West Bluffs Walk: 2

by Carl Strang

Yesterday I shared the tracking highlights of my recent walk through south Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve. Today, some winter botany. These are not unusual plants, but such a large area provides a lot of good examples to choose from for photos. The first species is one I haven’t found at Mayslake Forest Preserve, my main area for botanical study.

Someone familiar with this species will recognize it from this photo.

A closer view of the distinctive fruiting stalk reveals it to be lopseed.

Another woodland herbaceous plant, and one of our most common, is the wood avens, also known as white avens.

Again, if you are familiar with this one, this photo is enough.

Close up, the seeds in their loose ball project the hook-like extensions that latch onto fur or clothing for dispersal.

In this case I have a flower photo to show.

Wood avens is in the rose family.

One more common woodland plant, this time beginning with the seed array:

Again, little hooks serve to aid dispersal.

Here is the entire plant, a woodland knotweed.

I’ll close with a weedy plant from the Old World. It grows in the open, and belongs to one of two species. I do not know how to tell them apart without the flowers.

The sprawling, spindly plant form is rather nondescript in winter.

The seeds, many of which have been knocked off at this point in the season, have a vanilla flavor if chewed. I don’t recommend chewing on unfamiliar plants, however.

When blooming it looked either like this:

White sweet clover

Or this:

Yellow sweet clover

All in all, this was a satisfactory walk even without the spice of bobcat tracks.

Parade of Weeds Continues

by Carl Strang

It’s time to update the list of newly flowering weeds at Mayslake Forest Preserve, following the broad definition of non-natives, undesirables, and species which gain high reproductive rates and dispersal by trading off competitive ability and lifespan.

I’ll begin with a surprise. I was crossing a wooded area and looked down to see an orchid. But it turned out to be our only non-native orchid, the helleborine.

Helleborine orchid 1b

Thanks to the dense, competitive meadows and prairies I have, so far, found only one common mullein plant on the preserve.

Common mullein 2b

Chickory can tolerate some shade, and so has done better.

Chickory b

Thanks to the former residents of the friary, Mayslake has to be the oregano capital of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

Oregano b

Not only is there a huge patch of this herb in the old friary garden, outliers have spread as far as the meadow west of the off-leash dog area. Last winter I wrote about the interesting dispersal mechanism for Queen Anne’s lace . Here it is in bloom.

QA lace 2b

So far there have been two sow thistle species flowering at Mayslake, the common sow thistle

Common sow thistle b

and spiny sow thistle.

Spiny sow thistle 2b

Vying for the honor of most beautiful tiny flower is the Deptford pink, relative of carnations.

Deptford pink b

The white sweet clover now is blooming abundantly, starting well after its yellow-flowered relative.

White sweet clover 1b

Common milkweed, weedy in its life history strategy but a native species, has been a bumblebee and butterfly magnet.

Common milkweed 1b

Another native, famed food of pop music’s “Poke Salad Annie,” is the pokeweed.

Pokeweed b

Once it’s this big, though, it’s poisonous. I’ll finish with a real undesirable, which I have been finding scattered around the preserve’s northern meadows.

Purple loosestrife 1b

Purple loosestrife can become a serious problem in wetlands.

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