Saturday, April 9, 2016

You Might be a Botanist

You Might be a Botanist
an original poem by Illinois Botanizer
If you take the time to identify lawn and garden weeds before pulling them out…
If you know at least a dozen different terms to describe “hairy”…
If you store a dissecting microscope on your kitchen table…
If you have no problem remembering botanical names, but keep forgetting common names…
If you have botany manuals in your bathroom as reading material…
If you tell your family you spent all week looking at plant specimens in the herbarium, and they give you a funny look…
If you go out looking at plants during your day job, and then go out looking at plants on your day off…
If you wear your loupe out in public… (my wife calls it my nerd necklace)
If there are Desmodium seeds on your bath towels, (and you know what Desmodium seeds look like)...
If you open up random books and plant leaves fall out…
If you are terrible at yard work and only mow your lawn once a month…
If your bookshelf is overflowing with plant field guides…
If you pick seeds off your clothes and identify them before tossing them away…
If the book to the flora of your state is always within arms reach…
If you have bags of plants in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator…
If everyone who hears about your occupation thinks you grow marijuana…
If the phrase “scarious margins on the involucral bracts” makes sense to you (and you know what species I might be referring to!)…
If you are out all day collecting plants, and then come home, shower, eat, and then return to looking at plants…

Thursday, March 24, 2016

7 Amazing Spring Wildflower Hikes in Southern Illinois

     These 7 amazing spring wildflower hikes in southern Illinois are so impressive they will leave you yearning for more.  All of these areas are open to the public and have good trails for hiking.  And of course they are loaded with spring wildflowers!
     Click on each link to view the hike descriptions from the Guide to Spring Wildflower Hikes in Southern Illinois, produced by the Southern Chapter of the Illinois Native Plant Society and co-authored by Chris Evans and Chris Benda.

Giant City State Park - Trillium Trail

Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge - Rocky Bluff Trail

Ferne Clyffe State Park - Round Bluff Nature Preserve Trail

Cache River State Natural Area - Heron Pond Trail

LaRue Pine Hills Ecological Area - Snake Road Trail

Shawnee National Forest - Rim Rock National Recreation Trail

Little Grand Canyon Ecological Area

Click here to download a field guide to southern Illinois wildflowers covering 80 common species.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hepatica acutiloba

     The Doctrine of Signatures is a rather bizarre concept that was embraced by herbalists of long ago. The idea comes from a couple of religious Europeans who suggested that God marked his creations with a signature that suggests its purpose to mankind.  Plants that resembled body parts were thought to have been created in order to treat ailments of that body part.  In the days before pharmacuticals, plants were heavily collected and used as medicine.  The idea was that since God is responsible for disease, he must also have created a natural cure for the disease.
     Such is the story behind the plant named Liverleaf (Hepatica acutiloba). In fact, even the scientific name of this plant refers to its resemblance to the liver as "Hepatica" comes from the Latin "epatikos" meaning "affecting the liver."  This plant has leaves that are distinctly three-lobed and in the dormant season they turn liver-colored (brown).  The human liver is also three-lobed and brown, therefore it was once thought that this plant could be used to treat liver disease.  However, this species is in the Ranunculaceae (the Buttercup family), which is a family of plants that are largely toxic!

     Liverleaf is generally distributed throughout Illinois, but is restricted to undisturbed woodlands.  It has no petals as the showy portions of the flower are technically sepals. It is one of our earliest spring wildflowers.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Symplocarpus foetidus


     The earliest spring wildflower to emerge from dormancy is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). In fact, this species flowers so early, it could be considered a winter wildflower! Skunk cabbage flowers have the ability to heat up the surrounding snow, which promotes melting so it can poke its fragrant flowers up through the ground. 
     Skunk cabbage has unusual flowers, like all members of the Arum family (Araceae). They consist of a spathe, an outer sheath which surrounds the inflorescence, and a spadix, a fleshy stem on which tiny flowers are produced.

Newly emerging leaves
     Many plants that produce flowers at the surface of the ground are brown in color and stink like decaying organic matter. This is to attract pollinators, typically flies, but this also lures in beetles and ants as well. Pollinators are also attracted to the flowers because of the heat they produce which leads to another interesting evolutionary strategy.
     Why flower so early? On the one hand, there are not many pollinators available in the early spring because it is too cold for them to be active or present. However, the few insects that are active and present are looking for food and warmth. The skunk cabbage receives virtually exclusive attention because it flowers when nothing else is available.
     “Symplocarpus” is Greek for “connected fruits” and “foetidus” translates from Latin to “malodorous” meaning “smelling very unpleasant.” From this, the term “fetid” derives.

     These photos were taken in a forest preserve in Cook County on March 18, 2016.  There is a healthy population at this location.

Skunk Cabbage flowers in March

     This is what the site looks like in summer.

