Tag Archives: cream wild indigo

The Fault in Our (Shooting) Stars

“Cherish your science but understand it as a finite guide to the immensities of time and space…Look far. Dance with the world rather than try to explain it away. Consider the boat, not just the planks. Seize knowledge. Ask hard questions. But know, too, that your intellect is a small window and that its views can be surprisingly incomplete. Feel deeply.” — William J. Broad.

******

What a week it is shaping up to be on the tallgrass prairie! Rain and cool weather are bringing out the blooms. Small white lady’s slippers are in their full splendor. Like tiny white boats floating in a sea of grass.

SPMA51918wm.jpg

The first bright pops of hoary puccoon show up along the trail.

hoarypuccoonSPMA51918wm.jpg

Nearby, another pop of orange. An immature female eastern forktail damselfly. So common—and yet so welcome right now.  Emergence of dragonflies and damselflies has been slow this spring, due to the cool, wet weather.

femaleeasternforktailSPMA51918wm.jpg

Cream wild indigo doesn’t mind the cool conditions. It jumps right into its opening act.

Mayontheprairie51918.jpg

creamindigo51918wm

The wild hyacinths add their delicate scent and good looks in washes of lavender across the prairie.

wildhyacinthtrioSPMA51918wm.jpg

So many beautiful prairie wildflowers blooming this week, you hardly know which way to look. And oh, the juxtapositions! This blue-eyed grass is swirled into an embrace by wood betony.

woodbetonyblueeyedgrassSPMA51918wm.jpg

While nearby, a butterfly conducts surveillance runs across the low grasses and forbs.

americansnoutspma51918wm.jpg

But the literal star of the prairie stage this week is Dodecatheon meadia. The shooting star.

 

shootingstarSPMA51918wm.jpg

Its pink clouds of flowers are so unusual. Look at that bloom shape!

shootingstardreamySPMA52918.jpg

Now, think “tomato blossom.” Or the blooms of eggplants and potatoes. Similar, no?

shootingstarallstagesSPMA51918.jpg

Shooting star is a tease. She beckons bumblebees with her good looks. They zip by, then pause, perhaps shocked by all that floral abundance. Buzz in for a closer look.

shootingstarcloseup51918wm.jpg

What the bumblebees don’t know right away is this: Shooting star has no nectar reward. The only “fault” in this star to speak of! Nonetheless, you can see this bumblebee in the photo below stick out its tongue. Looking for nectar? Grooming itself? Or perhaps letting me know it is time to quit taking photos?

shootingstarbumblebeetongue51918.jpg

As the bumblebee clings to the underside of the bloom, it vibrates its strong wing muscles. They emit a high-pitched buzz. This causes the pollen to be shaken out of the anthers onto the underside of the bee. The process is known as “buzz pollination” or “sonication.” Honeybees can’t do it. Their muscles aren’t strong enough.  Which emphasizes the need for native bee conservation, doesn’t it?

Can you see the pollen in the photo below? Like yellow dust.

shootingstarbumblebeepollenSPMA51918.jpg

As the bumblebee moves on, it carries some of the pollen with it, cross-pollinating other shooting star flowers as it visits each one. Bumblebees also eat pollen, and feed to their bumblebee young.  Click on  this great video for more info that’s been helpful to me in understanding the process.

clusterofshootingstarSPMA51918.jpg

Watch the shooting stars. Listen to what they have to tell us.  They are another reason to care about the natural world and all its creatures.

Then pause.

“Dance with the world rather than try and explain it.”

Make a wish.

*****

The opening quote from William J. Broad’s The Oracle was taken from Flora of the Chicago Region by Gerould Wilhelm and Laura Rericha.

All photos and video this week are from The Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL: (top to bottom) small white lady’s slipper orchid (Cypripedium candidum);  hoary puccoon (Lithospermum canescens); common eastern forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis), female; cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata) and bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata); cream indigo (Baptisia bracteata) with bastard toadflax (Comandra umbellata) in the background; wild hyacinth (Camassia scilloides) blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium albidum) with wood betony (Pedicularis candadensis); possibly American snout butterfly (Libytheana carinenta) although the “snout” isn’t clear;  constellation of shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia); shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia); shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia); shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia); shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) with bumblebee performing buzz pollination (note the tongue sticking out!); shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) with bumblebee (unknown species) vibrating out the pollen; shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) close up; video of shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) waving in the breeze. 

May Daze on the Prairie

“The world’s favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May.” — Edwin Way Teale

On a sunny day in May, find a high place to survey the tallgrass prairie.

IMG_5015

 

Look for the lovely lupine, which paints patches of the prairie purple.

IMG_5016.jpg

 

Hike a trail, and hunt for May-apples. Gently lift an umbrella-like leaf and observe how the flower transitions to fruit.

IMG_4910.jpg

 

Prairie phlox blooms pinwheel through the grasses. Makes you want to do a cartwheel, doesn’t it?

IMG_5039 (1).jpg

 

The smooth, milky-white meadow anemones lift their petals to the sunshine.

IMG_4997 (1).jpg

 

Cream wild indigo is in full bloom; white wild indigo, looking like spears of asparagus, promises to follow. Soon. Soon.

 

Shooting stars flare, reflex their petals, fade; then move toward their grand seed finale.

 

IMG_5036

Wild geraniums finish their explosions of blooms and form seeds, with a tiny insect applauding the performance.

IMG_5059.jpg

 

Wild coffee shows tiny reddish-brown flowers, ready to open.

 

A few blooms of American vetch splash the grasses with magenta…

IMG_5056

 

…while the new buds of pale beardtongue dip and sway, ghost-like in the breeze.

IMG_5069.jpg

Have you been to the prairie yet this month? No? Go!

You won’t want to miss the flower-filled, dazzling days of May.

Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980) , whose quote opens this essay, was born in Joliet, IL. He is best known for “The American Seasons;” four books chronicling his trips across the U.S. His book, Near Horizons (1943),  won the John Burroughs medal for natural history writing.

All photos copyright Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom) Clear Creek Knolls, Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; lupine (Lupinus perennis), Nachusa Grassslands, Franklin Grove, IL; May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa) Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; meadow anemones(Anemone canadensis), Nachusa Grasslands, Franklin Grove, IL; shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata) and wild white indigo (Baptisia alba macrophylla), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and a pollinator, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; two views of wild coffee (late horse gentian) (Triosteum perfoliatum) Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; American vetch (Vicia americana), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; pale beardtongue (penstemon) (Penstemon pallidus), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.