Brown-eyed Susans flower in profusion along woodland edges and openings at the Wolf Preserve in Menard County, Illinois, owned by the Friends of the Sangamon Valley. MIDDLE: Great blue lobelia flowers in a sunny opening at the Wolf Preserve in Menard County, Illinois, owned by the Friends of the Sangamon Valley. BOTTOM: Jewelweed or touch-me-nots have cornucopia-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds. Chris Young/The State Journal-Register.
Illinois wild flowers still blooming
SPRINGFIELD STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER
SPRINGFIELD — After the delicate wildflowers and morel mushrooms of spring disappear, the woods can become an inhospitable place.
Flowers are replaced by stinging nettles in flood plains. Thorny raspberry bushes and multiflora rose create tangled barriers everywhere else. Ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and other pests can spoil an outing fast.
It can be hot, sweaty, scratchy and sticky.
As summer transitions into fall, it still can be slow going in the woods. But this year there are good reasons to wade into the underbrush.
Wetter-than-normal conditions have allowed late-summer wildflowers to flourish in profusion — especially in low areas.
Brown-eyed Susans (woodland relatives of the common black-eyed Susan), blue lobelia, iron weed, touch-me-nots, wild bergamot and many others have added a layer of yellow, white, purple, blue, orange and pink below the trees, especially where sunlight reaches the forest floor.
While some hunting seasons are open, including squirrel, dove and teal, there still are plenty of opportunities to explore the woods before hunting season gets under way in full force Oct. 1 with the beginning of archery deer hunting.
Even after hunting seasons get going, Illinois is home to nearly 350 state nature preserves where hunting normally is not allowed. Carpenter Park, on the north edge of Springfield, is Sangamon County’s only state-dedicated nature preserve.
Non-hunters heading out to explore nature in the fall would do well to take a cue from their neighbors who hunt. Protect yourself by wearing appropriate clothing, including long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Fleece sweatshirts will pick up sticky seeds and can snag on thorns. The raspberries were gone in late June, but the thorns are still out there.
Birders and hikers need to be aware of the presence of hunters as summer cedes the high ground to fall. Look for vehicles in parking areas. Check in at the site office at state parks to find out where hunters are likely to be.
From Oct. 1 to mid-January, wear an orange vest or outer layer and an orange hat. It’s an added safety measure that never hurts.
After a cool summer with few butterflies, it was reassuring to see so many butterflies and skippers of all kinds seeking nectar from fall wildflowers this week. Pearl crescents, red admirals, buckeyes, monarchs and others were common.
On a shrubby, knee-high oak tree, a gray tree frog rested — barely taking notice that it was getting its picture taken repeatedly.
A juvenile or female hummingbird sought nectar from the cornucopia-shaped flowers of spotted touch-me-nots (a wild cousin of the impatiens grown in gardens and window boxes).
A pair of flickers chattered as they worked a tree trunk. Carolina wrens sputtered warnings to other nearby birds.
As long as decent weather lasts, take some time to get outside. The old saying is that if you don’t like the weather, wait around and it will change. That’s true of nature, too.
Next year likely will be different. One can never count on the same scene repeating itself.