Seep filled with Skunk Cabbage in June

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Complete List of Public Natural Areas in Southern Illinois

This is a complete list of all 110 public natural areas in southern Illinois.  Compiled by Illinois Botanizer.


Atwood Ridge RNA/Ecological Area
Ava Zoological Area
Bald Knob Geological Area
Barker Bluff RNA/Ecological Area
Bear Creek Relict Site Botanical Area
Bell Smith Springs Ecological Area
Big Brushy Ridge Ecological Area
Big Creek Zoological Area/Candidate Wild & Scenic River
Brown's Zoological Area
Bulge Hole Ecological Area
Burke Branch RNA/Ecological Area
Cane Creek Botanical Area
Caney Branch Barrens Ecological Area
Cave Hill RNA/Ecological Area
Chimaphila Site Botanical Area
Clear Creek Swamp Botanical Area
Clear Springs Geological Area
Copperous Branch Limestone Barrens Ecological Area
Cretaceous Hills Ecological Area
Crow Knob Ecological Area
Dean Cemetery East Barrens Ecological Area
Dean Cemetery West Barrens Ecological Area
Dennison Hollow RNA/Ecological Area
Dog Barrens Ecological Area
Double Branch Hole Ecological Area
Dutch Creek Chert Woodland Ecological Area
East Fork Oxalis illinoensis Botanical Area
Fink Sandstone Barrens Ecological Area
Fountain Bluff Geological Area
Garden of the Gods Ecological Area
Gibbons Creek Ecological Area
Grantsburg Swamp Ecological Area (Bell Pond)
Greentree Reservoir Botanical Area (Oakwood Bottoms)
Gyp Williams Hollow Ecological Area
Hayes Creek/Fox Den Creek Ecological Area
Hutchison Zoological Area
Jackson Hole Ecological Area
Jackson Hollow Ecological Area
Kaskaskia Woods Ecological Area
Keeling Hill North Ecological Area
Keeling Hill South Ecological Area
Kickasola Cemetery Ecological Area
LaRue-Pine Hills/Otter Pond RNA/Ecological Area
Leisure City Barrens Ecological Area
Little Grand Canyon/Horseshoe Bluff Ecological Area
Lusk Creek Canyon Ecological Area
Lusk Creek North Ecological Area
Lusk Creek Zoological Area/Candidate Wild & Scenic River
Martha's Woods Ecological Area
Massac Tower Springs Ecological Area
Millstone Bluff Ecological Area/Historic Site
Odum Tract Ecological Area
Opossum Trot Trail Botanical Area
Ozark Hill Prairie RNA/Ecological Area
Panther Hollow RNA/Ecological Area
Pine Hills Annex Ecological Area
Pine Hollow Ecological Area
Pleasant Valley Barrens Ecological Area
Poco Cemetery East Ecological Area
Poco Cemetery North Ecological Area
Pounds Hollow Ecological Area
Provo Cemetery Barrens Ecological Area
Reddick Hollow Botanical Area
Reid's Chapel Ecological Area
Rich's Zoological Area
Robnett Barrens Ecological Area
Russell Cemetery Barrens Ecological Area
Saltpeter Relict Botanical Area
Sand Cave Ecological Area
Schwegman Ecological Area
Silvey Pond Botanical Area
Simpson Township Barrens Ecological Area
Snow Springs Ecological Area
Split Rock Hollow Ecological Area
Stoneface RNA/Ecological Area
Sulphur Springs Botanical Area
Teal Pond Botanical Area
Toothless Zoological Area
Whoopie Cat Mountain RNA/Ecological Area
Wolf Creek Botanical Area

Berryville Shale Glade Nature Preserve
Big Grand Pierre Site Nature Preserve
Brown Barrens Nature Preserve
Campbell Lake Nature Preserve
Cave Creek Barrens Nature Preserve
Cedar Bluff Nature Preserve
Chestnut Hills Nature Preserve
Collier Limestone Glade Nature Preserve
Cretaceous Hills Nature Preserve
Cypress Hill Nature Preserve
Cypress Pond Nature Preserve
Deer Pond Nature Preserve
Draper's Bluff Nature Preserve
Fern Rocks Nature Preserve
Fort Massac Nature Preserve
Gibbons Creek Barrens Land and Water Reserve
Guthrie Cave Nature Preserve
Horseshoe Lake and Forest Nature Preserve
Lake Murphysboro Hill Prairie Nature Preserve 
Little Black Slough - Heron Pond Nature Preserve
Lovets Pond Nature Preserve
Lower Cache River Swamp Nature Preserve
Lusk Creek Canyon Nature Preserve
McClure Shale Glade Nature Preserve
Mermet Swamp and Flatwoods Nature Preserve
Ozark Hills Nature Preserve
Piney Creek Ravine Nature Preserve
Round Bluff Nature Preserve
Sielbeck Forest Tract Nature Preserve
SW Kinkaid Route 3 Natural Area