Saturday 22 July 2017. Vervain and a Few Other Summer Blooms

It was 75 degrees F and cloudy this morning at 7:15 as I headed toward Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron.

The cardinal flowers in front of my house were beginning to bloom, so wanted to check whether they were blooming at Meadowbrook.

Rolled toward, over and past the rabbit-statue bridge across McCullough Creek and around the corner just to the wet area where cardinal flowers have been (though not every year) in the past, parked the bike on its factory kickstand, and walked away from the path and into the willowy wet area. But saw no cardinal flowers.

Saw plenty of newly blooming spikes of vervain,

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and wild senna surrounded by mountain mint, with a bumblebee working the flowers.

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This year have seen wild senna in more places in Meadowbrook than I recall from previous years.

Swamp milkweed, with its two-toned, dark and light-pink blooms, was abundant.

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Liatris (blazing star) was beginning to add its purple plumes to the summer bouquet.

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Saw some especially fresh, robust spikes of American Germander (if that’s what it was) pinker than others I’ve seen (along High Cross Road).

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A late flower spike of Baptisia, with little pods developing in the lower positions, rose toward the dark sky.

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Clouds gathered over the path, which may be why I cut the ride short. [Some time has elapsed between when I was there and this report. Sorry!]

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Always-photogenic compass plant set off the cloudy sky.

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This has been a reasonably good bloom year for them.

On the way back peeked over the rabbit-statue bridge looking for cardinal flowers, but could not quite see any red.

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Tomorrow I would return and investigate further.

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Sunday 2 July 2017. A Perfect Ride to Windsor Road to Homer Lake Road

This morning at 5:30 it was 65 degrees and clear, with a 2 mph breeze from the WSW, calm enough to head in pretty much any direction. So headed Rhododendron in toward Windsor Road (which I was pretty sure was free of loose dogs) with the goal of going a ways east.

Was glad to get a reasonably early start without sacrificing headstand or Pranayama, and pedaled smoothly through the perfectly comfortable (with the light cycling jacket) morning air to Windsor Road.

And there was Meadowbrook Park, which I hadn’t planned to visit, but thought, why not? and soon was taking a photo of the sun coming up over McCullough Creek at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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A mud bar separated Davis Creek from its connection with McCullough Creek.

The cup plants on the on the downstream side of the bridge stood vigorous and illuminated with the sunrise.

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A layer of mist rested on the prairie and spread out the light of the climbing sun.

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The air was scented with mint and bergamot.

Wondered if the willowy wet area harbored queen of the prairie but didn’t see any. Did spot a swamp milkweed, but didn’t stop for a photo so I wouldn’t miss the sun rising over the remaining mist.

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Might have gotten a really nice shot of the deer in the mist if I’d arrived at the site two minutes earlier.

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Oh well. Nice enough.

Did get a nice yellow coneflower-misty sunrise.

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Stopped at The Freyfogle overlook and saw fresh Culver’s root with mountain mint,

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spherical pink common milkweed blooms and already-red blackberries.

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Noticed how lovely were the lead plants,
which seemed to thrive despite a recent onslaught of insects.

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Then rode out of the park and straight east on Windsor. The air was calm, except for a “biker’s breeze”, and the grade seemed to go up for stretches (though mostly down), which promised a reasonable return ride.

Was filled with the joy of early morning out in the country in perfect weather.

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Did not expect quite this perfection and tried to let as much of it in as possible. Yes, yes, yes!

Rode past a ditch where I remembered seeing a family of raccoons.

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There were no raccoons today, but it’s always fun to peer down into a stream, a different world from the surrounding farm fields.

Above the creek banks, near the road, were abundant soapwort blooms,

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exotic weeds, but so softly pink and fresh and dewey.

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Even these plantain weeds looked like stately sculptures in this morning’s fine light.

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Farther on, saw a sign I thought was rather humorous

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The dangerous hill actually was hard to detect. Ah, my beloved central Illinois!

Then crossed a little tributary of the Salt Fork (of the Vermillion River)
where I think I always have seen wood ducks whenever I’ve been there, adults and ducklings, no less. Looked into the water, and there they were!

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There is something special about this place.

Then rode to where the road bent to the north

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A little way and then “T’d” into Homer Lake Road.

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Rode east a little way, crossed the Salt Fork, and stopped at the nicely landscaped marker of the historic site of Kelley’s Tavern, where it says Lincoln used to visit.

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The bloom seemed different from what I recall from last year. Lots more milkweed.

