Black eyed Susans, aka Rudbeckia , indicates that summer is well under way in the U.S. heartland, the prairie. Illinois is the “prairie state” yet less than 10% of virgin prairie lands remain. This piece of prairie is part of a restoration project, West Ridge Nature Preserve on Chicago’s north-east side. In Chicago one does not have to travel far to pretend they are a part of a time long ago; the stuff of good summertime daydreams.
The flowers have completed their brilliant blazing show of yellow. I am uncertain of which sunflower I encountered at the edge of the forest last month. The lengthy sepals lend to a feeling that the flower is indeed blooming with green petals.
Strange looking, unique in North America, harmless, mistaken as a rodent, its name often used to describe playing dead.
Unless you are visiting a zoo, this is the only marsupial you can see in North America. Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is a common visitor, along with raccoon, to the neighborhood garbage cans. We may have more than an ordinary number of visitors due to our adjacent forest preserve. Late in the afternoon, three young ones were enjoying the spilled sunflower seeds under our birdfeeder. Note to self: Read birdseed labels more careful when purchasing. I thought I bought a bag of mixed seeds but ended up with a bag of sunflower seeds. Until our next order arrives, the sparrows have to do more work in order to get nourishment. In the meantime, the spillage from the feeder is great; much seed is on the ground for other wildlife nourishment.
Fattening up for winter is routine for many Midwestern animals. Sunflowers, with a high fat content, are an appropriate food for this purpose. Most birds need a more balanced diet including sunflowers as only part of their food intake.
For more information the opossum, check out this site: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/directory_show.cfm?species=opossum
Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), aka Cucumber-leafed Sunflower was found at the south end of the Galt Mile stretch of the Ft. Lauderdale beach, at the Oakland Park Blvd. entrance to the beach. This is a plant that endures a setting of frequent drought and salt. Stabilizing rapidly, this beautiful flower becomes a sizeable groundcover, helping control beach erosion.
Robustly built, it bends little in the prairie wind. The flower is one of many yellow sun-like prairie species, yet the plant’s superior stature is prominent among even the tallest grasses. Pioneers thought its large, deeply incised leaves pointed the way; always pointing north and south, consequently named Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum). The direct lighting found shortly after sunrise brought attention to the dense hairy stalks. Prolific plant life is prime habitat for animal life so it was not surprising to find these beetles inside the flower; the surprise was their quantity.
For more information on the Compass Plant see my blog posts on 11/6/2011, “One Last Bloom” and 7/4/2012 “Soaking Up the Sun”.
A Sunflower bloomed this week underneath our birdfeeder; germinating from a seed neglected by birds, chipmunk, squirrel and deer. Surrounded by Black Eyed Susans it quietly reminds us that they are the most brilliant tribute to the source of life giving energy for all things on Earth. The sun has shown brightly this summer through many cloud free days yielding record high temperatures and record low precipitation. This recipe has produced miniature versions of usually grandiose perennials and these two self seeders. Stunted by lack of hydration this Sunflower is a simple two feet in stature and the Black Eyed Susan manage eighteen inches.