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


  1. The purple spike is a Hedge Nettle or Woundwort, Stachys sp. They can be differentiated by stem hairs. The pods indicate a Tick-trefoil, probably Desmodium canadense. The shrub is Rhus glabra, Smooth Sumac.