Fervently hoped the beetles were just resting there or at least readily sated with little damage to the plant’s integrity.

Rode on through gloriously abundant white Penstemon and blue spiderwort. The landscape was deeply soul-filling. Was happy to be smack in the middle of another stage of the year that’s anticipated before it comes and missed when it’s finished.

Near the Vine Street entrance to the park got a shot of the abundant serviceberries

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Then rode west on Windsor to check the lead plant at the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration, which more than ever looked in need of stewardship,

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so overgrown with invasive exotics. But the lead plants looked well enough.

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Did not want to walk through the overgrowth to check for beetles on these.

Rode south on First Street, which felt mostly uphill! My hip muscles were starting to tire though knees and shoulders were happy enough. At 900 S, turned back.

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On the way back stopped at the roadside prairie garden, which featured spiderwort, lace-edged (not an official name, just a description) cup plant,

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butterfly weed

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and a small, less showy milkweed.

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Spied a great blue heron while crossing over a creek on First Street. Parked the bike and carefully walked back to the bridge, Just in time to see the heron take off.

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They sure are wary.

Got a shot of a dickcissel (had been hearing lots of these “mini-meadowlarks”) on a fence post.

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The way home was mostly downhill, which I gratefully enjoyed!

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Sunday 29 May 2016. To the Center of the Universe, via Spiderwort-Rich Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F (no jacket!) at 5:53 this morning under clear skies.

This morning’s destination on Rhododendron was Philo IL, the self-proclaimed (at least it says so on the water tower) “Center of the Universe.”

But first there was Meadowbrook Park to investigate: the spiderwort/Penstemon appearance (with lush green in between) was at hand!

Am trying to reduce the verbiage of this blog, enjoyable as it is to produce. Here is an exercise in living within one’s time limits. So hard to do!

As much as possible, the story will be photos with brief captions. Wish me luck!

The mushrooms (Amanita muscaria) are back, under the spruces on Race south of Florida.

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Here is today’s view of McCullough Creek from the Rabbit-statue bridge.

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And then, spiderwort!

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Spiderwort with dew

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And playing a brilliant supporting role, the foxglove Penstemon (or beardtongue) (Penstemon digitalis).

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In previous years I’ve sometimes referred to this flower as Penstemon pallidus, or pale beardtongue, but now I think the former is correct. Many readers will not care as long as the pics are nice, but my training as a biologist disposes me to such nit-picking. Another kind of fun, for some of us.

And more spiderwort!

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A mallard drake who didn’t like me stopping to look at him

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More spiderwort, with the morning sun coming through dewdrops

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Spiderwort close up with more in the background

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And spiderwort and foxglove Penstemon together

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Thought I’d never get out of there. Took a lot of willpower for me not to still be there reveling in the gorgeous blue, white, and green. Oh yeah.

But on to Philo!

On the path between the tall fence and eastbound Windsor Road saw a little toad
(toad in the road)

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Then out Philo Road to Old Church Road and Yankee Ridge,

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that magical, so-quiet place, the early morning view from which is as beautiful as the ocean, though I’ve never yet been able to capture it in a photo. Just believe me.

Then at the bottom of the hill is a curve to Yankee Ridge Road, which rolls up and down, fairly evenly and pleasantly to distribute the hard work and the coasting.

Turned east on 900 E and rode into Philo, a modest, tidy, and, at least early on Sunday morning, sleepy little town.

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The streets were wooded and shady, in contrast with the open farmland around it.

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Wasn’t easy to get a good view of the water tower

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This was not my first visit to this center of the universe, and a Google search of “Philo IL center of the universe” turns up several unexplained references. Still a mystery.

Back up and down the little hills (appreciated them more than last time I was here for having spent a lot of time in flatter places) of Yankee Ridge Road, made another attempt to capture the beauty of Yankee Ridge.

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Returned via Old Church to First Street with a stop at the Barnhart Prairie Restoration

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Featuring many handsome spade-shaped prairie dock leaves

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Was somewhat but not unpleasantly fatigued. Hips, knees, and low back were ok (hurray!), but the right shoulder was complaining. Sat up and rolled the upper arm out, then remembered (via swimming stroke improvements) a restorative Ekahasta Urdva Hastasana: reaching the arm up and rolling it out. Helped a lot. Oh, beneficent yoga!

