Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.

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Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!

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They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”

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And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.

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So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.

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The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.

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Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.

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Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

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Saturday 9 September 2017. The Late-Summer Prairie, Featuring a Magnificent Cream Gentian Display

It was 62 degrees F at 7:30 this morning as I smoothly made my way on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Destination was the wet area a little east of the rabbit-statue bridge to look for late blooms.

McCullough Creek was dry under the bridge (one couldn’t help thinking of the precipitation recently deposited by Harvey and Irma) and no red petals of cardinal flowers were visible. May have been able to locate the last ones by getting into the creek bed but moved on.

Noticed it was goldenrod time.

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Thistles provided complementary accent.

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On top of the yellows of goldenrod was the yellow of tickseed

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and of sneezeweed

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Remembered abundant turtleheads from last year but today saw only a few sparsely blooming plants.

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Mountain mint was especially fragrant here though the plants are common all around the park. What releases the smell?

img_3483Sneezeweed was delightfully abundant here, and set off nicely by what I’ve decided is tall boneset.

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The vervain had senesced beautifully.

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Got a better shot than previously of a goldenrod I haven’t been able to identify precisely.

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Still haven’t figured it out. Is it actually a goldenrod?

Over the small arched bridge was still blue sage, in that rare, heavenly light-blue color.

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Nearby, viewed the roll of the beautiful late summer prairie spread.

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And then located, just a few at first, unlike yellow flowers they don’t jump out at you, cream gentians in front of the Marker statue.

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Then found some pink-blue ones, probably hybrids (or soapwort gentians?) rather than bottle gentians.

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Looked and looked and finally found the tiniest hints of bottle gentian (maybe) buds.

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Walked on into the goldenrod-lined soft path,

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which, in spite of the lovely masses of goldenrod, struck me with a feeling of loss: the high-perched golden faces of the compass plants had lost their extroverted rays and become somber seed-heads.

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The sadness took me by surprise.

Moved on trying to admit and absorb this while hoping for consolation from the cream gentian bloom.

Indeed, there it was.

In profusion.

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And many flowers were open, indicating that bees had visited them.

It was hard to stop photographing them!

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Eventually moved on and noticed stiff goldenrod, which was not as abundant as in some previous years, but was able to get a decent closeup.

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Near the end (beginning) of the path, abundant (yellow!) wingstem decorated the little wooden bridge over another dry stretch of McCullough Creek.

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Before leaving Meadowbrook got a view of light through the young trees and undergrowth next to the pavilion.

No longer felt desolation but more a sense of the maturity of the year. Which now, reflecting in November, seems especially sweet.

Sunday 3 September 2017. To St. Joe with a Stop at Weaver.

It was 64 degrees F under party cloudy skies 8:15 this morning as I headed Rhododendron to the Kickapoo Rail to Trail path and St. Joseph IL.

But first there was morning yoga practice (!!!) wherein I tried to get my shoulders ready for the un-yogic downward reaching for the handlebars, including slithering into a self-assisted shoulder Savasana, lots of Ardha Parsva Hastasana, and Sirsasana using a chumball. Yes, it costs watching the dawn break from the bike, but the rest of day is just so much better if yoga is first!

Rode east on Main Street (did not see the fox) and made a quick detour to the Champaign County Nursing Home to drop a promised pair of sun-viewing glasses for a friend who lives there. Then proceeded to Weaver Park and stopped to see what was blooming there.

The season had advanced and flowers were mostly on the decline, like these cup plants, accompanied by big bluestem and

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stiff goldenrod and near rosinweed foliage.

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Saw blackeyed Susans

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tall Coreopsis,

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some remaining compass plant blooms,

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and even some late purple coneflowers.

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Proceeded along Main Street to University Avenue and the head of the Kickapoo-rail-to-trail towards St. Joseph, Illinois.

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And what a pleasant trail it was.

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Since the CU Across the Prairie ride there were fewer species in bloom, but still there were plenty of flowers along the way:

Exotic but colorful morning glories,

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Jerusalem artichokes (or sawtooth sunflowers–I wasn’t sure which, glorious golden sun-bursts either way.

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and sawtooth sunflowers were just coming into bloom.

Also were the beginnings of the goldenrod and more than a few prairie dock sun-flowers

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which were complemented by the pink Gaura,

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Rode on with minimal photography (I get conflicted between riding on and not interrupting the experience versus stopping to document it) to the town of St Joseph.

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Then turned back, and this time photographed the Salt Fork crossing.

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Got a shot of the lovely photograph of unionid mussels at the educational marker.

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beloved inhabitants of my former life as a biologist.