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Stopped for a view of the beautiful Salt Fork

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Then turned back and retraced my route. There were horses fenced on the southeast corner where Windsor Road met Homer Lake Road, and the tail of one caught the morning sun as swished and spread wide its long horse-hairs. Didn’t manage to get a photo, but the glittering image stayed with me as I returned home on this pleasant ride, pleasant to the end.

Sunday 25 June 2017. North on High Cross to Ford Harris, with a Glimpse of Weaver’s Early Summer Bloom

At 6:12 this morning it was 56 degrees under clear skies as I pointed Rhododendron to the east and north to check out High Cross Road.

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Did not expect a Meadowbrook-like flower display, but on the way, Weaver Park was just starting to offer a bouquet of prairie flowers:

False sunflower,

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Monarda,

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mountain mint,

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at least three of the Sylphium sisters (cup plant, rosin weed, and prairie dock; cup plant is shown here) and budding yellow coneflowers

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common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed,

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Baptisia,

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and an early-blooming aster.

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And this on a pretty casual inspection.

Then rode on Main Street, across University through the Beringer subdivision and north on High Cross Road.

The corn and soybean crops were well underway.

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Rode as far as High Cross and Ford Harris

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and turned back.

Noticed bone-like pieces (turned out to be wood) imbedded in the road.

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Saw a dead possum, presumably hit by a car, with its immature babies scattered around it. Alas. Almost showed a photo but decided against it. Photographs of violence have their importance, but they always feel disrespectful to the victims.

Stopped on the pleasant ride southward (it seems there is a bit more downward slope in that direction) to get a picture of chicory (exotic weeds) because their discs of pale violet-blue radiating petals seemed exceptionally lovely just then.

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On Main Street on the way back stopped at the place with the native plant garden, across from Weaver Park, where lead plants were blooming.

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And, as at Meadowbrook, troubled by Japanese beetles.

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Shortly afterward I was troubled by the next-door dog, who must have thought I was about to trespass on its territory. I used the high-pitched “Good doggie!” approach, its owner called it back when he saw what was happening, and no damage was done.

Except that I got out of there so fast I didn’t get my phone securely into my pocket. After crossing the street I heard a sound that reminded me of crushing an empty bottled-water bottle and unwisely rode on without investigating it. Only when I stoped for another photo did I realize that the phone was not there.

Alarmed at being without my life-support (sad, I know) phone, I retraced my path and desperately hoped it was near the site of the sound I’d ignored.

Fortunately it was! I retrieved it, and the day proceeded without any more such near-disasters.

Wednesday 21 June 2017. Sunrise on the Solstice at Meadowbrook

It was 64 degrees F at 5:15 this morning of the first day of summer and the longest day of the year!

Was thrilled (and amazed) to have gotten myself going early enough to be heading to Meadowbrook Park on Rhododendron ahead of the phone weather ap’s promised 5:23 sunrise.

Did as little as possible (alas, no Pranayama!) to get out to witness the Solstice sunrise at Meadowbrook.

Sped to the park and caught the sun at the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Over the bridge and around the corner looked to the north out into the prairie and saw a thin layer of mist on the ground, which enhanced the atmosphere of the sunrise.

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Tried not to tarry on the path but noted spiderwort, the occasional lingering Penstemon bloom, black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, lots of purple coneflowers in early bloom, and emerging Baptisia, with its stately white spikes of blooms that play tag-team with the Penstemon’s white flower spikes.

Got another view of the sunrise over the little bridge across Davis Creek

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and a sunrise view of a handsome Baptisia spike.

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But the flowers in which I was most interested on this solstice ride were the lead plant at the Freyfogle overlook.

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Which, against the slings and arrows of insect attack,

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were well into their micro-gaudy deep blue-violet and orange bloom.

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On the bird house to the north of the overlook were perched unmoving tree swallows, and in front of them (not pictured, alas, you have to trust me), a bright yellow and back goldfinch,

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that amazing stimulator of human endorphins. (At least for some humans. If you’re reading this you probably are one–try focusing on a goldfinch for a moment next time you get a chance and see what happens.)

Felt like I stood firmly and with joyful awareness on the summit of the year. Hooray! Let the summer begin!

Saturday 17 June 2017. Lots of New Flowers at Meadowbrook but No Visible Queen of the Prairie

It was 72 degrees under progressively more cloudy skies at 6:05 this morning as I pointed Rhododendron down the driveway, toward the street and Meadowbrook Park.

First, looked at wild roses in my own back yard, which were attracting lots of pollinators.

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At Meadowbrook stopped at the arresting sensory garden

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where there were poppies, common milkweed, purple coneflowers, Delphinium, (a shameless mixture of natives and exotics, i.e., a garden) and more.

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As I walked toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie, noticed that already black-eyed Susans were starting to bloom.

