Saturday, May 14, 2016

Lunchtime walks through suburban woods

I am contracting right now at an office located near a wooded area humbly named Dam #4 East. The wood is close to the airport, situated within the long swath of Cook County Forest Preserve following the Des Planes River. I often head over there at lunchtime to practice and build on the spring-wildflower identification strategies I learned in that short course at Morton Arb.

The first day I went out there, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I recognized, and frankly kind of proud. I felt pretty thoroughly novice in the class.
wild ginger
I love peaking under the distinctive heart-shaped leaves to find that weird hairy little organ-colored flower tucked away just doing its job, attracting flies and other non-glamorous spring-pollinators.


I love the mayapple's big, weird, meaty flower under its big weird, simultaneously gaudy and elegant umbrella of leaves. The umbrellas seem to like to travel in herds.

I conflated the phlox and the geranium at first because of the flower color, but the flowers and especially the leaves are very different. After just a couple encounters it seemed weird I ever made that mistake.

woodland phlox
wild geranium

Anyone have any idea why these two trillium have such very different shaped leaves? Are the narrow leaves just a younger plant?

toadshade trillium
toadshade trillium

I also took pictures of species I didn't recognize, and sleuthed out what (I think) they are later.

This is called a Virginia Water Plant, so named because of the spots on the leaves, which resemble drops of water. The following week, the plants had flowered, and it looks like they also pretty promptly started to produce fuzzy balls of seeds.
Virginia water plant

I read that only the early spring individuals get the water-droplet look. You can see this difference in the two photos.

On the left...this little beauty is called 'Spring Beauty." And on the right, "Ooooh!" I  thought. "What is this pretty interesting nodding trio of leaves?" Ummm, thar be poison ivy.

Spring Beauty
Poison Ivy

Every time I go I see something new, and new flowers blooming. I think this is rue anemone. It doesn't appear to be false rue anemone, which is more common, as it looks like it has more than five petals.

The other photo is of a pretty little sedge that caught my eye. I just planted one of this type in our new backyard native-plant garden.

rue anemone

And now, to end with a question. I saw one of these just today in Oxbow prairie, so I don't think it's an errant, I don't know, chard or anything. What is this?

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