On the way back stopped for (sawtooth, I’m pretty sure) sunflowers,

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including a group visited by monarch butterflies (saw at least four in one small area).

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Farther along looked across the paralleling highway and saw soybean fields beginning to turn yellow, with Gaura and tall(?) boneset between the highway and the bike trail.

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At the Fulls Siding crossing, stopped to photograph this dear bicycle book-exchange box.

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Must remember to bring something to exchange next time.

And on toward home!

My second KRT ride was just as wonderful as the first!

Sunday 27 August 2017. Falling and Rising in Late Summer

It was 59 degrees F at 7:15 under party cloudy skies as I finished yoga practice (wish I could do everything first thing in the morning!) and headed on Rhododendron for Meadowbrook Park. Wanted to get a close look at the cardinal flowers as their bloom was concluding.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge; the bed of McCullough Creek was dry even with heavy rain one night last week.
The cardinal flowers are just barely visible here, with a little imagination.

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Since the bloom would be done soon, I climbed down to the creek bed, and actually encountered the red bird-flowers on the close side of the stream.

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Saw many cardinal flower plants, their red flower-spikes distributed more widely around the creek bed than I ever remember seeing them!

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The contrast of goldenrod gave the red flowers even more intensity.

Noticed also sneezeweed, another lovely yellow counterpoint for the red cardinal flowers.

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Was happy to see the last, top blooms above the stack of spent flowers: the process of growth and decay.

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Down the path a little way were the annual Bidens, or tickseed, another species of photogenic Compositae.

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Got a shot of the beautiful blue sage near the little arched bridge over Davis Creek.

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This white flower with handsome dark green foliage, which I’ve decided is tall boneset, was abundant.

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The thistle hosted a bumble bee as well as several small beetles.

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Saw some handsome bush clover,

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with its blue-green leaves and contrasting rusty flowers.

There was rosinweed with a cricket in its center,

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Gaura,

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compass plant holding forth,

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prairie dock above and cream gentian down low,

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and lots of invasive but gorgeous goldenrod about to burst into golden yellow,

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Fall approaches.

Saturday 19 August 2017. First Cream Gentians, Last Royal Catchfly

It was about 64 degrees F, the sky spread with a diaphanous but ragged sheet of cloud this morning at 6:03 as I guided the newly re-born Rhododendron (which has been riding “like butter,” thank you, Neutral Cycle!) toward Meadowbrook Park.

August has been dry and wondered whether any royal catchfly or cardinal flowers would remain. So my quest was to see what they looked like at this stage of summer.

At Meadowbrook walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie. To the east, the wooded area looked parched and damaged,

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reminding me of some recent events in my life and in the world at large. Is this the direction of everything? Is entropy winning already?

But walked on, over the little wooden bridge spanning a dry bed of McCullough Creek.

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As I walked in, there were wingstem,

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thistle,

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wild senna,

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ironweed,

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delicate big bluestem flowers,

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the last Baptisia flowers,

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Physostegia,

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compass plant,

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Gaura,

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tick trefoil,

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cup plant

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the ever-handsome false sunflower,

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rosinweed.

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And then, cream gentian.

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And then, lots of cream gentian!

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Just under the “vegetation line” they were in recent abundance, the clusters of pointed white flowers, pristine and vigorous. Wondered whether the recent lack of rain was especially favorable for them.

Wondered whether there were any royal catchfly left; did not see any from the path. But walked in a little where I knew they’d been and looked carefully and there they were, the last of the bright red stars.

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Saw a lovely cluster of wild quinine flowers lit by the rising sun

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The prairie was resplendent with the early sun slanting through the mist on this floral array! Thoughts of damage were banished.

Close to the end of the soft path, encountered a deer (maybe more than one; it’s getting hard to remember), a frequent, but because of their size always noteworthy, occurrence at Meadowbrook Park.

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At the end of the soft path where it joined the paved path near the little arch bridge over Davis Creek were blooming wild sage, in their striking shade of light blue.

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On the way to the rabbit-statue bridge saw cardinal flowers, advanced in their bloom, at the recently discovered easy-access location.

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Stopped on the rabbit-statue bridge and saw still several spikes of red!

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Did not go in; was glad at least I’d been close to the red flowers a little earlier.

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They were marvelous, even at a distance.

Then home.

Sunday 6 August 2017. New Cardinal Flowers and Homer Lake Road, One Month Later

It was 64 degrees F under thickly cloudy skies at about 6:15 this morning as the New and Improved Rhododendron (especially the new freewheel and chain!) and I headed to Meadowbrook Park.

Saw the wondrous cardinal flowers from the rabbit-statue bridge,

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but did not go down to see them close-up.

