Fruiting Accelerates

by Carl Strang

A few berries and other fruits attracted the attention of birds and mammals earlier in the season, for instance those of the black raspberry.

Black raspberries b

But autumn is the time when the greatest diversity of fruits can be found. Many plants ripen their fruits to coincide with the fall migration season, when traveling birds are happy to fuel themselves on fruits and, subsequently, spread the seeds around. I have been recording ripening dates of fruits at Mayslake Forest Preserve. Some, like the bittersweet nightshade, are not native to the area.

Solanum dulcamara fruit b

Others, like elderberry, long have been part of the local scene.

Elderberry fruit b

Additional fruits to this point in the season have been those of pokeweed,

Pokeweed fruit b

smooth Solomon’s seal,

Smooth Solomon's seal fruit b

and staghorn sumac.

Staghorn sumac b

There will be more to report as autumn proceeds. I should note as a reminder that though these fruits attract birds, some are poisonous to us.

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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