The trip was about 23 miles. Want to keep this up!

Sunday 1 November 2015. Falling Back

It was 45 degrees F and fog was just starting to blow in from the south at 6:30 this morning, this morning of grace, when the hour that was lost (and eventually we got used to it) has returned, like a windfall, so to speak.

So it was plenty light (the dark bonus time went to giving the kitchen a refreshment worthy of the time change) when I rolled Rhododendron out for a quick ride to Meadowbrook Park. 

On the way, noticed “my” apple tree had not one fruit on its branches  

 
whose leaves had not completely dropped. 

Under the spruce trees along Race Street, the Amanita muscaria mushrooms were well past their latest fruiting episode: the remaining individuals were pale and dry.

  

Will they be back next year?

South on Race toward Windsor there still were plenty of green leaves on the oak trees (note encroaching fog) 

But across the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek, it was a different story. 

  

Closer examination under the bridge showed remaining green growth,
  

but there was no mistaking this season for summer!

Down the path, at the Marker statue, there were no more bottle gentians that I could find, instead where they’d been were goldenrod, which were about to open their little holders of fluff-borne seeds. 

  

Farther on the trail were tiny orange crab apples, still clinging to the crab trees along with their remaining leaves and droplets of condensed fog . 

  

Thought of the word, “somber.” Time to go inward, to drink from the reserves. Good to have an extra hour to ease the transition. 

Sunday 11 October 2015. The Prairie Flowers Fade

It was 46, or so, degrees F at 7 this morning as the sun came up in a partly cloudy sky. Destination on Rhododendron was very specifically to see whether there were any bottle gentians in the middle of the Meadowbrook Park prairie, near the “soft” path. 

But did stop for white iris, 

 apples,  with a spider strung in front of “my” tree,

 
and of course mushrooms (Amanita muscaria

 which still included young  and large individuals. 

  

But also, quite a few were getting on in maturity  
and succumbing to disturbance. 

 But at this point still there were plenty of them. 

Then proceeded to Meadowbrook directly to the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie,  

 
walking Rhododendron across the little wooden bridge over McCullough Creek and stopping to see how still the water was now.  

 No babbling today. 

Moved along at a brisk pace on the path, glad that the grass leaning into the middle was not so dense as it was the last time I tried to look for bottle gentians here.  Seemed like the spent flower-tops of the grasses were weathering down. 

 And the goldenrod flowers were moving from yellow toward ochre.  Was surprised  that the  fragrance of mint was so strong here. Have seen mountain mint around here before, but didn’t realize the scent persists long after the flowers are done  blooming.  

Was surprised that the prairie was so brown and seemingly pretty much done with the bloom for the year. 

 

It made me sad, less that it had reached this stage, more that I had missed a lot of the process (and isn’t it just about always about the process?).  Yet here I was, with wonders of a more subtle kind in front of me: the task was to refocus. 

Looked carefully for bottle gentians but found none, unless this one counts.  

  Thought maybe it was just cream gentian blooms that got a little purple as they aged.  The leaves seemed narrow like  bottle gentians, but couldn’t be sure.  Looked like I was way late for it; tells me I need to check earlier next year.  

Did also find a couple of straggling  but definitive cream gentian flowers.  

 Noticed so many stalks of gentian leaves with their tips cropped off. Deer food, presumably. Maybe the deer had gotten to all the bottle gentian flowers here. 

Had only a small window of time and now had to get back, a bit sad and regretful, but ever glad and grateful to have been here at all. Makes me think, in life it would be so nice to have the equivalent of scarlet cardinal flowers, golden compass plant blooms, and azure-blue bottle gentians around all year, when what happens is that they may visit only briefly. Still, their very existence, ever, like sweet times, even moments, of harmony and balance is cause for gratitude.

Wednesday 7 October 2015. The Latest from Mushroom Land

It was 50 degrees F and thinly cloudy this morning at 7:30 when I squeezed in a little ride on Discovery II to check on the amazing Amanita muscaria mushrooms. 

And on the way looked at the fall-blooming white iris  

 
and the apples from “my” tree. 

 
The mushrooms, which I wasn’t sure had not been ravaged by some unfriendly or even indifferent source, were indeed there!  Was encouraged as soon as I got close to see large, fresh individuals at the very north end of the stand of spruces.  

