Friday 5 August 2016. Not One but Two Meadowbrook Cardinal Flower Places!

Actually made it out a little before (5:35) the sunrise this morning,

when it was 70 degrees F, the sky party cloudy, though the phone ap claimed, erroneously in my exact location, that it was raining (?).

Rode to Meadowbrook Park to see whether the cardinal flowers had appeared and also whether the cream gentians (of which I’d seen the beginning of buds) had started to bloom.

Took the Vine Street route and saw the bifurcated ash tree at the edge of Blair Park,

which was still mostly leafy. Close to it was a newly planted tree. Was not sure that it wasn’t another ash. Ashes, ashes, so many are falling down….

At Meadowbrook took the loop around the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie

in a clockwise (not my usual) direction. Was happy to see the colors of the dawn sky over the prairie again, after what seemed like a long time.

Rode fairly directly to the Freyfogel observation deck, where there were tick trefoil

and a bumble bee getting what it could from an old wild bergamot flower,
full green pods of white wild indigo


as well as dark, ripe ones,


aging Culver root,


tall Coreopsis and two of the “Sylphium sisters” (compass plant and prairie dock) in the same frame,


and foliage but still barely buds of cream gentian.


The false sunflower were present and photogenic as ever.


Liked the human-like forms of rattlesnake master flowers.


Noticed a lot of “browning” in the flowers;

wondered whether it was more than maturity, maybe disease.

The sky over the prairie was gorgeous and dramatic this morning.
and it was hard to resist taking lots of photos.

Got a modest shot of the Marker statue with a good sky behind it.


Whether or not you like the sculpture, I think one has to admit that it really interacts well with its environment.

Saw gentian leaves near the statue

but wasn’t sure whether they were of the cream or (blue) bottle species. Soon there should be flowers that will tell.

There was more dramatic sky farther along the path


and then, when I went to get a close shot of the Liatris by the two little trees, saw some blue vervain and, wonder of wonders, in the place they had been for several years, then not for at least the past two, there were cardinal flowers!


There were at least two different plants with the red flowers!


Ah, the joy of having let go of something loved and then for it unexpectedly, against hope, to have it return!


Yielded to the draw of another shot of the sky


then stopped briefly at the rabbit-statue bridge to check the cardinal flowers there.


There they were (if you look really carefully!). But was content not to get into the stickers to be close to them; was just glad they were there.

Felt overflowing with the abundance and generosity of my surroundings, this place, this day!


Wednesday 17 August 2016. Glimpse of Summer Fog

It was 70 degrees F and cloudy at 7:07 this morning, with a bit of distant fog. Am behind in my posts and had intended to make yoga practice and not a bike ride the first item on the morning’s agenda, but the fog was fleeing and did not want to miss it.

So headed south on Rhododendron to Meadowbrook Park. Stopped to get a shot of a ginkgo tree with fog behind it.


At Meadowbrook, sped over the rabbit-statue bridge and around the bend (did use a bit of brake) and looked for fog images.

Besides the fog, the prairie bloom was muted with maturity (and perhaps disease?)


but so far there still were flowers, like these cup plants,

not to mention the giant ragweed.

Noticed a swamp milkweed covered with aphids.


It was a picture of destruction, but not without its own strange beauty.

Saw early goldenrod with dew-beaded remains of a spiderweb nearby.


Knew there was not much time but did go as far as the “upland” cardinal flowers site and get a distant shot


as well as a shot of big bluestem flowers that were not quite fully in bloom.

Did not examine it (or others of its kind) to see whether it was early or late in its bloom.

Saw a beaded, mostly intact spiderweb


and knew there must be lots more of them, jewels of condensed fog out there in the rest of the prairie, but, alas, had to leave them undiscovered and make my way back to the day’s demands.

Turned back


but did stop to see some nice clusters of wingstem


in front of the dense streameside growth
and, back at the rabbit-statue bridge, the glorious, if partly hidden, riparian cardinal flowers.


Was grateful to have made it for this visit, another example of how a short time of awareness is WAY better than none!

Sunday 16 August 2015. Dawn at Meadowbrook and Some Miles on First Street 

It was 68 or 70 degrees F (consecutive readings on the phone weather ap, and really thought I could feel both temperatures in the layers of air. 

Really wanted some therapeutic miles this morning, but also knew Meadowbrook Park would be full of late-summer flowers (e.g., cardinal flowers), grasses, and images of them in the early light.  So decided to loop Meadowbrook and then head south on First Street. 

First stopped at “my” organic apple tree.  

A little farther down was drawn to a full cluster of surprise lilies.  

The trip was not quite so express, already. 

