Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Princeton Prairie Plants

Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

After our venture into the Redwoods, it was time to head for home. However, on the way we passed through Princeton, Illinois, home to my sweet Grammy and Grampy as well as my Aunt Debby and Uncle Rick. Yearly as a little girl and more recently as an adult, I have been out to this small town and farming community, however it hasn't been until the last couple of years that I've begun to discover its native plant communities. You see, much of Princeton's land, like much of Illinois and the neighboring prairie states have been stripped of most of their prairie grasses, replaced by large-scale farming. I am thankful for our abundance of food, but much of this agriculture is corn and soybeans,  most of which is fed into poor-quality foods, livestock or gasoline tanks. And so I say, grow, Switch-grass, Indian Grass, Prairie Drop-seed, Red-top, Little and Big Blue Stem, grow!

Rick is a dragonfly extraordinaire, even discovering his very own dragonfly, species formerly unrecognized, during his most recent travels this past spring. So although these long-winged beauties as well as quick-jumping hoppity frogs are his first love, while wading through wetlands and walking quiet trails  in search of these critters, he's gotten to know quite a few of the prairie plants. Thus upon my arrival, he promptly took me out to meet the locals at the Hennepin and Hopper Lakes restored wetlands and prairie lands...thank you, Rick!

Blazing Star (Liatris spp.)


Royal Catchfly (Silene regia)-this is the Illinois state flower and endangered

Partridge Pea (Cassia fasciculata)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - a well known immune system strengthener. The roots can be decocted and/or flowers steeped as a tea and taken as a preventative when immunity is threatened. The tincture made of roots and/or flowering parts can be taken at the onset of symptoms. Besides being an immuno-modulator and immune stimulant, it is also antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.

Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) flower

Could this be a Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) acorn? It was by far the largest acorn I've ever seen- over 1" wide - and it appears as if it had quite the fringe around its cap, now dried. Check back at my To the West! post to learn more about Bur Oak 

Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
While in Illinois, my father and I were also treated with a trip to Starved Rock State Park. Here we climbed many a stair to the stop of a large flat rock outcrop-upon which a small village had actually once been erected- and saw views of the Illinois River. We marveled at the blotches of red amidst the fading green leaves, and with a chill in the air, we knew fall was certainly on its way. We enjoyed lunch at the Lodge, which I would highly recommend to anyone passing through the area- lots of delicious, creative, and local foods. The lodge was built by the CCC back in the day and so is constructed with large heavy wooden beams, evident from the inside, complete with hand-hewn benches and an enormous fireplace. Lovely. Thank you Grammy and Grampy!

And thank you, Debby, who was more than happy to help answer my plethora of publishing questions!

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