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.

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Sunday 23 July 2017. First Cardinal Flowers and Other Summer Blooms

77 degrees F under very cloudy skies at 6:15 this morning as I headed out to, where else? Meadowbrook Park to witness the summer bloom of the prairie.

At the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek could see a faint spot of red, not quite visible in this photo.

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But I could see it, so today made the trek through the “briars and the brambles” to the creekbed, and was rewarded! Was thrilled to see newly blooming cardinal flowers, on both sides of the creek.

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Got to view of the first flowers opening,

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the stalked bulbs of the buds peeling out into their graceful, majestic bird-shapes.

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Around the corner and down the path were more flowers, starting with purple and yellow coneflowers and Monarda.

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Then was taken by surprise by a deer close to this bench.

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Farther along was rosinweed,

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Tall Coreopsis,

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early goldenrod, the exact identity of which I haven’t been able to figure out,

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and wild quinine, the cauliflower-like white flowers of which were more widespread than I remember from previous years and mostly quite healthy-looking.

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Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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as I dismounted Rhododendron and walked into the prairie on the unpaved path.

Compass plant stalks with their version of sunflowers rose toward the clouds high above the other plants.

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A red-winged blackbird lighted at the top of one,

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then flew off.

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There was ironweed,

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the ever-photogenic false sunflower,

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and Culver’s root.

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And, lo, there was royal catchfly!

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Which was stunning close-up by itself as well as mid-distance, framed by rattlesnake master,

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or as the red splash in a prairie “bouquet.”

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It was the time of the two red prairie flowers, the zenith of the summer!

Noticed (cropped!) cream gentian foliage with the beginnings of buds but no blooms yet.

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On the way back to the paved path noticed white prairie clover

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and purple prairie clover.

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The progression along the inflorescence from pre-bud to bud to flower to spent bloom of both species looked like a flame moving from the bottom to the top.

The clouds continued to threaten rain, which came as I headed, entirely satisfied with the morning’s presentation, north on Race Street, toward home.

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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.

Saturday 15 July 2017. Meadowbrook Summer Prairie Crowned by Royal Catchfly

This morning at 6:07 it was 59 degrees F under party cloudy skies, the air calm.

Just returned from several days in the Colorado mountains (yes, they were awesome!) and was eager to see what what the summer prairie bloom at Meadowbrook Park was doing.

Rode Rhododendron the road bike southward to Windsor Road and barely stopped before pushing the button and crossing. They seemed to have worked the bugs out of the system, hooray!

Then entered Meadowbrook at the Race Street entrance, passed by the Sensory Garden, and walked the bike toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie.

On the way, at the edge of the wooded area next to the pavilion were American bellflowers.

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McCullough Creek under the little wooden bridge was low and pooled. Was there some kind of dam upstream? The water level seemed to have gone down quickly.

Out in the prairie, looked for queen-of-the-prairie where I’d seen it a couple years ago but couldn’t see any this morning. Did not walk out into the dew-drenched vegetation to look more carefully.

But saw the early sunlight coming through the thin layer of mist that still lay over the prairie

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and through the condensation on the flowers and leaves of the prairie plants.

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Saw spiderwebs finely beaded with dewdrops.

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There was a gorgeous variety of prairie flowers blooming in synchrony, like a massive bouquet:

False sunflowers, Monarda,

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yellow coneflowers, Liatris,

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Culver’s root.

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Compass plant, with its erect, finger-like leaves,

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large, bursting-yellow radiating flower-discs

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stacked on its outrageously tall stalk,

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alone and in groups,

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was compellingly photogenic.

There were abundant rattlesnake master and mountain mint

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purple coneflower.

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Best of all, the royal catchfly were newly in bloom! They were stunning in bunches,

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close-up,

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and in combination with other flowers.

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On the way out got pretty close to a buck who seemed to have planned to walk right to where I was.

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Was not afraid he would charge me or something, but did have respect for his size, strength, and independence as “wild” creature. So I calmly stood where I was and tried to look at him in a way that conveyed: “No worries, dude, I’m not a threat,” and he veered off to the left.

Got a nice view of the sky over the prairie

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and headed back, stopping first for a view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Was glad to be there for the presentation!

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.

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.