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.


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.


Got to view of the first flowers opening,


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


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


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


Farther along was rosinweed,


Tall Coreopsis,


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


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


Dramatic clouds billowed over the prairie.

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.


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


then flew off.


There was ironweed,


the ever-photogenic false sunflower,


and Culver’s root.


And, lo, there was royal catchfly!


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


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


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.


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


and purple prairie clover.


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.



Sunday 4 June 2017. West on Curtis Road to Kaskaskia Ditch

It was 73 perfect degrees with thin scattered clouds and just a hint of westerly breeze at 5:40 this morning as I headed Rhododendron southward toward Curtis Road.

Lovely as they were, did not stop for the yellow and pale pink cabbage roses nor the laden apple tree but did stop to check on the Amanita mushrooms. Wondered whether the increasing ground cover was inhibiting the appearance of fruiting bodies, but it seemed not.


But overall it still did not look like a healthy population.

Turned west on Windsor Road without thinking then cut south toward Curtis on a gravel (“authorized vehicles only”–should have taken a clue) road and regretted it.


It was a mile on semi-loose (could have been worse, but still) gravel that reminded me of riding on uneven ice. Had to concentrate, going slow and steady, balancing as if “flying”. Don’t want to do it again any time soon, however.

Headed west, enjoying the sky, along Curtis Road, to its intersection with Prospect Avenue and the sunken pond.

Around the pond were Penstemon,




purple indigo,


and the season’s first purple coneflowers.


Did not see many waterfowl: one mallard duck and a few Canada geese.

Continued west on Curtis, and saw a great blue heron wading in the stream that cut under the road east of Mattis. Stopped and got the iPhone camera ready before carefully going back to get a photo before it took off. Those great bue herons sure are wary!


Got a view of the decaying farm building across Curtis from the large and growing Carle Clinic on Curtis facility. It was a glimpse of the past and future of the area.


Then farther west, just over the I-57 bridge, was a large structure under construction, which at first I thought was a new high school. But it turned out to be yet another Carle facility. I guess that means jobs for our community, or even improved medical care. But sometimes it seems like Carle is Everywhere. At the same time it seems like health care is becoming a luxury.


Noticed that both the corn and soybeans were well along in their growth


Rode as far as the crossing of Kaskaskia Ditch


and then got a text from a friend inviting me to talk over morning beverage. So turned and headed back.

The ride was a satisfying 20 miles!

Friday 8 July 2016. Summer Prairie Near Crystal Lake Pool

This morning at 5:25 it was 70 degrees F, the sky with thin, finely-textured clouds. Getting ready to go, caught a glimpse of deep pink sky through the front hall window, but it had faded by the time I got Discovery II out to head for Crystal Lake pool.


Thought about going to see Meadowbrook Park before morning swim, but time was short. So just made a slight longer trip around the fairgrounds


to the pool, with a stop at the tiny Lincoln Bindery “prairie.”

The first image to attract my attention was of the abundant, though past peak-bloom, purple prairie clover.


Then, a little farther along, were the white species.

Knew there were two species, but today it looked like the white were just a color variant of the purple. But then closer examination revealed the differences in their leaves: the white-flowered species with more “football-shaped” leaves, the purple’s leaves more evenly elongate.

Other flowers represented today were white wild indigo (and their small


and large

img_8038green pods), yellow coneflower,

bush clover,


false sunflower, rosinweed, and compass plant.


Then proceeded to the end of Coler Avenue and the thrill-hill between Busey Woods and Woodlawn Cemetery. But stopped (reminded myself that it’s not a great place to stop but did so anyway) because the big oak tree across the road at the top of the hill was naked, in the middle of leafy summer, an emblem of the place before which it stood.

Flew down the hill. (Good, yes!)


The cemetery drew my attention more than usual because at the moment I know at least three wonderful people who are facing their arrival at such a place. Makes me so sad yet aware of and so grateful for the love they’ve brought into the world and where our lives have intersected.

Followed the curve of the road till it crossed the Saline Branch, straitened into Country Club Road, then turned toward the pool on Broadway. Saw lovely prairie flowers abloom in the plantings near the entrance to the pool: vervain,


yellow and purple coneflower, and wild bergamot.


On the way back home went along the Boneyard Creek river-walk, where lots of fish were visible in the water (though not in the photo), and also bullfrogs, of which one is visible between the water and the vegetation, if you use your imagination.


