Waterfall Glen Nature Walk in Lemont, IL-- 6/14/21

Hello, I am back for my second nature walk! This week, I really focused on observing the plants around me. I am back home in Illinois, so I enlisted 2 of my friends to go hiking with me at a beautiful forest preserve nearby called Waterfall Glen. We hiked for about 2 hours, and it was a perfect day! The sun was shining, it was about 78 degrees (so not as hot and humid as Texas), the trails weren't crowded, and there was a light breeze. My first general impression about the trails was that everything was just SO GREEN! It was beautiful! We were completely surrounded by lush vegetation, and the trees were so tall that they provided such beautiful shade. It is crazy to think that the tall trees, mostly angiosperms, that provide such cooling shade only appeared in the fossil record about 145 million years ago, and have been the abundant plants since. I wonder what the planet looked like before angiosperms were so diverse and abundant? It is really not that long ago in geologic time when such large plant groups existed. It would seem so strange to walk around an Earth with only flat, low-lying plants. I guess in terms of plants, we used to have a flat Earth, haha! It's cool to think about how different adaptations, importantly vascular tissue, allowed trees to reach such great heights. I also wonder if without the angiosperms to provide shade, if we would still see the biodiversity that exists in other plants and also animals today. I think the trees and their provided a habitat and suitable climate that allowed many organisms to thrive. Another random shower-type thought I often ponder is the fact that the only reason so many plants are green is due to the shared presence of chlorophyll a and b. If chlorophyll reflect a different wavelength of light, say purple, we would have a purple planet! I bet the selection for chlorophyll has something to do with the spectrum of light the sun emits and which wavelengths are most abundant, and also with which wavelengths chlorophyll absorbs to do photosynthesis. I also believe the ubiquitous green color of plants support the fact that there was just one single transition from freshwater alga to life on land for plants! During my walk, I saw a few flowers of different colors on plants, and they were so pretty. For example, I saw a yellow Creeping Buttercup, clover flowers, and some purple flowers of the genus Securigera. I wonder how different this trail looks in the spring when all of the flowers are blooming at once? I bet it is so colorful and lively with pollinators! I also saw one plant, a Black Raspberry plant, with fruit on it. I find it so cool that fruit is one adaptation that allows for further seed dispersal. This is such a fascinating example of how plants utilize animals to their advantage to help spread their genetic information!
One of my favorite things about observing plants was noticing how much diversity there was in leaves. The first thing I noticed was that sometimes leaves come in groups of 3, sometimes 5, and sometimes 6, for example. For someone who really knows their plants, this is probably helpful in plant identification. I also noticed that some leaves were rounder, some were very skinny, some large, and some very small. I wonder what selection pressures caused so many different leaf shapes and sizes? Something I did notice about every leaf is how waxy it was. I learned that this is the cuticle, and it was one of the main adaptations that allowed plants to transition to land. It prevents the plants from drying out. In class, we listened to a very interesting episode of the Ologies podcast called "Bryology" with Dr. Robin Kimmerer. To be honest, before listening to this podcast, I didn't really know what a moss was. I thought it was just some type of unwanted plant that forms on the ground. This actually happened to be one of the most interesting episodes of Ologies though! I really like thinking about mosses now as miniature forests that are teeming with invertebrate inhabitants and a mini ecosystem existing within them. I was also fascinated to learn that mosses have antimicrobial properties, and that some animals (such as Caribou, or birds in their nests), use these antimicrobial properties to their advantage! I love how closely all organisms on Earth work together to thrive and flourish (that is when they are not being pathogens or parasites). I was also so intrigued that some indigenous populations use moss as a diaper because of its absorbent properties. Because of all this, I was determined to find a moss. I could not find one, and then my friend randomly goes, "Hey Courtney want a picture of some moss," and I was like "of course!" She was a little surprised by my excitement, but I was once like her and thought mosses were completely useless.
My favorite park of Waterfall Glen is of course... the waterfall (although it's actually a dam). When we got to the waterfall, I saw a lot of green algae, which I learned is in the kingdom Plantae, but is actually a protist, but is closely related to land plants, and so plant has a very different colloquial and scientific meaning, ugh. Nonetheless, the algae were cool to see covering the rocks, even though they made the rocks very slippery! We need to be thankful for these slippery things though because they are such important primary producers in aquatic ecosystems! Last summer when I went to waterfall glen with my sister, we saw a huge watersnake, so I was so determined to find one again! My friends didn't believe me that they existed at Waterfall Glen, so when a super long one darted out from under a rock while we were crossing the stream, they were in for a big surprise! We also so a lot of crayfish in the river, some spiders on the rocks, and lots of beautiful damselflies near the stream (which, like dragonflies, I think are so, so pretty). One of the weirdest non-plant things I saw on this hike was a bunch of white "spit" on a tree. I was so confused what the white foam was. I did some research and learned that this is created by spittlebugs! I guess their name is very fitting for the frothy mess they create when they eat plants!
This was overall a very successful, fun, informative walk. I saw so many different kinds of plants, and now that I have learned about the complexities that exist with plants beyond what meets the eye (such as alternation of generations, different modes of reproduction, their metabolism, and more), I am so much more appreciative of the beautiful landscape they create!

