Mayslake Update

by Carl Strang

Between trips to Indiana for parental care, and vacation days for research, I haven’t spent as much time as usual in Mayslake Forest Preserve. Life goes on there, of course, and I have some glimpses to share.

This summer’s deer have been more secretive than usual. This doe, photographed at the beginning of July, showed no signs of nursing.

This summer’s deer have been more secretive than usual. This doe, photographed at the beginning of July, showed no signs of nursing.

However, she sometimes has accompanied another doe, and this week I saw tracks of a fawn, which I expect to encounter at some point.

There have been a few tawny edged skippers this year, a species I have seen at Mayslake before but not in most years.

There have been a few tawny edged skippers this year, a species I have seen at Mayslake before but not in most years.

A new species for the preserve list was Mydas tibialis, a large and impressive, flower-visiting fly discovered at Mayslake by Nikki Dahlin.

A new species for the preserve list was Mydas tibialis, a large and impressive, flower-visiting fly discovered at Mayslake by Nikki Dahlin.

The rains of spring and early summer, along with the prairie burns, have resulted in Mayslake’s prairies blooming with unprecedented beauty.

The first swamp rose mallow I have seen blooming on the preserve.

The first swamp rose mallow I have seen blooming on the preserve.

Prairie blazing stars are just now peaking.

Prairie blazing stars are just now peaking.

Banks of yellow coneflowers and wild bergamot are providing gorgeous backdrops.

Banks of yellow coneflowers and wild bergamot are providing gorgeous backdrops.

Blazing Stars in Winter

by Carl Strang

The blazing stars are among our showiest native wildflowers.

Prairie blazing star, Liatris pycnostachya, in bloom

Prairie blazing star, Liatris pycnostachya, in bloom

In winter the seeds drift away, leaving the 2-4-foot stalk.

Tip of a prairie blazing star in February

Tip of a prairie blazing star in February

This individual still retained most of the flower head bracts.

The tips of the bracts are acuminate, or drawn out into slender points, in this species. The points bend down, making them difficult to see in this photo.

The tips of the bracts are acuminate, or drawn out into slender points, in this species. The points bend down, making them difficult to see in this photo.

The stems also retain much of their fuzziness. Many of the stem leaves remain attached.

Part of the lower stem of a prairie blazing star.

Part of the lower stem of a prairie blazing star.

At Mayslake Forest Preserve I have a second species to compare, the marsh blazing star (L. spicata).

This marsh blazing star shed nearly all of its bracts. The few that remain have blunt tips.

This marsh blazing star shed nearly all of its bracts. The few that remain have blunt tips.

Marsh blazing star stems have small white dots, but are smooth rather than fuzzy.

Part of the lower stem of a marsh blazing star.

Part of the lower stem of a marsh blazing star.

Distinguishing these species requires a magnifying glass, but the blazing stars as a group are easy enough to recognize in winter.

Mid-Summer Flowers

by Carl Strang

As this season continues its early flowering phenology, already we are seeing blooms typical of the middle of summer. A classic example is the prairie blazing star.

These began blooming at Mayslake Forest Preserve last week.

My off-trail exploration recently turned up a colony of helleborine orchids.

Previously I had seen only one individual of this non-native orchid in another part of the preserve.

Last week I found the wild sennas flowering. I had anticipated this since noticing fruiting ones last winter.

This tall legume is growing along the stream.

At last the friary site is showing patches of native species, if somewhat weedy ones.

Most of the plants here are black-eyed Susan and Canada wild rye.

Restoration steward Conrad Fialkowski had pointed out a patch of fringed loosestrife last year after they were done blooming. This year I got to see the flowers.

The fringes, which don’t show in this photo, are along the edges of the leaf petioles.

Another plant new to my preserve list I found near the stream corridor marsh last week.

Monkey flower grows in relatively wet soils.

More plant species ultimately mean more animal species and a greater ecological redundancy, which supports community stability.

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