Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sand Prairie Scrub Oak

Leon and I had planned to take Friday off for a long weekend camping trip in Brown County, Indiana. Unfortunately, Leon had been fighting a cold most of the week. When I got home Thursday evening, he informed me that his cold had settled into his chest as a bacterial infection and that he would need to see the doctor the next day. Thus ended the camping trip.

Saturday was gorgeous. We have been having unseasonably warm weather and spring is at leas a month ahead of schedule this year. Leon was feeling a bit better, so we decided to check out a nature preserve called Sand Prairie Scrub Oak down by Peoria.

Sandy Oak Woodlands

The rpeserve was further away than I realized, so we didn't arrive until late afternoon. It sandy oak woods interspersed with sand prairie. The latter contains lots of prickly pear cactus.

Sand phlox was abundant and in full bloom. Most of the flowers were white, with an occasional bright pink individual.

Sand Phlox - Typical Flowers

The Pink Form of Sand Phlox

The wild plums were blooming and putting on quite a show. We also saw lots of insects, including the year's first tiger beetle ( a green six-spotted tiger beetle).

Thicket of American Plum

Like everything else, the butterflies are very early this year. I saw seven species on Saturday, including a beautiful, fresh tiger swallowtail.

Tiger Swallowtail

The highlight of the day was getting to see a butterfy that in sand prairies. Previously, I had only ever seen Olympia Marbles on the shores of Lake Michigan. On this trip, I would see several in the a beautiful nature preserve in the sand country along the Illinois River.

Terrible photo of an Olympia Marble
I'm still glad I got to see it

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