Sneezeweed in Winter

by Carl Strang

Sneezeweed is one of many yellow-flowered composites that bloom in late summer into autumn.

The ray flowers have interesting, 3-parted tips and are shorter in proportion to the bulbous disk than many similar species.

The ray flowers have interesting, 3-parted tips and are shorter in proportion to the bulbous disk than many similar species.

The name implies a traditional use as a cold remedy, but I have not run across a confirmation of this. Sneezeweed grows in wet to mesic prairies and wetland edges.

By mid-October the plant’s top has begun to senesce.

By mid-October the plant’s top has begun to senesce.

The rays drop off, the yellow centers become brown as seeds ripen.

By late November, seeds have begun to fall off, leaving the white buttons of their bases.

By late November, seeds have begun to fall off, leaving the white buttons of their bases.

The simple leaves curl and brown, collapsing against the stem.

The stem itself becomes strongly ridged.

The stem itself becomes strongly ridged.

And another winter botany chapter is complete.

Assorted Photos 2

by Carl Strang

Today I’ll share photos of some colorful insects. Fiery skippers are described in references as a southern species that sometimes appears in the North. It seems to me, though, that a year seldom goes by when I fail to see them.

I have seen fiery skippers several times at Mayslake Forest Preserve this year. This one’s on sneezeweed.

With summer waning away, it’s appropriate to begin seeing autumn meadowhawks.

AKA yellow-legged meadowhawks, for obvious reasons.

Finally I want to focus on some very small insects. They are tiny, but so abundant this year that it’s been impossible to overlook them. The shiny black beetles, each at most a couple millimeters long, first showed up in sweep nets the kids were swinging at the Forest Preserve District’s employee parent-child event at Mayslake in August. Then they were mainly in Queen Anne’s lace flowers. Lately they have shifted to goldenrods.

They plunge their heads into the little florets of this Canada goldenrod.

Their simple hump-backed oval shape, shiny elytra, and abundance all made it seem likely they should be common enough to find in references. I tried probing them, and they showed no jumping talent, so I ruled out flea beetles. I found a likely match while scanning photos representing the various families of beetles in the BugGuide website. They appear to be members of the shining flower beetle family, Phalacridae. One common genus is Olibrus.

Mayslake Autumn Flowers

by Carl Strang

The time has come to close the book on the wildflowers of Mayslake Forest Preserve for this year. I don’t expect to find any more new ones this season. Now I have a long list of species with first flowering dates for 2009 that I can compare to those of the same species next year. Such phenological studies are good indicators of climate trends, as well as suggesting whether a given year is relatively early or late in its seasons.

The final goldenrods to begin flowering were old-field goldenrods, which I found in a small colony in the savanna.

Old-field goldenrod b

A much more abundant woodland species there is the side-flowering aster.

Side-flowering aster 1b

In the prairies and meadows, heath asters added to the grand finale of the flowering season.

Heath aster 1b

In places around the edges of the prairies a few sneezeweeds were blooming.

Sneezeweed 1b

Obedient plant, the plant that’s also a toy (if you move one of the flowers by pushing it with your finger, it stays where you moved it), pops up in the prairies here and there.

Obedient plant b

Bottle gentian, a bumblebee-pollinated species, also occurs in Mayslake’s prairies.

Bottle gentian 1b

And I’ll close by panning back to show a couple of scenes. In an earlier chapter I introduced the bur marigold. It has come to dominate a zone around the stream corridor marsh.

Bur marigold stream marsh 2b

Finally, here is part of the prairie.

Mayslake prairie flowers fall b

It’s not too late to get out and enjoy the season’s flowers, at Mayslake and other open places.

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