In this scene, inspired by a late July visit to Poplar Creek Prairie, big bluestem grass has just begun to send its flowering stalks as high as a horse’s back. Also reaching overhead is the robust stalk of a compass plant in full bloom, and stems of the not yet flowering tall tickseed. Lower down are the abundant colorful blooms of the lavender flowering bee balm and bright yellow flowers of the gray-headed coneflower. These two are often seen in recently restored areas of prairie. Also in the foreground is the off-white wild quinine and the not yet flowering stems of stiff goldenrod.
These are only a handful of over one hundred species of prairie plants that have been lovingly restored to this former farm site. Since 1989, the Poplar Prairie Stewards, a project of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, have brought some 600 acres back to a near pre-settlement condition, all centered on a tiny remnant of dry prairie that survived on a gravelly hill on the site. Although it is surrounded by the suburban sprawl of Chicago, when walking through these 600 acres one can almost imagine the vast expanse of prairies and woodlands that once covered this part of Illinois.