“The sea, the woods, the mountains, all suffer in comparison with the prairie…The prairie has a stronger hold upon the senses.”– – Albert Pike
When you think of October, what comes to mind?
Spectacular changing leaves?
The prairie, which has lost most of its blooms, isn’t on most people’s radar.
Perhaps it should be.
A few blossoms persist in the tallgrass, magnets for insects.
The flowers gone to seed may be as beautiful as the blooms.
Colorful grasses are easily overlooked, but no less worth our attention.
Plant structure has its own beauty.
As do plant silhouettes.
Although the prairie is outwardly in senescence, its sensory pleasures continue. The play of light on prairie dock.
The smell of damp earth. Decaying leaves. The unexpected flight of a buckeye butterfly as you hike a trail.
Soft puffs of seed clusters, which foreshadow the snowflakes, only weeks away.
Unlike the flashy reds and oranges of the autumn woodlands, the prairie is nuanced.
As the year wanes…
…much of this prairie season will be forgotten, fleeting. A blur of colors, textures, fragrances, and sounds.
So let’s walk the prairie trails.
Experience what each day in October has to offer. Soak up every detail. And be grateful that we are here, present in this moment.
The opening quote is from Albert Pike’s Journeys in the Prairie ((1831-32). Pike (1809 –91) was a soldier, poet, newspaper journalist, and early explorer.
All photos copyright Cindy Crosby and are from the Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, unless noted otherwise: pumpkin patch, Jonamac Orchard, Malta, IL; maple in October (Acer spp.), Sterling Pond, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; sumac (Rhus glabra), grasses and forbes at Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; pasture thistle (Cirsium discolor) with unknown bee and insect; non-native chicory (Cichorium intybus) with unknown pollinator; compass plant (Silphium laciniatum); tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris); big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii); big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii); bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), late figwort (Scrophularia marilandica); pasture thistle (Cirsium discolor); prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum); buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia), Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima); pale Indian plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium), little bluestem, Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis); waning October moon; sumac out of focus (Rhus glabra); trail through the prairie in October.