Close to the banks, cup plants were in bloom.

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Rode over the bridge, around the corner, and down the path to look for cardinal flowers in the wet willowy area where they had been in some (not all) years past, but saw none.

But then noticed two spikes of cardinal flowers on the other side of path,

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close enough to view without walking in at all!

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Then a little farther east, on the south side of the path, was a profusion of pink, purple, and blue-violet flowers: swamp milkweed (some aphid-bearing),

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Liatris,

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and blue vervain.

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Farther down the path were tick trefoil,

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which was not as abundant as I’ve seen in past years, victims of insect herbivory, it seems, Monarda, and a spike of American bellflower.

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Later focused on the yellow flowers, Sylphium species: compass plants (S.laciniatum)

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rosinweed (S.integrifolium),

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and even the occasionally prairie dock (S. terebinthinaceum) bloom,

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in addition to the cup plants (S. perfoliatum) farther
back: four tall, robust, sandpaper-leafed, yellow-flowered Sylphium “sisters!”

Also in yellow, a little more distantly related and more delicate, were tall Coreopsis.

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Interspersed was bush clover,

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with its handsome, delicate bluish foliage.

Hidden lower among other foliage saw the first buds of this year’s cream gentians

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The list of common native flowers observed this morning still is incomplete; they are so many now! I will just mention: common milkweed with maturing pods, Baptisia with green pods, and remaining though past peak rattlesnake master, purple coneflowers, yellow coneflowers, false sunflowers, and Culver’s root.

Then headed away from Meadowbrook Park, east on Windsor Road.

Corn to the left of me, soybeans to the right, here I am, central Illinois!

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Rode next to the creek, a little tributary of the Salt Fork that paralleled Windsor Road for a while.

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As I did a month ago on this route, stopped to photograph the exotic but lovely pink soapwort blooms.

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There was the sign to warn of the dangerous hill

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but still couldn’t tell exactly where it was.

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Central Illinois, alright.

Looked down at the crossing of another little tributary where I’d often seen wood ducks before,

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but saw none this time.

Did see some nice swamp milkweed.

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Rode as far as the junction with Homer Lake Road

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and this time instead of doubling back headed left, toward east Washington Street. On the way passed a small clearing at the edge of a cornfield, seemingly devoted to burning things.

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It’s been there since the first time I remember passing it in 2011 or so. It makes me think “little Gehenna.”

Back in town, on Washington Street, I pass the Brookins baseball field (it may be called something else), northward across which is the shaded area where my friends from the Champaign County Nursing Home and I have popcorn, brownies, and coffee on nice days.

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Back home, there was a Cooper’s hawk in the dead ash tree behind our garage.

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Made me wish my phone camera had a better zoom.

If I had to compare this time with my ride of a month ago, I’d say it was slightly less magical (that time has not been displaced!) but it had its own particular, considerable delights.

Especially remembered from October!

Saturday 29 July 2017. Height of the Summer Bloom

It was 61 beautiful degrees under clear skies a little after sunrise (6:15) this morning as I headed south on Race Street toward Meadowbrook Park.

I apologize here for having fallen behind in getting my notes of summer rides (that keep receding further into the past and my recollection of the details less certain!) shaped up to release on the blog. But still want to share these distinctive markers of the seasons, so here they are.

For a stretch of ten yards or so, several newly blooming cardinal flowers (a single plant would have been stunning!) graced the banks of dry McCullough and Davis creeks below the rabbit-statue bridge

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Also were contrasting purple-blue self-heal, aka “heal-all.” It must be good medicine of some kind.

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The cardinal flowers really were in their full glory.

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Farther down the path in the wet (iris, in spring) area Liatris were staring to manifest their blazing feathery stars.

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Noticed nearby a strangely curled stem, maybe a goldenrod.

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And farther on still, on the soft path to the middle of the prairie, was the splendor of the royal catchfly,

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accompanied by lots of rattlesnake master.

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There was Culver’s root, though past its peak bloom.

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Also past peak but still holding forth were purple coneflowers.

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At least three of the “Sylphium sisters” were in bloom there, S.integrifolium (rosinweed), with its simpler leaves and smaller flowers

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square-stemmed, cup-leafed S. perfoliatum (cup plant)

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And S. lacineata (compass plant), the little suns of its blooms stacked high over the prairie, as tall as the emerging big bluestem grass.

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and sometimes topped with a goldfinch

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It was the time of abundant, fresh bloom for yellow coneflower, ironweed,

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and of pink-purple Monarda.

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As I write, it’s been a while already since the prairie was in full bloom, but it’s nice to revisit that time as October draws life inward.