It was about 10:30 am, about 74 degrees F, and the sky mostly clear when my old friend Sherri (on Discovery II) and I (on Rhododendron) departed to seek out the hints of mid-summer prairie splendor to be found in Urbana IL.
Sherri, who was in town on a circuit of visits to family and friends, has lived for the past twenty-something years in California, where the landscape tends to be more dramatic than it is around here. But she grew up in Illnois and misses the prairie, so we agreed: what better way to renew our friendship than to ride around town and sample the bloom of the prairie?
We started at the mini-prairie on Florida and Orchard, which was blooming with various yellow flowers like Black-eyed Susan, yellow coneflower, false sunflower, rosinweed, cup plant, (stunted) compass plant, and this lovely, full example of tall Coreopsis .
Also there were plenty of pink-purple-blue things like purple coneflower, hoary Vervain, Monarda,
and obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana).
Sherri noticed a false sunflower plant with a curious arrangement of aphids lined up on the stem.
The little prairie was full of swooping bursts of yellow-and-black: twittering goldfinches, and, wonder of wonders: an indigo bunting!
Then we rode to the Japan House garden, the pond in particular.
We saw a green heron fly over the pond and land on the shore among the cattails.
A little imagination required.
At first we saw evening primrose and Liatris, also saw great blue Lobelia, but no cardinal flower so did not stop for photos. We made a loop around the pond, and then halfway around, did after all see those magical splashes of red.
And a little way down there were more. The flowers were like a column of red birds taking flight!
Could hardly imagine anything more graceful and beautiful!
Perhaps not quite so spectacular but still extremely lovely were the blue spikes of pickerelweed flowers.
Lots of a variety of dragonflies zoomed around.
This was a feature that I don’t get to see so much around sunrise. Dragonflies are pretty solidly diurnal and not sentinels of the dawn.
The water itself teemed with turtles, large koi, and frogs. The pond was even more beautiful than I could tell last time. And across the water noticed a dock under construction. The vision and devotion that go into developing and sustaining this place just blow me away!
Then Sherri and I headed to Meadowbrook Park to see the cardinal flowers there and maybe also the royal catchfly.
The cardinal flowers were holding forth in a spot along the bank of Davis Creek (now pretty much dry) where it joins McCullough Creek. There were only three stems, but the one with most of the bloom was glorious.
Again had to carefully brave the brambles–but felt kind of glad that this treasure was so protected.
Then on to the interior via the “soft” path to see the royal catchfly.
Which were declining
but still offering plenty of red stars.
Saw the first blooms of cream gentian!
We looked for monarch caterpillars on the common milkweeds, without success, but did see s number of adults.
The sun was rather high by now, and we hadn’t applied sunscreen, so it was time to return for lunch. Talk about a perfect morning!