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Crossed the wooden bridge over McCullough Creek

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and walked out, i.e., off the path, into the dew-covered prairie, looking where I’d see them before (but not last year, I don’t believe) for queen of the prairie flowers. Did not, however, see any.

It was pretty much worth the soaking shorts and shoes, though, because I did get decent views of other prairie flowers: common milkweed

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butterfly milkweed

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rattlesnake master

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purple coneflower,

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Baptisia

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false sunflower,

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wild petunia.

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Saw stalks of cup plant

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and compass plant

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elongating upward.

Spiderwort, though past its peak, continued to produce nearly perfect violet-blue triangular flowers.

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Got back on the paved path and rode past the wet area, the place of irises, where my eye was caught by an unusual (two, actually) bird. They turned out to be, unmistakably, two rose-breasted grosbeaks!

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Farther on by the Freyfogle overlook,
lead plant continued its bloom.

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Was sad not to see queen of the prairie, but its absence reminded me not to take it for granted and to appreciate the unique floral symphony that the prairie offers each year.

Sunday 29 January 2017. Meadowbrook with a Tiny Amount of Snow

It was 28 degrees F and cloudy at about 7:40 this morning as I rolled Shadow down the driveway toward Meadowbrook Park, for a change by way of Vine Street. There were scattered snowflakes descending. And blowing; had some understanding of the concept of “windchill.”

Stopped not far along to see a very large, low-branching maple tree.

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At Windsor Road waited at the signal-less crossing for one car then crossed without fuss and went to the left for an atypical (counterclockwise) big loop of the park.

Felt the embrace of the quiet prairie: the sky and the brown expanse of last year’s whispering plant growth. Breathed in the quiet and exhaled gratitude for this place of refreshment.

The cold discouraged me from stopping though several images were appealing enough to overcome the inertia.

Baptisia pods,

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compass plant remains,

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which are so photogenic in all the stages of their decomposition.

Tall Coreopsis seed heads topped sinuously twisting dry stems.

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Bush clover seed heads were handsome dark brushes against the pale winter prairie.

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At the rabbit-statue bridge, the railing was sprinkled with snow

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as I peered down to check on a fairly clear McCullough (and what I could see of Davis) Creek.

Quickly headed homeward as the snowfall increased.

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Saturday 18 June 2016. This Year’s Queen of the Prairie

It was 62 degrees F under thinly cloudy skies this morning at 6:30.
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This morning’s mission was once again to seek and hopefully find queen-of-the-prairie (Filipendula rubra) at Meadowbrook Park.

Tried not to chastise myself for doing laundry (it’s insidious!) instead of being present to witness the sun disc breaking from the horizon as I headed south on Discovery II.

The temperature was perfectly comfortable, the light was bright but slightly softened, the air fresh, as they say.

Some linden trees had almost finished blooming; others were in full fragrant bloom. The perfume of linden did not fill the block, but close to a blooming tree the fragrance was sweet and uplifting.

Made me think of Samadhi, or spiritual absorption. Not the same as pleasure, I understand. But I think it’s hard to imagine without a reference to something pleasant.

Away from Samadhi, observed irritation arise at the stop light at Windsor and Race, again.

Entered Meadowbrook Park near the garden plots and Sensory Garden and walked Discovery II toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

The sound of McCullough Creek babbling at the the little wooden bridge provoked from me a sigh. Calm!

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Stopped for a quick look upstream

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and walked on.

The path into the prairie was nicely worn, and comfortably proceeded to walk in and search for the prized flowers. On the way saw remaining foxglove Penstemon,

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rattlesnake master,

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and mountain mint, like last week.

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Scanned the area toward the middle of the prairie where I’d seen it last year and at first saw nothing like queen-of-the-prairie except a bare-looking stalk that rose a little above the other plants, next to a blooming common milkweed. Had it finished blooming and I’d missed it?

Decided to walk in just in case, and to my delight discovered that the tall stalk was full of tight pink buds!

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Not only that but there seemed to be more shorter stalks, even more than I recall from last year.

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in company with the very photogenic common milkweed.

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on which were a couple of Japanese beetles. Wondered whether the milkweed toxins affected them. Not enough to keep them off, apparently.

On the way back to the bike saw some lovely later-bloom spiderwort

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Maneuvering the bike, noticed a hole pretty much flush with the ground

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No chimney; was it made by a crayfish? It was the right diameter. Some other creature?

Onward to the little bridge, spotted a black-winged (ebony jewelwing, Calopteryx maculata) damselfly resting on a leaf near the creek,

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a lovely decoration for the stream-side.

Was glad to be able to witness the bloom of queen-of-the-prairie for another season.