If you’re going to color a prairie landscape, reach for your box of crayons.
Chocolate brown for the bison.
Butter yellow for the prairie coreopsis.
Or a slightly smudged, battered yellow crayon for the prescribed burn crew’s jackets, as they set fires that keep the prairies and savannas healthy. (You’ll need the orange crayon for the flames).
Keep that bright orange crayon out– you’ll need it for the butterfly weed.
Black for the ebony jewelwing damselfly’s wings. Iridescent green, for the rest of his body, if you can find it. (You might need the big box).
The scarlet and lime green crayons for sumac in September.
Contrasted with the pure white of the New Jersey tea flowers in summer. Press hard, or the white won’t show up.
The softer white of a great egret.
The pale pink of a thousand shooting stars in spring.
Shade the pink with the lightest lavender crayon in the box for the pale purple coneflowers of summer. Add more intense purple for the vervain.
Take out the sky blue crayon. Use it generously.
Add some violet to the sky blue, reflected in the rich color of gentians, nestled deep in the grasses.
Then, scribble magenta for the ironweed of autumn.
Followed by the dark navy globes of the carrion flower, gone to seed, winding through the tallgrass. Shade the globes with purple and black.
So many colors!
You’ve only pulled a few of the many crayons you’ll need to color the prairie landscape from your prairie crayon box.
(All photographs by Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): bison, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; prairie coreopsis (Coreopsis palmata), Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prescribed burn crew, NG; butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), SP; ebony jewelwing damselfly, NG; sumac, NG; New Jersey tea (Ceanothus americanus), SP; great egret, NG; shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia), SP; pale purple coneflowers (Echinacea pallida), NG; road to the sky, NG; gentians (Gentiana puberulenta), SP; ironweed (Vernonia altissima), NG, carrion flowers gone to seed, NG (Smilax herbacea).