   The Amanitas were in fact numerous and exhibiting many sizes and states of development. It was not a solid, uniform fruiting of fresh fungus, but it was extensive and amazing!

For example, there were clusters of small and medium-sized mushrooms whose caps had split into flower-like shapes before they could form the inverted-umbrella that larger specimens often make. 

  

Top view. 

 And worm’s eye. 

Speaking of larger specimens, saw what must be the largest Amanita I’ve ever seen!  So far. Laid a quarter on top of it for scale. 
  

Yikes!

Noticed that the ground-cover plants under the spruces did not seem to inhibit the mushrooms at all, contrary to what I’d supposed a few weeks ago, when there were so many fewer of them. 

Loved seeing the bunches of round spiky  ones crowded together. 

  

And liked this large, rather mature one, the inverted top of which made the shape of a bowl. 

Seemed like the ones growing in the ground cover had the deepest orange color. 

Honestly could have stayed a very long time!
 

But practiced letting go and kept the rich display in my mind and heart to get me over the day’s inevitable humps.  

Saturday 3 October 2015. Early Fall at Japan House Pond. And Mushrooms 

This morning at 6:35 a.m. it was 50 degrees F under cloudy skies. Was feeling the brevity of the growing season and wanted to see flowers while they still were out. 

Also really wanted to see the mushroom surge. Yesterday late afternoon took the dog for a walk to the place and stopped for a quick couple of shots  

 
And when I finished, realized that the slackened leash didn’t mean  he was  sitting obediently behind me; he’d slipped off the harness and was frolicking in a large area of grass.  Will let the story go at that, but was looking forward to coming back to get more pictures.

  
And sure enough there were lots and lots of mushrooms coming up. But it seemed that some force was battling against them or at least damaging some. 

 
Noticed that there were a lot of small ones. 

  Maybe there had been small ones all along, but of course, one tends to get drawn to the gigantic individuals when they’re there.

On the way to Japan House stopped at the little prairie planting at Florida a Avenue and Orchard Street, which still featured lots of goldenrod/aster

  
though many  were well on their way to seed.   
At Japan House some flowers remained, 

  

Like these great blue Lobelia 

 

But it was necessary to get pretty close to them  to get a colorful photo.  

Was happy to see so many bottle gentians, though it seemed to be past their peak bloom. 

  

Still, found some gorgeous flowers, and even a few buds. 

There was still a nice patch of lemon yellow evening primrose, a weedy species 

perhaps, but one that worked wonderfully well among the purple-blue flowers. 

Also caught another goldenrod-aster shot along the pond. 

 

Marveled again at the vision and care that goes into creating and maintaining this place of beauty and calm. 

Thursday 1 October 2015. The Time of Many Mushrooms and Gentians

It was 48 degrees F under partly cloudy skies at 6:35 this morning. The daylight is getting shorter and rides are squeezed in more tightly, alas. But such is the cycle of the year.  Funny that even after so many repetitions I still need to grieve the transition. 

Rode on Rhododendron right past the lovely white irises, the lovely pink cabbage roses, and the still many apples hanging from “my” apple tree to see how the “kingdom” of mushrooms under the spruce trees was doing. 

It seemed to be doing well!

Saw Amanita muscaria in many stages

  

with a preponderance of “new” ones, trails and rings of them!
 

There were mushrooms of various sizes. 

  

Was glad to see them going strong and hoping I wouldn’t get too used to seeing them so numerous. They are mushrooms, after all, never to be depended upon or taken for granted. 

Stopped for an early fall sky shot with ginkgo leaves just north of Windsor Road.   

Then went on through Meadowbrook Park directly to find bottle gentians 

  

which were quite numerous by the Marker statue, and apparently mostly in good condition!

  

Then wanted to see if I could find the other population along the “soft” path, and proceeded there. But the path was quite obstructed by overhanging grass and goldenrod. 

 

Briefly thought I could push through it, but then realized I wasn’t up to sustaining the effort and turned back. Alas. Another day!

On the way home snagged a goldenrod-and aster shot icon of this time go year. 

 

Even though I still didn’t know about the second bottle gentian population, was glad for the first, glad for the complementary goldenrod/asters, glad for the mushrooms.