Winter Botany Update

by Carl Strang

Every species we see in summer persists through the winter. In the case of plants, which cannot migrate, they are present in the landscape, though in some cases they are not readily visible outside the growing season. Nevertheless, most can be seen. Some are little changed.

Austrian pines, among the many exotic conifers planted at Mayslake Forest Preserve, are equally easy to identify in all seasons.

Some herbaceous plants remain green in winter. While the rosette form, with leaves held close to the ground where they can gain some protection from sheltering snows, is more common among forbs, one of Mayslake’s sedges, the common wood sedge, has a rosette-like habit.

The tips of the leaves have browned, but otherwise this sedge looks ready to go when spring arrives.

Some plants, though brown, are unmistakable. I was not pleased to find three small patches of common reed at the south edge of the preserve.

This plant, once established, spreads to push out all other wetland plants.

These will need to be attended to, and I was happy to learn that Mayslake’s restoration team has reported them to the Forest Preserve District’s natural resources staff.

My greatest botanical delight in recent weeks was encountering this tall, odd looking plant.

The pods place it in the legume family, but it was totally new to me.

Thanks to a heads up from Scott Namestnik I can correct my initial identification to wild senna. This is Mayslake’s second species of Cassia (some botanists separate it into genus Senna), and I look forward to seeing its bright yellow blooms next summer. (Initially I had identified it as indigo bush, another tall streamside legume, but the pods of indigo bush are proportionately much wider in comparison to their length).



  1. February 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

    […] proved (thanks again to Scott Namestnik of the Handlens and Binoculars blog) to be wild senna, as I reported a couple days ago. I have not known Jacqui Gleason and Conrad Fialkowski to be wrong about a plant, so I needed to […]

  2. July 13, 2012 at 5:45 am

    […] week I found the wild sennas flowering. I had anticipated this since noticing fruiting ones last winter. This tall legume is growing along the […]

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