Posted by courtney_redey courtney_redey, June 18, 2021 20:29

Observations

Photos / Sounds

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What

Fleabanes and Horseweeds Genus Erigeron

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:19 PM UTC

Description

Cute little flowers before I even got on the trail!

Photos / Sounds

Square

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:39 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Burdocks Genus Arctium

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:56 PM UTC

Description

Thought the shape of these leaves were pretty cool.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Ashes Genus Fraxinus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:56 PM UTC
Plants

Photos / Sounds

What

Plants Kingdom Plantae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:57 PM UTC

Description

Not too sure about this one… was a tall skinny stem from a low lying plant.

Photos / Sounds

What

Goldenrods Genus Solidago

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:57 PM UTC

Description

Possibly a goldenrod with no flowers? I love the unique leaf pattern.

Photos / Sounds

What

Roses Genus Rosa

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 15, 2021 01:05 PM UTC

Description

Could this be a rose plant? Just no flowers?

Photos / Sounds

What

Fleabanes and Horseweeds Genus Erigeron

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:57 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:14 PM UTC

Description

So many Jewelwings! I love how brightly colored they are— almost metallic!

Photos / Sounds

What

Clovers Genus Trifolium

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:58 PM UTC

Description

Wow! Didn’t even notice the leaves of 3 before.

Photos / Sounds

What

Melilots and Sweetclovers Genus Melilotus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:58 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Red Clover Trifolium pratense

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 01:58 PM UTC

Description

My favorite color :)

Plants

Photos / Sounds

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What

Plants Kingdom Plantae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:01 PM UTC

Description

Looks like a young tree, symmetrical branches, many skinny leaves.

Photos / Sounds

What

Honeworts Genus Cryptotaenia

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:01 PM UTC

Description

So dainty.

Plants

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Plants Kingdom Plantae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:02 PM UTC

Description

Is this a gall developing on this trunk?

Photos / Sounds

What

Grapevines Genus Vitis

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:05 PM UTC

Description

The waxy cuticle was very easy to see on these leaves.

Photos / Sounds

What

Shining Bedstraw Galium concinnum

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:06 PM UTC

Description

I love the star burst pattern in leaves of 6.

Photos / Sounds

Square

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:07 PM UTC

Description

Huge leaves in a group of 5.

Plants

Photos / Sounds

What

Plants Kingdom Plantae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:08 PM UTC

Description

Such a bright green!!

Photos / Sounds

What

Meadow-Rues Genus Thalictrum

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:08 PM UTC

Description

I always find different leaf shapes so interesting. Also, these leaves seemed more dull and less waxy.

Photos / Sounds

What

Mosses Phylum Bryophyta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:10 PM UTC

Description

My friend saw this one! Glad she pointed it out. I was looking for mosses!

Plants

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Plants Kingdom Plantae

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:22 PM UTC

Description

Small little clump of grass near water-ish.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:12 PM UTC

Description

Pretty heart shaped leaves!

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:12 PM UTC

Description

Huge leaves, crinkled edges.

Photos / Sounds

What

Silky Dogwood Cornus amomum

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:13 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:14 PM UTC

Description

I couldn’t find any bugs, but was so fascinated by the white “spit” all over the plant. Learned it’s from spittlebugs.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Green Algae Phylum Chlorophyta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:15 PM UTC

Description

Made it down to the waterfall!

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Green Algae Phylum Chlorophyta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:16 PM UTC

Description

Rocks were a little slippery

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:17 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Roses Genus Rosa

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:17 PM UTC

Description

Everything looked very dry, even the stream was very dry and low.

Photos / Sounds

What

Rusty Crayfish Faxonius rusticus

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:19 PM UTC

Description

Personally am not a fan of crayfish. There were so many!

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:20 PM UTC

Description

Very dark, hard shell.

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:22 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Ebony Jewelwing Calopteryx maculata

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:22 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Mosses Phylum Bryophyta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:23 PM UTC

Description

More miss!

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:23 PM UTC

Description

Such a cute little flower!

Photos / Sounds

What

Common Watersnake Nerodia sipedon

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:25 PM UTC

Description

FINALLY SAW A SNAKE. I told my friends I would find one.

Photos / Sounds

What

Green Algae Phylum Chlorophyta

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:27 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Docks Genus Rumex

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:43 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

Square

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:35 PM UTC

Description

Is this a mold? Web?

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:38 PM UTC
Arachnids

Photos / Sounds

What

Arachnids Class Arachnida

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:41 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Honeworts Genus Cryptotaenia

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:41 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Giant Ragweed Ambrosia trifida

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:42 PM UTC

Description

Interesting leaf pattern.

Photos / Sounds

Square

What

Arthropods Phylum Arthropoda

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:44 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Black Raspberry Rubus occidentalis

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:46 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Clovers Genus Trifolium

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:49 PM UTC

Description

We thought the design on here was pretty.

Photos / Sounds

What

Poison Ivies and Oaks Genus Toxicodendron

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:49 PM UTC

Photos / Sounds

What

Dicots Class Magnoliopsida

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:49 PM UTC

Description

Any with 4 leaves… haha

Photos / Sounds

Observer

courtney_redey

Date

June 14, 2021 02:54 PM UTC

Description

Need help with this identification.

Comments

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Really great job on all of these observations! Seems like you're having some fun engaging with nature -- wonderful! :)

Posted by sambiology about 1 month ago (Flag)

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