Saw under the bridge a couple of swallows that swooped after a feather that floated above the water, let it go, and swooped at it again.


Thought it might be some kind courtship game, but then wondered whether they might have thought it was a moth or a fly.

Decided that I like this public works project of the river-walk after all, especially looking into the water and seeing various forms of animal life. Even the mosaic on the wall near its southwest end is, I think, kind of nice.


I still don’t care for the sculpture of half-buried and gasping fish (“Athirst”), and the river-walk remains invisible from street level, but with a little love and attention it might make a favorite place for taste of nature close to downtown.

Sunday 19 June 2016. Farther West on Old Church

This morning at 5:35 (missed the 5:23 sunrise, alas) it was 68 degrees and mostly clear as I brought out Rhododendron (after almost leaving on Discovery II, out of daily habit) and headed south and ultimately west. Planned to go part of the way to Allerton Park, per directions I found online. Set out to go at least 10 miles out, for a 20-mile ride.

The air was perfect: not too cool or warm and no breeze to speak of. The occasional linden gave its perfume, and best of all, I was awake. Alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, you might say. And my recently increased attention to my yoga practice since having one less paid job meant the only thing like pain was occasional discomfort in my “bad” right shoulder and neck. For which the internalized voice of my mentor–“Get the dorsal spine in!”–was helpful.

Could see the northwestern corner of Meadowbrook Park as I turned west on Windsor Road.

First stop, not counting turning back to see the rising sun (and activating Strava),

or pausing to marvel at the speed with which the new Carle Sports Medicine facility is going up near First Street, was the City of Champaign Prairie Restoration Project

which looked sorely in need of stewardship. But the strange and wonderful lead plants were there in early bloom

with a jumping spider for graphic interest.

Then rode to Prospect and south, with a stop at the sunken pond at Curtis Road.

where the bloom was much different than last time: saw no obvious spiderwort or Penstemon, but did see lots of purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, false sunflowers, and the first purple prairie clover and Monarda. There were some attractive Coreopsis I wasn’t sure were native.

Heard a solo bullfrog, and when I walked closer to the water, about a dozen frogs leapt into the water.

Did not see any ducks on the pond. Around a bend in the shore discovered why: a family of geese.

The geese move in and there goes the neighborhood.

But on closer examination of the photo realized that the two smaller waterfowl didn’t really look like young geese but actually may have been non-mallard ducks. How quick one can be to judge.

Then went west on Curtis, south on Mattis, and west again on Old Church Road.

There were houses and corn and soybeans with just a little up and down roll of the road.

Was amazed by the “tidiness” of the corn planting, how very bare the ground is under and near the stalks.


Then reached county road 500E and turned back.


Got a nice view of the already fairly high, almost solstice sun.


The relative uniformity of the landscape helped me focus on the breath, just like I had in Pranayama practice earlier this morning. Noticed in detail the “shape” of each breath and how something interesting in the landscape drew attention away from the breath. Have to say, that “boring” corn/bean stretch was really enjoyable with the breath for company.

Rode Old Church to Prospect and north, on the lovely path behind a residential area.


Thought I might have seen a fox, but it turned out to be a large ginger cat.

Stopped at a produce stand (an interesting place) to buy a pepper plant for my husband for Fathers Day and carried it home, sticking out from my backpack .

On the way back, peeked at an awesome garden I saw yesterday on the way home from the official Garden Walk.


Tuesday 28 July 2015.  Yankee Ridge and Meadowbrook  

It was 73 degrees at 6:15 am, and my schedule allowed for a mid-week morning ride!  

Missed the moment of sunrise but did catch a nice morning sky. 

Headed south on Race street on Rhododendron just to ride, with a planned stop on the way back at Meadowbrook Park. 

Rode to Old Church Road and glimpsed the Barnhart Prairie Restoration from the west (uphill) side.  Saw a nice cluster of blooming prairie dock with compass plant nearby. 

Wondered why they seemed to be more abundant here than at Meadowbrook. 

Got a shot from the “summit” of Yankee Ridge at Old Church Road, the view of the contours below somewhat obscured by the covering of tall corn. 

Turned north at Philo Road, even though a sign said “Road closed ahead.” Figured a bike could navigate the construction zone. 

Actually felt a little sheepish defying the instructions because a few workers had started on the day’s job, and it seemed a little rude to cross their stated boundaries. But the street was minimally disturbed and soon I was past the “forbidden” zone.  


