The beginning…

The first month of this internship has been adventure at every turn. We started with helping the forest service technicians with common garden experiments. We have been studying how certain plants are growing, and the amount of herbivory that is present on them. We have taken breaks to look for Lomatium dissectum and Eriogonum umbellatum.


Lomatium dissectum - Wikipedia


Sulphur Buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum

It has been fun hunting for our target species, and we were able to find some LODI and ERUM up at Bogus Basin, but there were not enough seeds to harvest. All life was going well until things got a bit crazy. We went to Modoc Plateau to get tissue samples of various target species from a range of different wetland sites. We were cruising along, making good progress and driving through some pretty intense backcountry roads. It was day 3 of our trip, when we were not careful enough and ended up getting stuck in a huge mud bog! It took us a day to be rescued, and even then we had to work together to pull the truck out of the mud. It took a ford F-250 to help pull a ford F-150 (Mountain goat).

One of our beautiful wetland sites.
Stranded Campsite
Stuck Truck
Salt Plateau

All in all it was a great bonding experience, and a memory I will never forget. You live and you learn!

Home Sweet Home

Headed northbound on I-55, I found myself surrounded by fields of familiar Illinois flora: Zea mays and Glycine max, better-known by their common names “corn” and “soybeans.” 

Upon my return home from college, however, I now also eyed scattered blooms of Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica), Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides), and Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon meadia) in preparation for the next six months spent at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. 

Native Michigan Lilies (Lilium michiganense) in full bloom. 

Formed by glacial outburst floods during the Ice Age, Midewin and the surrounding areas host some of Illinois’ last remaining dolomite prairies. Numerous rare plant species call this habitat home, spared from the plow due to its characteristically thin soils.

This unique plant community has presented the opportunity to work alongside the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant of Concern program, monitoring sub-populations of Small White Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium candidum), Slender Sandwort (Minuartia patula), Butler’s Quillwort (Isoëtes butleri), and Buffalo Clover (Trifolium reflexum).

The Eastern Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa), commonly found among bedrock scrapes. 

Many weeks have already been spent stumbling through sedge-meadows and honing my plant identification skills — much needed for the intimidating amount of Carex on our Target Species List.  

Other days have been used to put my CLM training to the test, collecting seed from Yellow Stargrass (Hypoxis hirsuta), Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium albidum), and Prairie Violet (Viola pedatifida) from a patch of remnant prairie at Lobelia Meadows. 

Bicknell’s Sedge (Carex bicknellii) ready for harvest. 

Despite being raised less than 10 miles away from Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, I’ve already explored it more this past month than I have my entire life. 

And although it’s no Chugach or Tongass National Forest, Midewin is nevertheless a gem of the Prairie State —  no matter how many acres of corn and soybeans hide it. 

Exploring Goose Lake Prairie, one of the many other natural areas that Illinois has to offer. 

Dade Bradley

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie