49 minutes of bliss and wonder.
Is it too hot for you to enjoy nature - on a 90 degree day?
At daybreak, weather is heaven.
And just look at how the world glows!
|And just a minute later, with the sun rising and coming out from behind a cloud, the mist is on the run.|
|Purple Prairie Clover, a rare high-quality plant, is just starting to bloom.|
And back behind it, the yellow Canada milk vetch is opening too.
|The Milk Vetches are legumes that in cattle country are called "loco weed."|
Perhaps these are beans that we shouldn't rashly experiment with re-frying.
|If you come bright and early, which I definitely recommend, be prepared to get wet.|
Down the middle of this photo is the preserve path.
You're in the ecosystem, and this wet ecosystem will soak you.
The footpath trails may not look like much in photos, but they're easy to follow, intimate, and allow you to see un-trampled vegetation most everywhere else.
|Wild Bergamot, Mountain Mint, and Big Bluestem (back right).|
|Two mints. Both have square stems and opposite leaves.|
Bergamot is the flavoring of Earl Gray tea.
Mountain Mint tea was appreciated by Native Americans.
|Here the path goes between two clumps of dropseed grass and just to the right of a clumpy plant of rosinweed.|
Rosinweed oozes a sap that Native Americans are said to have mixed with berries and other flavors to make a kind of chewing gum.
|Here the bergamot is backed up by Lead Plant, with purple flower fingers.|
|Compass Plant towers over the tallest person.|
Those white flags marked the trail when the vegetation was shorter.
I don't know who Culver was.
Or what he used this plant's root for.
|Just past the boulder is a brush-pile burn scar.|
Yes, this ecosystem is "under construction."
|These dead leaves were a precious Violet Wood Sorrel.|
That they're dead now is natural. This plant is an "ephemeral."
They enjoy the spring but always go dormant above ground for the summer.
|Here the trail is rich with forbs (wildflowers) but poor in grass.|
A healthy prairie needs both to prosper.
Stewards will sow more rare grass seed here.
|This is Cord Grass - the tallest of the prairie grasses, a wetland species.|
Here, it's in full flower and, unlike many grasses, is visited by lots of pollinators. What's going on?
(That building on the horizon is Underwriters Labs - our neighbor on the north.)
|The northwest part of the loop trail goes through dense brush.|
Winter work for the stewards here.
|People once compared the vast and wind-rippled prairie to a sea. Here, what looks like waves are lines of brush. Most of that should be gone, as the prairie recovers. The other element to see here is the lack of diversity. The wetland in the foreground was degraded hydrologically. Some day it will be rich and flowery once again.|
|Later there's a section with a lot of soon-to-be tall grasses, scattered brush, and few wildflowers. This area was bulldozed before it became forest preserve. It's been seeded, but recovery takes time.|
|A few Smooth Phloxes still bloom. Notice the one in the middle, with most petals shriveled and dropped, busy making seeds. This is a classic first-quality species. But it's later hard to find those seeds perched on thin stems and leaves.|
|Last photo. Thanks for joining me.|
6:51 AM. Time to go to work.
A beautiful way to start the day.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County deserve mammoth credit for buying the land, empowering the stewards, and conducting the burns in recent years.
Laurel Ross, steward, and the volunteers of the North Branch Restoration Project deserve equal credit for detailed restoration over forty years.
Thanks to Kathy Garness and Eriko Jokima for correcting typos and editing.