Late Summer Woodland Wildflowers

by Carl Strang

The list of flowering plants I have encountered at Mayslake Forest Preserve has grown to an impressive length. I look forward to next year, when I will be able to compare the first flowering dates between years. As I mentioned in an earlier post , flowering dates indicate the biological impact of climate in a given year. Today I will add to the list of native species blooming in woodlands.

A sure harbinger of autumn is the first of our goldenrods, appropriately named early goldenrod.

Early goldenrod 2b

A magnificent towering beauty is the pale Indian plantain. This one once was rare and local, but restoration stewards enthusiastically have spread it to appropriate habitats across the county.

Pale Indian plantain b

The blue lettuce is a beautiful plant topped with spreading arrays of blue flowering heads.

Blue lettuce b

One that shouts to you from a distance with its large yellow flowers is the hispid sunflower.

Hispid sunflower b

Two species in the diverse genus Eupatorium have made their appearance in Mayslake’s woods: purple Joe Pye weed,

Purple joe-pye weed b

and the notorious white snakeroot.

White snakeroot 2b

The last plant was established, decades after the fact, as the one responsible for milk sickness. In some but apparently not all populations of white snakeroot, the plants produce a defensive poison which, when eaten by cows, becomes concentrated in their milk. Few herbivores consume this plant. One exception is a leaf miner .

White snakeroot 3b

Among the people killed by milk sickness in the 1800’s was Abraham Lincoln’s mother.

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