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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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!

Tuesday 4 July 2017. Almost to Flatville

It was 68 degrees F and mostly sunny and calm at 6:45 this morning of American Independence Day as I filled up Rhododendron’s tires (it made a helpful difference!) and headed east on Washington Street into the dappled canopy.

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Could not skip a stop at Weaver Park, even with having to traverse a stretch of trail-less grass, across which a couple of apparently well-fed ground hogs undulated toward the tree-lined street side of the park.

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The edge of the purported buffalo-wallow pond was richly decorated with newly blooming prairie plants, like Monarda,

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yellow coneflower, cup plants, an early aster,

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and, most whimsically, the candelabra of Culver’s root,

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all beautifully set in front of the water lily pads and cattails of the pond.

Then headed back on Washington to Route 130 (High Cross Road), where there is a lovely place to view the sun rising over the landscape

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and on past Cottonwood Road to the “T” at 1800N.

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A couple of cyclists behind me went right (perhaps to Homer Lake) and I turned left, to the north. The road was narrow but smooth and mostly without farm houses (that is, potential loose dogs) close to it.

The bridge over I-74 was simple and without much bordering vegetation.

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Continued north, crossing the Saline Ditch,

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and detecting some roll in the grade of the road.

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Just before heading back stopped to look down into a creek

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then turned back at the road just past Ford Harris Road.

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Came back to Ford Harris and an debated just continuing to retrace my path, but craved a little novelty. At the same time, could not remember this stretch, so took a bold gamble about its safety and plunged westward on Ford Harris Road.

Close to High Cross Road was a cemetery on the side of a little (central Illinois) hill.

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Got a distant shot of a dickcissel

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the calls (which which sounds to me something like “Uru ahim!” (“awake, my brothers!”) from the Israeli folk, song “Hava Nagila”) [Note: the dickcissel recordings I found on YouTube were not exactly like the birds I heard, but maybe you get the idea. Head out on a country road some morning and see what you think.) from conspecifics of which had been accompanying me for much of this trip.

At Perkins Road was a nice prairie planting that included non-native but handsome mullein.

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It was another satisfying 20 miles!

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.

Sunday 9 October 2016. Meadowbrook Bottle Gentians!

It was 47 degrees F at 6 am today, but did not check the temperature at 7-ish when I rolled down the driveway on Rhododendron toward Meadowbrook Park. Did notice that the sky was clear.

Eagerly awaited this trip, as important and enjoyable events had prevented a number of usual morning bike rides. Was ready to meet the gentians!

On the way stopped at the site of the Amanita muscaria mushrooms, which definitely were approaching the end of this round of their fruiting.

Couldn’t help being a little sad at how the meta-fungus on them detracted from their characteristic beauty.

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Yet they still had a kind of understated beauty that also was part of the wondrous workings of nature and tried to turn the lens of my perceptions and responses in that direction.

At Meadowbrook the goldenrod were well toward the completion of their bloom, and other plants were mostly shades of pale yellow and brown,

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including brown stars of compass plant seed heads

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Saw a few late blooms of yellow coneflower

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Saw a pretty good abundance of (dark) white wild indigo pods, including one with an insect (or two?) of the order Hemiptera (as near as I can tell) resting on one of them.

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Rode along without stopping at the Freyfogle observation deck because someone was up there luxuriating with the Sunday newspaper. Looked like they were enjoying the space.

Proceeded to the Marker statue, and with just a little searching found the blue jewels of flowers.

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Noticed that the flower stems branched from a cropped middle stalk, which seemed to be more the rule than the exception. Appears that the deer (I assume) search them out. It’s perhaps a wonder they manage to bloom at all.

A lot of plants looked worse for whatever else was trying to appropriate their biomass,

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or whatever kept them from thriving more, but there were plenty that were healthy enough and lovely,

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especially with the light as it was and the dew as if diamond-encrusting the gentian.

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Then wanted to see whether there were any bottle gentian flowers in the middle of the prairie, via the “soft” path.

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On the way in were still-blooming goldenrod

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bush clover

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more indigo pods,

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one of which was open, revealing the seeds within.

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Did not see any bottle gentian flowers, but did see bitten-off stalks,

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which I was not sure weren’t those of cream rather than bottle gentians. And maybe if I’d looked longer I’d have found some flowers. But moved on to the next possible site.

First reached, paused for a photo, then crossed McCullough Creek,

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and proceeded to the “upland cardinal flower site,” where there were cardinal flowers gone to seed

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red-leafed vervain gone to seed,

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the source of mountain mint fragrance,

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the last of the turtlehead, one with a bee.

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At first could not locate the bottle gentians I’d seen here before, but then saw it, one lonely flower (like the one that managed to bloom in my backyard after planting this spring!), next to some contrasting sneezweed.

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Felt glad to see even that one and was getting back on Rhododendron to go home when, right next to the path, saw a generous bloom of bottle gentians.

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Mother lode!

There were plants with blooms stacked along the stalk

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and dense clusters of them,

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some flowers pristine and smooth and others already faded.

