Last week I made a family visit to the lil town of Princeton, Illinois. To a mountain girl I must say this town, although quaint and peaceful, seems mighty flat, surrounded by cornfields on all sides complemented by tall shade trees here and there. However ever since visiting a protected patch of prairie at Hennepin and Hopper Lakes with Uncle Rick some years ago (http://thebotanicalhiker.blogspot.com/2011/09/princeton-prairie-plants.html) I have known that there is far more to the Midwest than just corn even if it may appear that way at first glance, or second, or third. This landscape used to be tall grasses and wildflowers, roaming buffalo and insects endemic to the prairie flora and soil. The Nature Conservancy is working to restore a 3500 acre plot of farmland, now called the Nachusa Grasslands, to its once wild state. Lucky for me they were holding their annual Autumn on the Prairie event, a day of plant walks and bison tours, while I happened to be in town!
|Bernie Buchholz identifying native prairie plants|
|Hairy Aster (Aster pilosus)|
|Gentian (Gentiana spp.)|
|Blazing Star (Liatris spp.) gone to seed|
|Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)|
|Marbleseed Plant (Onosmodium spp.)|
As we crunched our way through the drying stems and stalks of summer's flowers we noticed the disproportionate ratio of flowers to grasses. This is because the grasses take longer to establish themselves than the wildflowers do. However, as walked further into the rolling landscape, the grasses became more plentiful as we then stood in a patch that had been managed and allowed to proliferate.
|Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)|
Unfortunately I was not able to capture any photos of the bison herd as the line for the shuttles to that particular portion was easily 100 people deep. Now if the flowers could only get that much attention!
|Trail through Nachusa Grasslands|
|Prairie Thistle (Cersium canescens)|
|Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)|
Not only is Nachusa home to native prairie plants and bison, but it also provides a home for some of the 1700 prairie dependent insects....perhaps these are a couple here....any insect experts reading?
|Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seedpods along with crawlies|
|Me and Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) overhead|
Thank you Nachusa Grasslands for nurturing this place and providing me with an opportunity to experience some true Illinois landscape, a glimpse into the past and a hidden gem amongst all that corn. I will surely be returning.
To learn more about Nachusa, visit, or volunteer, you can check out their website: http://nachusagrasslands.org/index.html