Noticed fog down toward Windsor Road, more photographic temptation.  

At Meadowbrook, the light still was too low  to get a decent shot of my main objective there: cardinal flowers. So turned toward the Race Street pavilion and walked Discovery II  over the little wooden bridge across McCullough Creek (rather low and

 quiet these days) toward the “Art and Billee Spomer” prairie.   

Once there was greeted by blooming big bluestem, beaded spiderwebs strung among its blades and the sun coming up behind it all through the waning fog.  


It was not hard to find things to photograph.  

 Every step presented beautiful images (the sky and the spiderwebs alone!)  

and knew I had to stop and leave or would be there a LONG time not doing anything else before it was time to go home. 

So with great resolve turned around and got back on the paved path, headed for the rabbit-statue bridge and the cardinal flowers. 

On the way saw a nice view of the sun coming up over the fog and some early goldenrod. 


And on below the rabbit-statue bridge, the blazing red cardinal flowers were not disappointing!  

 Was glad to see the several plants on both sides of (mostly dry) Davis Creek 


which promised their continued presence at this site in the future. 

Again tore myself away to make some miles on South Race Street. Caught the sun above the southwest edge of Meadowbrook, the ground soft and misty. 

Then turned west on Old Church Road and then south on First Street and stopped at the prairie garden with all the cup plants on the west side of the road.  Not long ago royal catchfly had bloomed here, but could not find any trace of them left. Still, plenty of joyous yellow cup plant and compass plant flowers remained. 


Then continued south till the trip odometer hit 11 miles, to the edge of Tolono. 

Turned back and enjoyed a mostly uninterrupted, reasonably comfortable ride, satisfied especially with the balance of  catching the visual beauty on the way and feeling the soothing sensation of riding. 

Monday 10 August 2015. Surprise Cardinal Flowers and Mushrooms 

It was 6:30 am and 73 degrees as I made my way under a cloudy, foggy sky from a quick stop at Starbuck’s (for the mood-enhancing effects of coffee and writing on this blog) to the pool at Crystal Lake. It wasn’t a planned cycling trip, but saw something I wanted to report. 

Decided to avoid the traffic of University Avenue and rode on the sidewalk, next to which was a nice municipal planting of semi-native plants. I say semi-native because along with the mostly bloomed-out Liatris there were white flowers I didn’t recognize, purple coneflowers in odd, dark colors.  The first feature that caught my eye was the mushroom, pale beige with a scalloped edge.  

And there were more of them, with plainer edges.  Then noticed, of all things, cardinal flowers!  

They didn’t look quite the same as the ones I saw at Meadowbrook and the Japan garden pond.  

 (After looking at the photo I suspect the grass is prairie dropseed.)

They were a slighty less intense shade of red, and the flowers were of a slightly different shape.  

Still, it was a happy discovery. 

Another curiosity of the place was what looked like fungus on a Liatris flower/seed head that resembled a frozen waterfall. 

On the ground were more clumps with just the filamentous part, but they were hard to photograph. 

Liked being drawn in to and sharing this unplanned  observation of surprise wonders of gardening, if not exactly of nature. You never know what might be right next to you to see till you stop and look!

Thursday 30 July 2015. Birthday Cardinal Flowers at Meadowbrook 

It was 65 degrees F, at least, at about 8 am, when I left for Meadowbrook Park on the morning of my 60th birthday!   

Actually the trip was a little rushed because earlier I was luxuriating in catching up on previous posts,

 and later I would be participating in a most wonderful yoga intensive workshop. But how could I not see whether there were cardinal flowers at Meadowbrook on this momentous day?
So made a beeline for Meadowbrook on Vine Street, which put me at the Windsor-Vine bridge over McCullough Creek.  Decided to take the path along the creek and maybe stop on the way and check out the stream between the bridges on the way to the rabbit-statue bridge and the possible cardinal flowers. 

Spotted a worn path through the dense riparian vegetation to the creek and walked in.  

The path was so narrow!  And the pipe that used to let water through when the beavers were about was still there, exposed and no longer useful. 

Did see some lovely vervain with the sun behind them.  

The mosquitoes loved this spot, as well. And that I was there with some breakfast.

 Back on the path, on the southwestern edge of the “small loop” caught a nice arrangement of Monarda, false sunflower, and yellow coneflower. 

Stopped to check some common milkweeds where I’d seen monarch caterpillars in the past.   There was evidence of possible caterpillar feeding

but found no actual caterpillars, alas. 

Rode to the rabbit-statue bridge and stood above McCullough Creek, with expectation but not convinced there would be any cardinal flowers to see. 

And at first when I looked there was only green. 


