Monday, August 1, 2011

Illinois wildflowers

Campanula americana, American bellflower
I lived in the Fox River Valley as a kid from the ages of seven to twelve. Our home in Batavia, Illinois, was in a new subdivision, and our house was surrounded by vacant lots that allowed me to safely explore wild habitats ranging from deep deciduous woods to prairie to swampy wetlands. With a little pocket wildflower guide, I learned to identify the flowers and trees around me.

On our recent trip to see family, I enjoyed walking the Fox River Trail - as its name implies, it follows the river, and links the parks and nature preserves of the small towns along the way. It was a treat to see again the wildflowers I remembered from childhood, and to find new ones to identify - or to puzzle on.

Queen Anne's Lace, or wild carrot, Daucus Carota
One of the most recognizable flowers is Queen Anne's Lace. This weedy but pretty plant is not an Illinois native, but was introduced to the United States from Europe.

Impatiens capensis
Another European import, Jewelweed, gets its common name because its leaves, when held underwater, appear silver, or "jeweled." Its botanical name is Impatiens capensis. I remember this plant from my childhood, but I don't remember its North American native cousin, Impatiens pallida, with pale yellow flowers.

Impatiens pallida
I found the two species growing together in the moist woodsy paths at the Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Purple loosestrife, Lythrium salicaria
 The moist and marshy edges of the river are a perfect habitat for another invasive weed, purple Loosestrife, or Lythrium salicaria.

An almost look-alike to loosestrife is Liatris - each has a spike of lavender-pink flowers, but there the resemblance ends. Loosestrife is native to the old world, and it's become a dangerously invasive weed, especially in waterways, crowding out native plants and even native animals like amphibians and insects. The much more benign Liatris spicata, or Purple Gayfeather, is a native prairie plant.

Some of the plants I saw on my riverside walks I was unable to identify.

This is obviously a wild onion of some kind, with its gracefully drooping umbrels of flowers, but which one?

Is this catchfly, or Silene carolinana?

Click to "embiggen"
And this one was a real puzzle for me. Very tall, up to six feet, with huge palmate leaves. Sprays of small white flowers. It grew in the deep shade near the railroad trestle. I couldn't identify it in any of the online data bases - not at all. Does someone want to give it a try?


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I tried, but no luck so far, Aunt Snow.

Mrs. G. said...

Your plant and flower knowledge is so impressive. Pretty photos too, G.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

One of the most recognizable flowers is Queen Anne's Lace. This weedy but pretty plant is not an Illinois native, but was introduced to the United States from Europe.

One of these days, I'm going to cross a threshold and actually start digging for some of the edible wild roots- we have Queen Anne's Lace and Burdock (Gobo) all over the place at work. So far, I've limited my gathering activities to above ground structures.

Sue (Someone's Mom) said...

It is funny that I live in Illinois and you know more about the wildflowers than I do. The photos are so pretty! I need to pay more attention to what I take for granted.

Anonymous said...

The second to last is bouncing bet, or Saponaria officinalis. It's a common plant. You were close with the idea it might be Silene, which is closely related. The last one is glade mallow, or Napaea dioica. This is uncommon in Illinois and is hard to find.

Aunt Snow said...

Thank you, anonymous!! I will look up Napeaa dioica and learn more about it!!

Would love it if you reconnected and checked in non-anonymously.