SJF in Bloom

by Carl Strang

Spring is advancing in fits and starts, with alternating warm and cool periods, but through it all the plants of St. James Farm Forest Preserve are growing, and many have been blooming. Some of them are familiar, some new to me, but together they are demonstrating an impressive botanical diversity, especially in the forest.

White trout lilies are abundant, but they began to bloom later at SJF than in other area forests.

White trout lilies are abundant, but they began to bloom later at SJF than in other area forests.

Swamp buttercups are common throughout.

Swamp buttercups are common throughout.

Virginia bluebells always are a welcome sight this time of year. The ones at St. James Farm probably originated in the estate’s gardens, but have made themselves at home in scattered places well away from there.

Virginia bluebells always are a welcome sight this time of year. The ones at St. James Farm probably originated in the estate’s gardens, but have made themselves at home in scattered places well away from there.

Yellow violets, as well as the common blue ones, brighten the forest floor.

Yellow violets, as well as the common blue ones, brighten the forest floor.

Patches of wood anemones are frequent in shady spots.

Patches of wood anemones are frequent in shady spots.

The botanical connoisseur will want to know about the sedges. Four early ones are blooming now, the common wood sedge, Wood’s stiff sedge, and two more:

There are large patches of common oak sedge in many places.

There are large patches of common oak sedge in many places.

Long-beaked sedge was a new one for me, as was Wood’s stiff sedge.

Long-beaked sedge was a new one for me, as was Wood’s stiff sedge.

More mundane, but adding to the preserve’s diversity, are others worthy of mention.

Common chickweed is an introduced species, at home in the lawns.

Common chickweed is an introduced species, at home in the lawns.

Not flowers, or even plants, bracket fungi visually enhance the forest as they grow to produce their spores.

Not flowers, or even plants, bracket fungi visually enhance the forest as they grow to produce their spores.

 

March Flowering Phenology

by Carl Strang

This was by far the warmest March on record in northeast Illinois. As a result, I have enough phenology data to begin posting results a month ahead of my usual start. Today I will focus on first flower dates at Mayslake Forest Preserve.

The first white trout lily flowered on March 21. That was 22 days earlier than last year, 15 days earlier than in 2010, and 26 days earlier than in 2009.

My records only go back to 2009, but this year’s early dates were impressive nevertheless. Compared to last year, first flowering dates for the 20 species that bloomed in March ranged from 4 days later to 63 days earlier, with a median of 31.5 days earlier. A month early!

Wood anemone bloomed 17, 20 and 39 days earlier than in 2011, 2010 and 2009 respectively.

Factors other than seasonal warmth come into play when considering first flower dates on a particular site. The wood anemone in the previous photo is a case in point. At Mayslake that species grows only in a part of the savanna that had been thick with buckthorn and honeysuckle brush until the winter of 2008-9. The brush was cleared that winter, and part of that year’s much later blooming probably can be attributed to recovery from several years’ suppression by the shady brush.

Small-flowered buttercup bloomed 43, 15 and 37 days earlier than in 2011, 2010 and 2009 respectively.

Another factor to consider is human error. Small-flowered buttercup occurs as widely scattered individuals and thus is not very common at Mayslake. The flowers are relatively small, so I don’t spot them unless I am right on top of the plant. Data for this species therefore are a little less reliable than for more conspicuous and common ones like the trout lily at the top.

Compared to 2010, first flower dates in 2012 so far (21 species) ranged from 1 to 79 days earlier, with a median of 21 days earlier. Compared to 2009, first flower dates in 2012 so far (16 species; I do not have dates for all species each year) ranged from 15 to 60 days earlier, with a median of 32 days earlier.

It will be interesting to see how well this early phenology holds in the coming months.

Flower Phenology Through April

by Carl Strang

Last year I started a study of flower phenology at Mayslake Forest Preserve. I recorded the date on which I saw the first open flowers of each species. This year I have been doing the same, and am in a position to compare the years. For instance, yellow violets first bloomed on May 4 in 2009, April 19 this year, 15 days earlier.

Wood anemones flowered 19 days earlier.

I still had not sorted out the woody members of the rose family last year, so I could not record a difference for some of the non-native species. These include plum-leaved crab, which first opened flowers on April 19.

There are also a few brilliantly colored crabs which may be Malus floribunda.

Altogether, I have first flower dates for 28 species at Mayslake to compare between years. In only one case did a plant bloom later (by only one day) in 2010. The difference in dates was in double digits for all but 5 plants. The median difference was 13 days earlier in 2010. Though months are somewhat artificial, they do provide convenient blocks through which to follow phenology differences through the seasons.

Mayslake Flowers Update

by Carl Strang

At the beginning of May the appearance of new wildflowers on Mayslake Forest Preserve accelerated. In some cases I have not made identifications, yet. For instance, there are a lot of small trees and shrubs in the rose family that probably are various crab apples and hawthorns, but may include introduced (and possibly horticultural) varieties that make identification difficult for a vertebrate ecologist. Among them are this one

Rosaceous small tree 1b

and this one.

Rosaceous small tree 2b

Here is an herbaceous plant flowering in the savanna that I can’t get a handle on, yet.

Mystery plant 1b

Its leaves are dense along the stem and embrace it like those of New England aster, but without the hairiness.

Mystery plant 2b

I suspect it may be in the mustard famiy, and if so should be able to get an identity as fruits appear.

Most new flowers I have been able to identify, though. Abundant swamp buttercups are flowering in the cleared area below the friary.

Ranunculus septentrionalis 2b

They, along with scattered small-flowered buttercups,

Ranunculus abortivus 1b

have joined the early buttercups already flowering there and elsewhere in the savanna. Also on that hill are red trilliums,

Red trillium 2b

yellow violets (there’s a contradiction in terms for you!),

Yellow violet 1b

and wood anemones.

Wood anemone 1b

Not flowering on that hill this year, but another good find, was bloodroot.

Bloodroot Mayslake b

Elsewhere on the preserve, appearances were made by the flowers of Ohio buckeye,

Buckeye b

choke cherry,

Prunus virginiana 2b

wild strawberry,

Strawberry 2b

purslane speedwell,

Veronica peregrina 2b

and golden Alexanders.

Zizia 4b

Non-native species include tartarian honeysuckle,

Tartarian honeysuckle b

shepherd’s purse,

Capsella 3b

and common chickweed.

Common chickweed b

Again, all I am doing for now is establishing local first flowering dates in what will be an ongoing phenology  study. No doubt I will return to some of these species for other future inquiries. For instance, what were all those ants doing on the golden Alexanders flowers?

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