Prairie Possibilities

Two weeks ago the prairie was a smoldering ruin. Now, it brims with possibility.

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There’s a surge of energy as green shoots push against ash and earth to break through to sunshine. Wood betony is immediately recognizable.

All that curly red!

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Ditto for the rattlesnake master, whose yucca-like leaves are ID-friendly from the tiniest sprouts. The scientific species name, yuccifolium, speaks volumes about how the leaves appear. Yucca! Of course.

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Despite all the new growth, the prairie is at least a week behind last season’s flowering schedule. Not a bloom in sight. However, there’s plenty of floral action in the adjacent edges of the prairie savanna. Bloodroot is opening under the trees.

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An evocative name, isn’t it? Earned because of the reddish sap that flows when you break the root. Artists use the sap to create a natural red, pink, or orange dye for baskets and textiles.

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Bluebells are budding. Wild ginger leaves emerge. Striped spring beauties splash the grass with pink, making a starry carpet under the oaks. Spring beauties are sometimes called “fairy spuds” as foragers treat the small roots of some species like miniature potatoes. I think they’re too pretty to eat.

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The umbrellas of mayapples gradually unfurl.

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Everywhere you look is the promise of something exciting. It’s the start of a new prairie year.

And you begin to believe that anything is possible.

(All photos by Cindy Crosby taken at The Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie greening up; wood betony; rattlesnake master, bloodroot; bloodroot in full bloom; spring beauty; mayapple.)

2 responses to “Prairie Possibilities

  1. Wow, I’ve never noticed rattlesnake master – have to look for it. Also, did not know about the “fairy spud” roots. Can the roots be eaten of the one you have pictured?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great question, Sondra. This one is Claytonia virginica. There are also some other species in North America called “spring beauties.” Check out this article online for more information. As always, be sure you know what you’re eating before you sample! http://www.eattheweeds.com/spring-beauty/

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