Saturday 23 June 2018. Catching up with the Bloom at Meadowbrook, and Catching a Little Rain Just South

It was 64 degrees F under cloudy skies at

7:00 this morning (just before which spotted this perfect exoskeleton of a nymphal cicada) as I went to the garage expecting to take Rhododendron to the KRT to St. Joseph.

But Rhododendron was not in the garage; after a very brief moment of panic remembered that my husband picked me up from my job assignment at Clark-Lindsey yesterday and I’d forgotten to load the bike in the car.

So the plan changed from the KRT to a circle of Meadowbrook and maybe a ride south on Race Street. l drove to CL and parked in the lot: unlocked my bike, and headed east along Windsor Road for a counter-clockwise circle of the park.

The spiderwort still were plenty evident, but they bore lots of brown seed heads, indicating that more of their bloom was behind rather than ahead of them.

But false sunflowers,

purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans

yellow coneflowers,

and compass plants

were just beginning their bloom.

Farther down the path, at the viewing platform, the apparently expanding (compared to previous recent years) patch of lead plant was in mid-bloom,

as was the Baptisia.

Framed by lead plant blooms was this new inflorescence of rattlesnake master.

Decided that lead plant is much more spectacular in detail than from a distance.

Noticed that wild quinine, also in mi-bloom,

was more abundant than I remember from previous years.

Noticed a patch of pasture rose already full of green hips.

All along through the prairie, the common milkweed still was full of fragrant pink spheres of flowers, but didn’t stop to photograph them till I saw this one next to an early Monarda bloom.

Noticed that the wet place where the irises and cardinal flowers appear (in their respective times) was quite grown up with willows.

Tree swallows (there were three, all flew at my approach,and one returned) perched on a bird house.

Continued on and crossed McCullough Creek (which was quite full) at the rabbit statue bridge,

opposite my usual direction of travel.

Did not go straight out to Race Street but continued north on the path and exited near the “wonky Christmas tree,”

which looked like it had been trimmed (or had grown) since I observed it last.

Turned south on Race Street toward the open farm fields, where there was incredible corn!

Light rain began to fall before I reached Old Church so turned back

Was surprised by two deer, right next to the road.

They were completely unperturbed by my stopping to photograph them.

Then returned to the CL lot, packed the bike into the car and headed home, somewhat better synchronized with the season.

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Sunday 18 March 2018. Frost, and Spring on Hold

It was 27 degrees F and clear at 7:20 this morning as I aimed Shadow toward Meadowbrook Park.

Although the sun was shining and I was eager to be down the road, it was a bit of effort to get moving. The cold air and thoughts of coffee and sitting down to catch up on blog posts 😉 kept me a little away from fully enjoying the first moments of the ride. It brought to mind how even some quite exothermic chemical reactions require the input of activation energy. Am I right?

But by arrival at Meadowbrook, I felt fully engaged in the frosty morning.

First stop was across Race Street from Meadowbrook, at pile of logs next to the U of I Forestry plantation.

So many trees have been cut down, most apparently in poor condition. Hopefully those remaining will better tolerate whatever plagued the others.

Thought maybe the Sensory Garden near the Race Street entrance to the park would have some exotic bulbs in bloom; on the way caught a view of the early sun rays slanting through the frosty organic garden plots.

The Sensory Garden bulb flowers seemed to be suppressed by the cold.

Then rode to the rabbit-statue bridge for the customary view of the confluence of Douglas and McCullough creeks.

Looked like someone had cleared a lot of the remains of last year’s (or more) streamside growth. Made it look like a much more finite pace than when I’d seen cardinal flowers there in late summer.

Around the corner in the prairie were winter-worn stalks and seed-heads of prairie plants, topped with ice crystals, through which the sun shone.

There were goldenrod,

yellow coneflower,

thistle,

nodding wild rye grass.

At the Freyfogle observation deck saw worn stalks and seed parts of compass plant

rattlesnake master,

and Baptisia pods

supported by thorny canes of blackberry.

Then rode via Windsor Road and First Street to Midtown Champaign for an avocado stack and pour-over at Flying Machine Avionics.

In the last throes of winter, my interest in the brown plant-shapes was limited, lovey though they were. Could feel yearning for the coming (when?) tender, colorful, new growth. But, dressed appropriately, did very much enjoy the crisp air and the ride.

