Ten Reasons to Hike the July Prairie

“The article-as-numbered-list has several features that make it inherently captivating… there’s little that our brains crave more than effortlessly acquired data.”–Maria Konnikova

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Dishes are piled in the sink. Freelance work needs completed; evinced by piles of paper and notes everywhere. Unread library books, now overdue, rattle around in the back seat of my Honda. My to-do list now spans several pages.

What to tackle first? None of these. Time to go for a prairie hike. Here are 10 reasons why:

#10: July’s prairie bouquets. Combine gray-headed coneflower, wild bergamot, and the various white prairie wildflowers. Result? Spectacular.

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#9. The mesmerizing sounds of a prairie stream. This stream at Nachusa Grasslands was linked to a beaver pond until the beavers abandoned it last season. In only a year, the changes in the landscape are impressive.

 

 

 

#8. Unbelievably beautiful butterflies float the July prairie, like this black tiger swallowtail.

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Sometimes you get a bonus: a double dose of fritillaries.

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#7. Summer is all about springwater damselflies. This one’s a male.

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#6. July is a great time to see different species of blazing star wildflowers in bud…

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…and in bloom.

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#5. Compass plants send their profusion of periscope blooms across the prairie.

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#4. The delightful freckled wild horsemint is reason enough to hike the prairie right now. I think the flowers look like the circus came to town. What do they remind you of?

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#3. Those July blues…blue vervain, that is. Almost purple, isn’t it?

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#2. Signs of hope are everywhere. But especially here.

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#1. And everywhere you look on the July prairie is the promise of future adventures.

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My to-do list will still be there when I return home. But the July prairie won’t wait. Every day is different. Every day is full of surprises. When I look back on how I spent this day….

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…I won’t have any regrets.

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The opening quote is from Maria Konnikova, whose article “A List of Reasons our Brains Love Lists”  from The New Yorker explains these little scraps of paper I have laying around everywhere. Check it out.

All of the photos and the video clip this week are from Nachusa Grasslands, a Nature Conservancy site in Franklin Grove, IL, except the compass plants from Fermilab as noted (top to bottom): gray-headed coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and various white wildflowers; old beaver pond turned stream; black swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes);  two meadow fritillary butterflies (Boloria bellona)–thanks Doug Taron for ID help; springwater dancer damselfly (Argia plana); rough blazing star in bud (Liatris aspera) ; blazing star in bloom (Liatris spp.); compass plants (Silphium laciniatum) at Fermilab Natural Areas, Batavia, IL; horsemint (Monarda punctata villicualis); blue vervain (Verbena hastata); monarch (Danaus plexippus) on swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata); gravel two-track through the July prairie; prairie in my Honda’s rear view mirror.

8 responses to “Ten Reasons to Hike the July Prairie

  1. Jim Vanderpoel

    I was there on Saturday–I also saw a meadow fritillary, which was a first for me. I did not see the bison. The restoration was looking great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The meadow fritillaries were new for me, too! And yes, the bison were in hiding when I was there as well. I think they like the cooler shadier areas in July. Thanks for the encouragement on the restoration — the staff and crew at Nachusa — and the restoration volunteers and stewards — are working hard towards that! Grateful for you reading and commenting, Jim.

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  2. faithanncolburn

    I sold my farm about a year ago and really miss being able to walk the pastures I’d been tramping since I was a little kid. Trouble was, I couldn’t maintain the buildings. I just wanted to say, I’ve never seen anything out there that looks anything like the freckled wild horsemint. I live in Nebraska and I see you teach in the Chicago area. Is that where you found the plant you photographed?

    Liked by 1 person

    • So good to hear from you, Faithann! It sounds like your farm was a very special place. That wild horsemint also goes by the nickname “spotted beebalm.” It’s from Nachusa Grasslands in Franklin Grove, IL, about 90 miles west of Chicago. I had never seen it until a few years ago and it made me smile! If you get a chance to visit Nachusa Grasslands, you’ll see more than 700 different species of plants! Nice to know there is so much beauty — and hilarity! in the plant world, isn’t there? Thanks for reading, and for taking time to drop me a note. Hope you can find some new peaceful places to hike.

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  3. Jim Vanderpoel

    I also saw that horsemint species and golden aster and a pink flower that I thought might be a meadow beauty–my phone died so I couldn’t get a picture:(. I loved seeing some plants that you don’t see at other Chicago area prairies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful !!!!! Nice ending. Your Dad

    Liked by 1 person

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