The prairie is a favorite hangout for me. Grasses are the dominant species of the Midwest prairie. Blue skies and accompanying white fluffy Cumulus clouds are prime background to show off the vastness of the prairie. A prairie in the midst of suburban Chicago offers a treasured environs of solace. Maidengrass (Miscanthus sinensis) is not to found however, in a native prairie. This Eurasian import is a perennial in this climate, and it found only in human-created landscapes.
This patch of Maidengrass occupies only about nine square feet at the parking lot curb entrance to my doctor’s office. This morning they caught my attention because of their gentle swaying against the bright autumn sky. It was a tiny piece of non-native wilds that brightened my morning.
Record breaking snows and arctic cold temperatures this Chicago winter leads to temporary flooded fields while we wait for the ground to thaw enough to absorb the melted snow. Meanwhile nature’s neutral tones of preserved patterns make for interesting compositions.
These evergreen trees were planted as a privacy wall by a nearby neighbor that faces an open field owned by Commonwealth Edison, our electric company. This winter, their matured growth serves as a sturdy barrier, collecting some of this record-breaking season’s wind-blown snow. What wildlife is huddled down inside keeping relatively dry and warm is left to my imagination; it would be unkind of me to disrupt the dense fortification to seek answers to my wonderings.
These trees are most likely American Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘American’), used often for the purpose previously described: to act as a hedge wall. The brown elements showing through the snow are most likely opened cones absent of seeds.
For more information: http://www.na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/Volume_1/thuja/occidentalis.htm
Big Bluestem (Adropogon gerardii) is the dominant plant here, rearing up to ten feet tall with roots of equal depth. It is no wonder that survival is virtually guaranteed except when clearing is accompanied by farming or development.
Turkey Foot is its nickname which is appropriate from the seed cluster arrangement. The name leads me to ponder who saw wild turkey with their feet in the air, reminding them of this plant?
For the official information on this Illinois symbol visit: http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/symbols/grass.html.
Whether your first encounter with this plant is physical or visual, “respect” will be your first impression. The early morning sun back-lights the flowers accenting the numerous pointed miniature spears. It has been aptly named Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium).
“Eryngium is Greek for “prickly plant” and yuccifolium is Greek for “yucca leaves” (from plants.usda.gov.), ) Does that mean it is Master over Rattlesnakes? The Native American Indians thought so; they used the roots medicinally to counteract Rattlesnake bites. I’m respectfully impressed.
For more images and information on Rattlesnake Master is my post 7/7/2012 “Native survivors”.
For the facts about Rattlesnake Master check out this site: http://plants.usda.gov/factsheet/pdf/fs_eryu.pdf
“Wild” versus “Lace”; these words bring completely different impressions to mind. Descriptors make a difference on one’s impression. Both words describe this non-native prairie plant, Queen Anne’s Lace (daucus carota), aka Wild Carrot. Both names fit this subject perfectly. The name you choose to call it depends on your perspective. Though it is an invasive Eurasian weed I find it hard not to appreciate the delicate floral arrangement on each stem. Even the seed head is amazingly intricate and delicate in design.
So if I creeped you out too much with the last post, enjoy some of nature’s beauty.