“Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented culture, and doing nothing is hard to do. It’s best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.”–Rebecca Solnit
High winds. Soaring temperatures. Sunshine and storms in the forecast. Let’s go for a hike and see what’s happening on the tallgrass prairie at the end of April.
Small clumps of sand phlox spangle the green.
The pasque flowers, transplanted from the greenhouse only a few weeks ago, made it through the mid-April freeze. One plant puts out a tentative bloom.
Look at all that growth, after the prescribed fire! The newly-minted wildflower leaves are up, as are the tiny spears of prairie grasses.
Listen! Can you hear that buzzy rattle? Insects are out and about, dusted with pollen. I wonder what flowers they raided for all that gold plunder?
A miner’s bee hangs out on Indian plantain leaves.
Shooting star, deep pink at the base, prepares to launch its orgy of flowers. The prairies are full of these charmers, which mostly go unnoticed until they bloom. Soon! Soon.
Violets are everywhere in various color combinations: blue, purple, yellow, and white with purple centers.
Many homeowners and visitors to the prairie dismiss this humble but weedy plant, but I’m in awe of its delights—from giving us the makings of perfume, the joy of a candied flower on a cake, the treatment for a headache, or the edible, nutritious leaves, high in vitamin C. The violet can explosively shoot its seeds away from the mother plant, dispersing the seeds in a new location. It also relies on ants to move its seeds around (a process known as myrmecochory).
If you look closely—and with a bit of luck—you might find the native prairie violet (Viola pedatifida), a highly-prized member of the prairie community.
Look at that fan of distinctive leaves. So unusual.
In late April, the wood betony leaves provide more color than some of the plant blooms.
The trout lilies—with their trout-like speckled leaves–invite pollinators to check them out. What a banner year this prairie and woodland wildflower is having! I think the trout lilies look like sea stars—or perhaps, each one a parachuter about to land. What do you think?
A clump of wild coffee leaves (sometimes called “late horse gentian”) reminds me I’ve not yet had my cup of java this morning.
Time to head home and pour a mug.
A whole prairie season lies ahead. I’ll be back.
The opening quote is from Rebecca Solnit (1961-), who has written more than 20 books on topics ranging from writing and wandering, the environment, western history, to feminism. If you haven’t read Solnit, try Wanderlust: A History of Walking (2001).
Join Cindy for a program or class this spring!
A Brief History of Trees in America: Online, Wednesday, April 28, 7-8 pm CST Sponsored by Friends of the Green Bay Trail and the Glencoe Public Library. From oaks to sugar maples to the American chestnut: trees changed the course of American history. Discover the roles of a few of our favorite trees in building our nation as you remember and celebrate the trees influential in your personal history and your garden. Register here.
Spring Wildflowers of Prairies and Woodlands Online: Thursday, May 6, 6:30-8 p.m. Join Cindy for a virtual hike through the wildflowers of late spring! Hear how wildflowers inspire literature and folklore. Discover how people throughout history have used wildflowers as medicine, groceries, and love charms. Register here.
Plant A Backyard Prairie: Online, Wednesday, June 9 and Friday, June 11, 11am-12:30pm CST –Bring the prairie to your doorstep! Turn a corner of your home landscape into a pocket-size prairie. If you think prairie plants are too wild for a home garden, think again! You can create a beautiful planted area that welcomes pollinators and wildlife without raising your neighbors’ eyebrows. In this online class, you will learn: how to select the right spot for your home prairie; which plants to select and their many benefits, for wildlife, and for you; creative ways to group plants for a pleasing look, and how to care for your prairie. Plus, you’ll get loads of inspiration from beautiful photos and stories that will bring your backyard prairie to life before you even put a single plant in the ground. Register here.