Growing the Plant List

by Carl Strang

As I continue to wander off-trail through all the ecosystems at Mayslake Forest Preserve, I continue to find new plant species. The preserve’s list of herbaceous plants now numbers 308 species, and woody plants are at 90 (though some of these are exotic trees planted on or near the mansion grounds). Some of the new finds are few in number and less conspicuous than others.

Honewort has tiny white flowers. I did not find this one until I was on top of it.

Though not conspicuous, honewort at least is easy to identify.

The uneven umbel of flowers, and the distinctive leaf shape, make this woodland plant distinctive.

The next species stands out more, but apparently there are only a very few, seeded in an earlier stage of prairie restoration.

Prairie coreopsis, the third species of its genus I have found at Mayslake.

Again, the leaves help to distinguish this plant from its relatives.

The stiff little leaves all are identical and 3-lobed.

A small colony of pineapple weed has become established in a sunny bit of trail near May’s Lake.

Named for the odor of its bruised foliage, this western species of rayless composite does well in dry, compacted soils.

I was pleased to find a green dragon that earlier had been discovered by the restoration volunteers.

Though growing in a relatively dry location, this one was doing well enough that it elected to be female this season.

Apparently this is the only green dragon on the preserve, and Mayslake is the only preserve that has green dragon but not its more common close relative, the jack-in-the-pulpit.

I will close with two plants which, while not new discoveries, struck me with their beauty. One of these was a sedge, the small yellow fox sedge, which I had identified last year but not followed after it was done flowering.

The ripened perigynia are such a bright yellow that I wonder whether this plant uses birds to disperse its seeds.

Finally, it is easy to dismiss self heal, but some individuals of this familiar plant of disturbed woodlands really display beautiful, if small flowers.

The native subspecies is generally taller than the introduced lawn version.

There can be no doubt that this 90-acre preserve still has botanical secrets to be discovered.

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