Next time I’ll go another way. 

Turned into the northeast entrance of Meadwbrook Park and headed for the Freyfogel overlook.  The way was bedecked with prairie bloom, and the scarlet of almost-ripe blackberries!


Baptisia and rattlesnake master still added white accents.  

Stopped at the Freyfogel overlook and succeed in spotting the royal catchfly, but did not go out for a closeup.  


From inside the overlook got a view of a resting tree swallow. 


Near the overlook was happy to find purple prairie clover with (pink) Monarda and (purple) showy tick trefoil. 

Saw plenty of healthy, happy-looking yellow cone flowers.  

  (Yellow) rosinweed flowers asserted their radial design against the cloud-textured and blue sky

with tall Coreopsis in the background. 

Once again, it was good get out and be a witness to the height of summer. 

Sunday 6 July 2014. White Prairie Clover

At 5:38 this morning it was 64 degrees F and cloudy, last night’s heavy rain still in evidence. Well, it doesn’t look like there will be a drought this summer; maybe there will be too much rain. Optimal conditions (which of course are not nearly the same for all organisms) are a narrow window.

Decided on a quick trip northward, at least to check the progress of the construction on the Boneyard Creek at Race Street and see what was blooming in front of the Lincoln Bindery.

Happy to report that things seem to be happening on the Boneyard at Race Street.

And was pleasantly surprised by a group of mallard ducks coming around the bend to the west side of Race.

They looked like they might have been a group of siblings, just recently fledged.

Rode though the dark woods on Coler to the little prairie-let in front of the Lincoln Bindery, where the purple prairie clover was doing well, as I’d observed at several other local sites. There was quite a bit of the white species as well, though it was well into the course of its bloom.

Compass plant was starting to bloom here, though there were few (compared to previous years) flower stalks.

The Baptisia were bearing large green pods.

Decided to head back and get in a longer yoga practice, so rounded the corner between Busey Woods and the cemetery and flew down that lovely hill, paying attention to the headstones on the hill to my left. Thought it would be a good image for my last thoughts: giddy flight, underdround the peaceful remains of those who’d already gone, and the soft green woods.

Saw a large group of Crystal Lake Canada geese on the usual corner, between the park and Jimmy John’s. Got a quick shot of them before heading into the rest of the day.


Friday 4 July 2014. Expecting Summer: Some New Yellow Coneflowers and Green Baptisia Pods, and Prairie Clover

On this clear Fouth of July morning, it was 57 beautiful degrees F at 5:13, when I rolled Rhododendron out of the garage. Did not realize how chilly it would be with capris and sandals, even with the cool feather-weight cycling jacket. Brrrr! But tried not to let the discomfort distract from the loveliness of the morning as I headed to Meadowbrook Park, eager to see lots of examples of the flowers I’d seen in the little space on Florida Avenue a few days ago.

Meadowbrook, and nowhere else nearby, that I could tell, had a distinct “throw-blanket” of fog (or mist, when it’s so localized) lying over the middle of the park. It was inviting. E.g., deer always look more picturesque in mist.


The mist condensing on the plants made lovely water-jewels.

Saw the leaves of soon but not yet blooming rosinweed as well as blooming Heliopsis with the mist and the sun rising behind it all. It reminded me of a Rousseau painting of a jungle.

Somehow, though, expected to see more color; instead, what struck me first was the appearance of green pods on the Baptisia.

Was occupied by wondering whether there “should” be compass plant flower stalks appearing; seemed in previous years they’d started to appear by this time, and so did not bother to look for the little patch of purple prairie clover. Did stop at the Freyfogel Overlook to photograph the lead plant, which looked happy, except that the tiny gorgeous flowers on each flower spike seemed not to be blooming together but in relatively narrow bands up the spike.

Got a shot of a small bunch of newly blooming yellow coneflowers with a bit of mist still behind them,

20140704-082335.jpgbut I was, frankly, expecting “more” after several days away from Meadowbrook: more color, more bloom. Was fighting a little feeling of let-down, or wondering what to do with it, when I noticed a good-sized patch of prairie clover in a spot where I hadn’t noticed it before.

Its intense color and the striking geometric pattern formed by the flower buds, which were covered with tiny water beads, as well as the surprise of its location, dispelled the little disappointment. Was content here and ready for whatever the next stage might be.