“Prairies make level roadways for the soul to walk… .”—William A. Quayle
Woodland and savanna wildflowers have stolen the wildflower show over the past few weeks. Bluebells. Celandine poppies.
Dutchman’s breeches. Great white trillium.
Now, they begin to wither and go to seed.
The trout lilies, like so many of our spring wildflowers, depend on ants for seed dispersal, as do trilliums, violets, and many others. As the spring woodland wildflowers begin their march off of center stage, it’s time for the tallgrass prairie wildflowers to shine.
Let’s go for a hike and take a look.
At a glance, the prairie looks like nothing but green, green, green. But come closer.
Those sunshine swirls of wood betony! Low to the ground with dark red and green crinkly leaves. So unusual.
Also blooming on a prairie near you—golden alexanders.
Be sure and check closely, though. What if the flower is yellow, but has four petals?
It may be yellow rocket, a non-native invasive in Illinois, which is also in bloom.
We pull this invader from the prairie each spring, hoping to slow it down, as we do another member of the mustard family, dame’s rocket. And of course, we pull the garlic mustard—that terror of the woodlands and natural areas. There’s a lot of chatter right now about garlic mustard control. Should we leave garlic mustard alone? Bag it after we pull it? Or wait and hope the garlic mustard aphid shows up to help control the populations? For now, our stewardship group yanks it and piles it. We’ll see what the future holds.
Meanwhile, something is munching the new prairie dock leaves. Two somethings! Interesting.
Nearby, prairie violet is out in full regalia.
The prairie violets are one of several violets native to our tallgrass prairies. Unlike the native common blue violet (Illinois’ state flower), the prairie violet has deeply lobed leaves.
On the Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove, you’ll see it paired with the native wild strawberry.
The Belmont Prairie in Downers Grove wasn’t burned this spring, so I have to look deep in the grasses to find the violet wood-sorrel.
That color! Such a pale lavender.
The leaves of the violet wood-sorrel are as charming as the flowers.
Blue-eyed grass is another charming prairie wildflower.
Ironically, it is neither blue here, nor is it a grass. It’s in the Iris Family. And look at all those pollinators!
But it’s the hoary puccoon that I can’t stop oohing and aahing over today.
The ants seem to appreciate the hoary puccoon as much as I do.
My old friend, bastard toadflax, has opened.
What a beautiful day!
Wildflowers and grasses on the prairie are waking up!
Why not go see?
The opening quote is from William A. Quayle (1860-1925) in The Prairie and the Sea (1905). An excerpt appears in John T. Price’s The Tallgrass Prairie Reader, University of Iowa Press, 2014).
Illinois’ Wild and Wonderful Early Bloomers—Thursday, May 11, 9:30-10:30 a.m. Sponsored by the Hilltop Gardeners Garden Club, Oswego Public Library, Oswego, IL. Free and open to the public. For more information closer to the date, check here.
Dragonflies and Damselflies: Frequent Fliers of the Garden and Prairie, Tuesday, May 16, 10-11:30 via Zoom with the Garden Club of Decatur, IL (closed event for members). For information on joining the club, visit here.
I’m excited to moderate “In Conversation Online with Robin Wall Kimmerer,” June 21, 2023, 7-8 pm via Zoom. Brought to you by “Illinois Libraries Present.” Number of registrations available may be limited, so register here soon!
More classes and programs at www.cindycrosby.com