Friday 29 July 2016. Japan House Cardinal Flowers

At 6:45 this morning it was 66 degrees F, with clear skies.

Was short on time, but needed to connect with the morning.

So rode on Discovery II to the pond at Japan House because I’d seen cardinal flowers there at this time last year.

On the way noticed mushrooms, not unusual ones, but many around the base of a large hackberry tree right next to the street. Actually passed it up and turned back to take a closer look. This apparently looked odd to a passing driver, who stopped to ask if I was ok. “Just looking at some mushrooms” I replied, thanking him for his concern.


Made a beeline for the pond at Japan House and searched for red flowers, which were not hard to find


Saw a damselfly resting on a Cardinal flower bloom.


Walked around the pond and saw Liatris


as well as more cardinal flowers


and pickerelweed.


Spent a little time trying to capture being under a nearby spreading sycamore tree


then headed back to walk Sparky

our old Bichon Frise, and head over for day five of the awesome weeklong summer yoga intensive.


Friday 7 August 2015. Touring the Prairie with My Old Friend Sherri

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!


Monday 9 July 2012. A Little More of Weaver Park

Yesterday evening, the heat wave we’d been having broke, and this morning rested on the cool side of gorgeous. The moon was slightly more than half-full, just to the south and west of directly over head.

Got up a little later than usual and arrived at Main and Broadway, on the way to Weaver Park just as the sun-disc broke the horizon. 

It would be a quick trip at the beginning of a busy day.

Wondered how long the little gas station on the north side of Main Street not far from Vine has been called “Mr. Gas Plus.”  I know it wasn’t always called that.

Glanced at the prairie garden across Main Street from Weaver Park but didn’t see any royal catchfly, as I’d seen there last year. What I think I did see was goldenrod starting to bloom. Talk about early.

Turned south on Dodson to Illinois street and the “official” entrance to Weaver Park.  It seemed even less welcoming than I remember.   Which makes the park itself, once you’re there, even more of a magical place.

Wanted to explore the mown path but knew that would take more time than I had.

The pond was very low, with dry patches but sill some shiny indications of water.  It was bordered by yellow coneflowers, of which I could not resist taking a couple of closeups of the kind of which they make such good examples.

In the pond, a lot of the emergent plants were in bloom.  A little investigation afterward on the web confirmed my suspicion that they were pickerelweed (Potenderia cordata).  Here is a link with some information and a nice closeup of the flowers, taken, as it happens, at Weaver Park.
Looked across the park where there was more water and movement I guessed was ducks. Noticed a new-looking building across

the park, which was the Champaign County Nursing Home. Clark-Lindsey has Meadowbrook, CCNH has Weaver!

Then there was dog-barking.  I said, “You’d better be contained.”  Which was  probable, but it reminded me I couldn’t stay long.

From Weaver Park took Dodson to Washington and then homeward.  There is a large construction project on the Washington side of the park.  I hope the park doesn’t get gobbled up by more such projects, hope that the little gem of Weaver Park survives.