“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you would drop dead in ten seconds. See the world.” — Ray Bradbury
Hot. Humid. Did I mention, it’s hot?
So many reasons to stay inside with the air conditioning on, preferably while sipping a cold beverage.
And yet. This is one of the most beautiful months on the tallgrass prairie. A new wildflower species seems to open—in vivid technicolor—every day. Monarchs float like magnets toward milkweed. Tiny Halloween pennant dragonflies dazzle in their dance with the grasses and sedges.
Big bluestem shoots up, over our heads now in the wetter places, ready to unfurl its turkeyfoot at any moment. Switchgrass shakes out her seedheads. Compass plants burst into their first sunshine blooms.
Prairie cinquefoil’s clusters of flowers appear as if by magic. Invisible, until bloom time.
Inhale the smell of crisp mountain mint; the tang of bee balm. Listen! Is that a common yellow throat, yo-yo-ing its summer song? July is passing. Don’t miss it!
Not convinced? Here are 10 reasons to hike the prairie this week. Let the countdown begin.
#10. Hummingbird moths, such as this snowberry clearwing, zip from bee balm bloom to bee balm bloom.
#9. Rare plants, like this eastern prairie fringed orchid are no less beautiful for being just-past peak. Plus a bonus lady spotted beetle.
#8. Meadowhawk dragonflies. The Japanese haiku poet Basho wrote of the red Odonates: “Crimson pepper pod/add two wings/darting dragonfly.” Perfect.
#7. Michigan lilies. Enough said.
#6. Queen of the prairie, so pretty in royal pink (and smelling of roses!).
#5. Calico pennant dragonflies. This one’s a boy.
#4. Mountain mint in bloom. I can’t resist popping a leaf or two into my mouth. Bonus: a margined leatherwing beetle.
#3. July’s pop-up thunderstorms. The drama of being alone on the tallgrass prairie as one suddenly rolls in is a cheap adrenaline rush for the thrill seeker. Recommended action: Vamoose!
#2. Milkweed in bloom. Prairie milkweed…
…and butterflyweed, with a visiting monarch. Both native milkweeds are attractive to these famous flyers.
#1. Rattlesnake master: Silver spheres in the sunlight. So ethereal.
Ten reasons to put down your phone, close your laptop, and go discover what you can add to the above list on your prairie walk.
Ten good reasons to hike the prairie in July.
Ready? Let’s go.
The quote that opens this post is from writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), born in Waukegon, IL, and best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451. He wrote many works of fiction, including the Illinois classic based loosely on his childhood, Dandelion Wine.
All photos copyright Cindy Crosby (top to bottom): July at Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie, Glen View, IL; green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) and Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius) on Illinois bundleflower (Desmanthus illinoensis), West Side prairie planting, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; female Halloween pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) on a sedge, possibly Muhlenberg’s sedge? (Carex muehlenbergi), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie cinquefoil (Drymocallis arguta), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; snowberry clearwing hummingbird moth (Hemaris diffinis) on bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; eastern prairie fringed orchid (Plantanthera leucophaea) with spotted lady beetle (Coleomegilla maculata), Illinois preserve; meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum spp.) on purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), West Side field, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Michigan lily ( Lilium michiganense) with purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) in the background, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; queen of the prairie (Filipendula rubra), author’s backyard prairie patch, Glen Ellyn, IL; male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa), on purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; margined leatherwing beetle (Chauliognathus marginatus) on common mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum), West Side field, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pop-up thunderstorm over the Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie milkweed (Asclepias sullivantii) with a sprinkling of unknown ant species (Formicidae), Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie, Glen View, IL; butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) Kent Fuller Air Station Prairie, Glen View, IL; rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL. Thanks to Benjamin Vogt for his reminder of queen of the prairie’s fragrance.
Cindy’s Upcoming Speaking and Events:
August 2, 8-11:30 a.m., Prairie Ethnobotany: How People Have Used Prairie Plants Throughout History, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL. Register here.
August 12, 7-8:30 p.m., Dragonflies and Damselflies: The Garden’s Frequent Flyers, Fox Valley Garden Club, Aurora, IL. Free and open to the Public. Details here.
August 19-22, 8-5 p.m. daily, National Association for Interpretation Certified Interpretive Guide Training, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL. Register here.
August 29, 7-8:30 p.m., Summer Literary Series: Tallgrass Conversations: In Search of the Prairie Spirit. Hope aboard the Morton Arboretum’s tram and enjoy a cool beverage, then listen to Cindy talk about the “prairie spirit” on the beautiful Schulenberg Prairie, the fourth oldest prairie restoration in the world. Register here.
See more at http://www.cindycrosby.com