It was reassuring to see gentians in the old location and joy to find them in a new place!

Sunday 25 September 2016. Mushrooms, Bottle Gentians, Goldenrod

It was 66 degrees F at 6:45 (missed official sunrise (6:44 am, which, according to the phone weather ap, today exactly mirrors the predicted sunset of 6:44 pm) by a minute, the sky with some big, puffy clouds and a bit of distant fog.

Was eager already last night for this morning’s ride with anticipation of bottle gentians and whatever today’s manifestation of the leading edge of autumn might be.

Rode Rhododendron south on Race Street, headed for Meadowbrook Park. Cast a cursory glance under the spruce trees where there had been not a single mushroom two weeks ago and was amazed to behold a well-developed population of Amanita muscaria!

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When did they arrive? Was glad to see them again!

Tried to content myself with a couple of shots,

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but it was so difficult to not continue to try to capture their delightful arrangements.

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Made me wish that fairies could make use of the luxurious accommodations.

Rode onward thinking of large white mushrooms I’d seen from a distance last week and just wasn’t able to stop for them. By the time I could return, they were gone. Also thought of the pawpaw trees in our BACKYARD, for crying out loud, whose fruit I’d lovingly observed developing up in their branches earlier in the season, picked up the first one to fall, anticipated pawpaw cream pie, and then saw not a one the next time I made it back there to check on the crop. There is so much to miss out in the world! Which is just to emphasize how precious are the things we catch, when we can catch them. I wonder if the treasures of the past become a burden when we expect them to return, when we seek to repeat some special event, to fit them in among new experiences. Maybe their true value lies in being unique and unrepeatable. Still, the unexpected return of something missed (like the Amanita mushrooms, is a special joy!

Saw the sun disc while waiting at the annoying stop light at Race and Windsor.

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Getting used to the new generation of traffic signals is proving to be ridiculously challenging to my patience. As such, a good spiritual exercise, if I stay with it.

Knew the cardinal flowers would be finished (except maybe for a few blooms, to which one would have to get very close to see) but stopped for the customary view of McCullough Creek from the rabbit-statue bridge.

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Hard to believe that two weeks ago the same place was full of color.

Proceeded to the “upland cardinal flower site,” where there probably still were turtlehead. Knew the cardinal flowers would be gone but was greeted, as if in consolation, by bright sneezeweed.

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Walked in toward the turtlehead and saw pink New England asters

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Purple New England asters against goldenrod,

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and turtlehead against goldenrod

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Saw strange little pink flowers at the end of thin stems

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which, per the suggestion of my husband, appear to be cinnamon willow-herb (Epilobium coloratum).

And then, to my amazement, saw gorgeous blue, healthy-looking bottle gentians!

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pretty as a picture.

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A world with cardinal flowers and bottle gentians surely can’t be hopeless.

Caught the unmistakable scent of mint (still!?!) and sure enough, there the mountain mint were,

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thought for some reason the white flowers were hard to get into focus.

Got a view of the still-lush common goldenrods with the fog-softened sun rising above them.

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Just across the little arch bridge over Davis Creek got a view of the blue wild sage, few flowers of which remained at this point, but still the plants were stately and healthy-looking.

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Close to the Marker Statue were different shapes and shades of yellow.

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Seem to have missed the peak of the tickseed bloom, but the remaining flowers still shone like little suns.

Looked with a little trepidation, (recalling the chewed ends of the plant’s from last time) for bottle gentians near the statue (gentians just don’t jump out at you–you have to go look for them at the foot of taller plants) and eventually did find some.

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They were not so vigorous-looking as the ones At the devious site, but there were a fair number of them,
and there were plenty of developing buds.

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Still, a lot of them looked ravaged,

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which I don’t like to dwell on but did want to document.

Also documented the trailing edge of the cream gentian bloom.

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Got another view of goldenrod, this time amid Indian grass.

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Goldenrod draw one in to their foamy, feathery, shapely yellowness. They are invasive (but native!), yet they can make a disturbed patch of land look glorious for a few days. Was glad to have been there or to miss the prairie’s last golden hurrah!

Saturday 23 July 2016. Pink-Purple, Yellow, and a Bit of White in the Little Prairie

It was 72 degrees F at 7:02 am, with the unimpeded sun rays already starting to blaze.

Time was short. Pined for the royal catchfly at Meadowbrook and wondered whether cardinal flower might be starting to bloom there (as it is in my front yard, by happy circumstance!)

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So went as far as the prairie planting on Florida and Orchard, which was crowded with tall, blooming prairie plants.

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Included on today’s roster were rosinweed

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and yellow coneflower, false sunflower, and black-eyed Susan, which are not pictured.

Among the pink-purple examples were purple coneflower, (not pictured) ironweed

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wild bergamot

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blue vervain (Verbena hastata)

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and an early-blooming aster

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near which also were white rattlesnake master and mountain mint.

Saw a nice brood of immature milkweed bugs clustered at the tip of a common milkweed pod.

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Then went on with the day!