Monday, August 15, 2016

June to July on the prairie

If the prairie were a person, it late June to July would be a growth spurt into adulthood. In July on  Schulenberg Prairie, there is a lot of new stuff, but there is also a lot of just getting bigger.

Compass plant leaves go from distinctive to enormous, with towering stalks ready to bloom.

Prairie dock leaves become elephantine, and, like their cousins the compass plants, put up giant stalks, soon to become yellow flowers.

The culver's root, which was just starting to bloom in June, is in full bloom (and being enhjoyed by pollinators) in July.

Culver's root bloom in June
Culver's root bloom in July

And the white false indigo blooms have followed a similar timeline.

Exuberant in July
Just beginning in June

Other plentiful blooms include rattlesnake master and purple (and white) prairie clover. Lead plant grew in steely clumps, though I didn't get any closeup pics. I'm sorry I missed seeing them close up—their shimmering purple-to-orange heads are mesmerizing.

The coneflower was on its way out, though there were still legions of false sunflower.

On the guided walk I took at Morton Arboretum in June, our guide, Cindy Crosby, pointed out this lovely bough. It was a carrion flower, a creepy name (inspired by the blooms' smell, evidently) for an elegant-looking plant. 

Carrion flower bough, June
Delicate round carrion flower blooms

When I went to the same spot in July, there was no trace of the plant. Poof! Gone. 'Til next year.

July -- carrion flower bough and blooms are gone

What a beautiful festival of textures and colors.

A beautiful July prairie scene. 

And, as always, there are a thousand million blooms and plants I can't identify! Here are, well...three. Prairie hive mind what be these stems? Update: Many thanks to Mark, who identified these in the comments! The purple spike looks like hairy hedge nettle. The pods indicate a tick-trefoil, probably showy tick trefoil. The shrub is smooth sumac. I feel like I should have known at least the last. In the fall the sumac is so fire-red that it should be impossible to forget. 

hairy hedge nettle

tick tefoil

smooth sumac
smooth sumac

Thursday, July 28, 2016

May to June on the Prairie

If the prairie were a person, early June would be tweenhood. There are delicate blooms and fresh greens on low growth, as in May -- but there are new elements, too, elements that communicate the beginnings of a more seasoned reception to the world.

The prairie dock is still bright green, but it's more sandpapery, more enormous, and less fuzzy than its cute toddler self.

sweet fuzzy toddler prairie dock

Tweenaged prairie dock

The wild hyacinth and shooting star are gone; in their place, pale beardstongue and prairie rose, among others, fulfill the role of graceful plants low to the ground.
Shooting star and hyacinth fields in May
Prairie rose
Pale Beardstongue

The earlier plants aren't totally gone, of course. Here's a shooting star in May and one in June, after it's gone to seed. To an untrained eye like mine, they look like different plants, though the shape of the cluster of blooms lends a hint to their kinship.

Shooting star, May
Shooting star, June

Tougher-stalked, higher blooms abound--coneflowers, false quinine.

The wild white indigo has unfolded its pea-family leaves extravagantly, leaving no indication of its former strong resemblance to asparagus. Blossoms have started, too.
Wild white indigo in May
Wild white indigo in June

The first blooms - June

Black-eyed susans, indian plantain, and tall compass plant blooms are making themselves known.

black-eyed susan
Indian plantain
Compass plant

Rattlesnake masters' distinctive leaves were visible in here come their buds, in June.

Rattlesnake master, May
Rattlesnake master bud, June

There are also sprays of tiny blooms this month: pale clouds of bedstraw, scurfy pea, and baby budding leadplant. There are milkweed (common and butterfly) and prairie phlox, lots of spiderwort and false sunflower, and so much more. All props go to Schulenberg Prairie in Morton Arboretum, an incredible place. Many conservative plants--rare plants that were once numerous before we paved and grazed every square mile of the Midwest, but that cannot survive in disturbed areas--reside there.

The June photos are from a guided walk with Cindy Crosby at Morton Arboretum. I love these walks, as I learn so much more, and so much faster, than I would going on my own and looking up each of these blooms. I in fact have a folder full unidentified-plant photos from each unaccompanied visit. I look forward to the day I can skim through and add names to each, wondering to myself how I ever could have not known these old friends.

Speaking of, can anyone identify this May flower?

Update: Mark in the comment below as well as Spiderwort on Twitter have kindly identified this plant as white blue-eyed grass. Thanks, guys!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

What a difference a month makes...April to May at Schulenberg Prairie

I've returned to Schulenberg Prairie in May and June to check out the prairie's changes since my April visit. The June photos'll come later. Here's the April to May transition. You might recall in early spring the prairie had recently been burned and things were just beginning to grow.

This was taken April 27.

And the photo below, a little ways down the path, was taken May 22.

Look at the growth in prairie dropseed between April 27 and May 22...

...And look how the plants' growth changed the texture of the landscape.

In April I saw shooting star, wood betony, little baby prairie dock leaves, the prairie dropseed fairy circles.

In May the shooting stars remained--flourished--there were whole fields of 'em, not just hardy early-birds.

Here's a closeup of these pretty flowers.

Compass plant and prairie dock had emerged. I think of these large-and-distinctive-leaved plants as anchors or signposts in the prairie reefscape.

Wild hyacinth was also growing with abandon. Apparently deer love to snack on the stuff, so it's hard to come by in the forest preserves--I guess deer are not allowed in Morton. Some wood betony remained, but it was fading, and cream false indigo was ascending in its place.

High, strong plants looking exactly like asparagus were everywhere--I learned later, on the June walk, that these are young white false indigo.

Now, looking back at my April pictures, I can understand what's going on here.

It's prairie dropseed, with itty bitty sprouting cream wild indigo amongst its soft blades. How sweet! If my theory is correct, here's what this sort of arrangement grew into:

UPDATE: Thanks to Will Overbeck on the Habitat 2030 Facebook page for correcting my guess here...the young plant in the April picture is false toadflax, not cream indigo. 

Here's a mystery for me...this is so distinct a plant, but I don't know what it is. Can someone tell me? Update: It's starry false solomon's seal. Thank you Daniel Suarez!