But from past experience knew that the first look does not tell all and kept looking. Amazingly, a tiny spot of red materialized!

A lot of prickly vegetation stood between me and the cardinal flowers, but today I had to get close to them!  Carefully stepped to the edge of Davis Creek and aimed across for a photo. 

Then noticed a couple of stalks with early cardinal flower buds at the top and the stubs of bitten-off (I assume) leaves along their lengths. 

Made me wonder how many spikes of cardinal flowers there would be if they weren’t such apparently tasty fare for some creature (rabbits?) and what incredible odds they overcome to show their scarlet glory to the world!


Gratefully accepted this wonderful birthday present, as it were, from beloved Meadowbrook Park!

Sunday 8 September 2013. Of Blue Gentians, Milkweed, and Semi-Unconditional Joy

Been thinking a lot about the concept, (the possibility?) of “unconditional joy.”
Not that I feel so very close to it, but I do consider Velo du Jour not totally unrelated to it. The idea is to use the little time rolling on two wheels to be open to whatever comes up. It happens partially…

This morning, for example, at 6:18 and 68 degrees F, under thick but defined clouds, was ready to take a modest ride on Rhododendron, the road bike, to Meadowbrook Park with as little fuss as possible, so as to be ready for whatever would greet me.

Well, the air was about perfectly comfortable! But then, Rhododendron started making squeaking noises, from the pedal crank, I think, which reminded me of my own joints with their little but annoying aches, that, despite yoga, insist on keeping me company.

Went to see another of the last days of the cardinal flower. Good to the last red bloom!
Farther along the path, stopped to get a shot of the common sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), which looked so lovely as a foil for the cardinal flowers when they bloomed in this area. (The last time I saw the cardinal flowers here was 2011.)
20130908-085015.jpg Their spherical centers with multi-lobed petals at the base make them look like heads with Elizabethan collars (not the veterinary kind).

The goldenrod bloom, accented with thistles, was gathering momentum.

Saw a group of goldfinches, with fledglings begging from their parents. As the parent of a teenager and a young adult, that image really speaks to me. They made sounds that were not unlike that of my squeaking bike.

Thought it might be time for the bottle gentians to bloom, or maybe it was a little early. It always seems so unlikely to find them, in this harsh, waning time of year. And they grow so low amid so much tall grass. But looked near the Marker statue, where I’ve seen them every year since 2010, and voila! The little buds definitely showed some blue.

As usual, felt pressed for time, but some little purple-blue flowers along the path close to the playground caught my eye. They were a kind of aster, I think.

rode over the Windsor/ Vine bridge; saw at least one frog and a lot of little fish concentrated in the unconnected pool of McCullough Creek at that location.

At the other side of the bridge were >20130919-165407.jpg</a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosserseratus)Which occurred in other places and are not unusual, but do love their intense yellow flowers atop their tall, dark, elongate-leafed stems, so here is a shot of some.

Actually was feeling only moderate contentment, being in a hurry and all. Would not call it joy, exactly.

Rode homeward along McCullough Creek, on the “small loop.”
A milkweed with lots of pods, including one starting to release downy seeds, caught my eye. Saw other milkweeds with damage from aphids and milkweed bugs; not as welcome as another consumer of the plant: monarch butterfly larvae. “Where have they been?“, I wondered.

THEN, actually saw a good-sized Monarch butterfly caterpillar, chewing on the petiole of a milkweed leaf. Could actually hear the munching.
This was a small but joyful thing, which was a nice state in which to ride home. The joy was not quite unconditional, but maybe joy about small things is a step in that direction.

Wednesday 4 September 2013. The Decline of the Cardinal Flowers.

It’s getting to be a while since this ride, so there will be fewer details than there would have been otherwise.

It was afternoon, again, and the day was so gorgeous, and I had a little time, so off Rhododendron and I went to Meadowbrook Park.

Was surprised, almost shocked, to see the cardinal flowers so far through their bloom.

20130912-153603.jpgSeems they lasted longer last year. Maybe it was the recent heat wave combined with lack of rain late in the summer. Ah, these, too pass. Like they do every year.

As long as I kept moving, the temperature was comfortable, but stopping in the full sun was pretty warm. Wasn’t able to notice much new. But the cream gentians still were compelling.

Wondered whether the deer or some other mammal had been eating gentian flowers; these plants looked kind of ravaged.

20130912-154253.jpg Wondered if these would have been blue ones (bottle gentians). No sign yet if those.

Just another shot of cream gentians and back home.

20130912-154831.jpg Not a day for getting swept into the glory of nature and waxing on the details, but the brief, somber days count, too.