Sunday 12 November 2017. Velo Noir

It was 38 degrees F under cloudy (occasionally yielding light rain) skies at above 7:30 am as I took Shadow (also newly rejuvenated by the wonderful wizards of Neutral Cycle) out to Meadowbrook Park! At last!!

Passed the once mushroom-harboring grove of spruce trees without expectation of seeing any mushrooms, nor spotting any with a casual glance, but my eye was caught by a red balloon in a place where once Amanita muscaria mushrooms had been.

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Once stopped to photograph the “false mushroom,” decided to give a closer look to the area, just to be sure there actually was nothing there.

But to my surprise, there were mushrooms!

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They were not present in large numbers, but they were good-sized and robust, mostly in early stages of “fruiting.”

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And here, like a reverse of The Wizard of Oz, I fade to black and white.

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So, I fell for a Facebook challenge. (Thanks, Sheila!) It is a different perspective.

At Meadowbrook Park did not want to pass a little family with a stroller and dog to take my usual route so headed in a clockwise direction around the park.

Stopped to observe the already chromatically subdued landscape with the black-and-white modification of the iPhone camera.

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The black and white format was good for capturing the texture of mountain mint seed heads, which I’ve always liked but found hard to photograph.

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Saw seed heads of rattlesnake master.

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Got an extreme closeup of a little spider crawling (still awake?!) on a sculpture.

It made apparent how limestone is made of masses of tiny shell fragments. Also it kind of looked to me like a belly button.

Saw Baptisia pods, which are always good for a little drama in the fading prairie landscape.

Curled compass plant foliage showed its prickles.

Goldenrod seed heads were like a layer of foam.

At the Marker statue searched for any remaining bottle gentians; there was only this:

a Halloween version of the flower, which didn’t look much different in color. Ah, the yearly passage to winter.

Stopped at the rabbit-statue bridge over McCullough Creek.

It looked especially dense and tangled, especially the reflections, even with fading vegetation.

On the way out of the park found a scene that actually did not look so sinister in the mandatory black and white.

Don’t know if I’ll continue this black and white approach, but this time it was fun.

Saturday 19 August 2017. First Cream Gentians, Last Royal Catchfly

It was about 64 degrees F, the sky spread with a diaphanous but ragged sheet of cloud this morning at 6:03 as I guided the newly re-born Rhododendron (which has been riding “like butter,” thank you, Neutral Cycle!) toward Meadowbrook Park.

August has been dry and wondered whether any royal catchfly or cardinal flowers would remain. So my quest was to see what they looked like at this stage of summer.

At Meadowbrook walked Rhododendron toward the Art and Billie Spomer Prairie. To the east, the wooded area looked parched and damaged,

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reminding me of some recent events in my life and in the world at large. Is this the direction of everything? Is entropy winning already?

But walked on, over the little wooden bridge spanning a dry bed of McCullough Creek.

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As I walked in, there were wingstem,

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thistle,

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wild senna,

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ironweed,

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delicate big bluestem flowers,

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the last Baptisia flowers,

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Physostegia,

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compass plant,

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Gaura,

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tick trefoil,

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cup plant

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the ever-handsome false sunflower,

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rosinweed.

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And then, cream gentian.

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And then, lots of cream gentian!

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Just under the “vegetation line” they were in recent abundance, the clusters of pointed white flowers, pristine and vigorous. Wondered whether the recent lack of rain was especially favorable for them.

Wondered whether there were any royal catchfly left; did not see any from the path. But walked in a little where I knew they’d been and looked carefully and there they were, the last of the bright red stars.

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Saw a lovely cluster of wild quinine flowers lit by the rising sun

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The prairie was resplendent with the early sun slanting through the mist on this floral array! Thoughts of damage were banished.

Close to the end of the soft path, encountered a deer (maybe more than one; it’s getting hard to remember), a frequent, but because of their size always noteworthy, occurrence at Meadowbrook Park.

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At the end of the soft path where it joined the paved path near the little arch bridge over Davis Creek were blooming wild sage, in their striking shade of light blue.

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On the way to the rabbit-statue bridge saw cardinal flowers, advanced in their bloom, at the recently discovered easy-access location.

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Stopped on the rabbit-statue bridge and saw still several spikes of red!

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Did not go in; was glad at least I’d been close to the red flowers a little earlier.

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They were marvelous, even at a distance.

Then home.

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.

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 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!