The Morton Arboretum Schulenberg Prairie

These photos were taken on May 23rd, 2013 at the Morton Arboretum’s Schulenberg Prairie, a hand-planted prairie restoration dating back to the 1960s, marking it as one of the earliest attempts at recreating a native plant community assemblage from scratch.

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum Sporobolus heterolepis prairie dropseed by Cassi Saari

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum Baptisia alba white wild indigo emerging bloom flower by Cassi Saari
Baptisia alba, white wild indigo nearly blooming.

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum starry false Solomon's seal Maianthemum stellatum Smilacina stellata by Cassi Saari
Maianthemum (Smilacina) stellatum, starry false Solomon’s seal, is one of the more photogenic Solomon’s seals because of its showy flowers. It’s a “false” Solomon’s seal because its flowers are borne at the end of the leaves rather than from the axils of the leaves like “true” Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum).

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum by Cassi Saari
Valeriana edulis var. ciliatus, common valerian or tobacco root, has some pretty cool feathery sepals.

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum botanizing Heuchera prairie dock phlox lead plant Amorpha canescens Silphium by Cassi Saari
Co-prairie enthusiast botanizing amidst the Heuchera, prairie dock, prairie phlox, and lead plant.

Schulenberg Prairie Morton Arboretum Shooting Star Dodecatheon meadia by Cassi Saari
These shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) kindly graced us with a ridiculously beautiful display to round out our short trip to the prairie.

Additional Information:

More Photos of the Schulenberg Prairie
Classic Prairie Restorations: The Schulenberg Prairie (Chicago Wilderness Magazine article)
The Schulenberg Prairie: a Benchmark in Ecological Restoration (vegetation analysis, comparison to local remnant prairies, species list)

Prairie Silhouette

A 4:23PM sunset really sneaks up on you. You’re enjoying the golden brown prairie hues and suddenly it’s nearly pitch black.

Blackberry Trail Blackberry Trail Blackberry Trail

The middle photo above is a naturalized stormwater detention basin burned this fall.
The following prairie plant silhouettes are from Blackberry Trail Forest Preserve in Kendall County, IL.

Blackberry Trail Silphium perfoliatum cup plant winter silhouette

Silphium perfoliatum (cup plant)

Blackberry Trail Sorghastrum nutans indiangrass winter silhouette

Sorghastrum nutans (indiangrass)

Blackberry Trail Andropogon gerardii big bluestem turkeyfoot winter silhouette

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem, more lovingly known as turkeyfoot)

Blackberry Trail Ratibida pinnata grey-headed coneflower winter silhouette

Ratibida pinnata (grey-headed coneflower)

Blackberry Trail Panicum virgatum switchgrass winter silhouette

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Knowing America

Wolf Road Prairie Prairie Dock Blazing Star Rattlesnake Master

The following is a quote by notable botanist Gerould Wilhelm, in the book A Natural History of the Chicago Region by Joel Greenburg. He is recounting an early experience from his time with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, assessing whether different areas were suitable (low-quality enough) to dump dredge materials.

We visited thirteen sites that day. At each, Floyd [Swink] would rattle off the Latin names of 50 or 60 species, all Eurasian or native weeds. I saw sticks and rabbit poop. Floyd couldn’t make it the next day so I went with Ray Schulenberg, who would do the same thing: listing off in Latin all these weedy plants. (Although I didn’t know what they looked like, by now the names were becoming familiar.) But when we were finished with each location, he would say: “You can spoil here. You can’t hurt it, it will grow back.”

On the afternoon of the third day, we reached spoil site C-2. We stepped across this black mustard berm when Ray stopped dead in his tracks and just looked. In a more hushed voice, he said, “Here is Sporobolus heterolepis, Petalostemum purpureum, Petalostemum candidum, Parthenium integrifolium, Potentilla arguta, and Silphium laciniatum.”

I got weak in the knees. Oh lord, I looked at the place and saw America. I knew that this guy was able to identify America by its plants. I collapsed emotionally and decided right then and there that I didn’t want to live another day without knowing whether I was in America; whether I could spoil or whether I couldn’t.

Photo my own, from Wolf Road Prairie, July 2012. Prairie dock, blazing star, grey-headed coneflower, rattlesnake master, and more.