Flowers bloom on the prairie

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I’ve been doing a lot more driving the last month or so as I’ve been working on advertising accounts for The Prairie Press. I haven’t driven this much since I lived in Georgia and South Carolina, working for Chick-fil-A. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the music in the car and the solitude of driving in the country.

The drives across the Illinois prairie and into Clark and Coles County have reminded me how much I love springtime. 

I was driving through the back roads of Edgar County Thursday afternoon under the boughs of maples and elm trees in Symmes Township. The spring wild flowers are blooming. It seems a bit early to me but I sometimes forget as we grow older, the seasons move more quickly than when we were younger.

I’ve probably written about this before, but my love of spring comes thanks to my seventh grade homeroom teacher and science teacher, Mary Geekie. We did more than talk about basic biology in her classes. In the spring, she required each student to put together a wild flower notebook. My best friend, Susan Waggoner, and I rode our bikes to Blackhawk Park and armed with plastic bags and hand tools, went searching for the list of required plants.

Now each spring, thanks to Mary Geekie and seventh grade science, I smile each time I see a blue phlox or violet or spring beauty. Traveling along Castle Finn Road Thursday, I stopped to see the May Apples already covering the ground under the trees and in the hollers of the township.

One of my favorite wild flowers is the spring beauty. I was lucky enough growing up to become acquainted with Mary Dole Bryan, the high school librarian. She also attended my church. She lived in the big house where Methodist Park is now located on West Court Street. Each spring, her yard was filled with spring beauties, a common woodland wildflower (Claytonia virginica). A low plant with loose clusters of pink or whitish flowers striped with dark pink, they carpeted Mary Dole Bryan’s yard. The flowers are one-half to three-fourths of an inch wide with five petals. The flowers bloom from March to May. When I saw the spring beauties in her yard, I knew spring had truly arrived. 

I also enjoy the Illinois state flower — the common violet. They cover many yards in Edgar County. My favorite is the Confederate violet. Natural habitats include meadows, open woodlands, woodland borders, savannas, and wooded slopes along rivers or lakes. In more developed areas, it is sometimes found in city parks, lawns and along hedges or buildings. The petals of this form of Viola sororia are a mottled combination of blue-violet with white; from a distance, they appear pale to medium blue-violet. The blooming period occurs from mid-to late spring and lasts about 1-1½ months.

With the recent rains, the leaves on most all the trees have exploded. As I drove down the country roads, the green bowers reminded me — sort of — driving on Victory Drive in Savannah where the massive oaks provided a graceful ceiling.

Then there’s the smell of the farmland and prairie as farmers were busy planting, dodging the raindrops.

I do miss living near the ocean and the coast, watching the huge ships slowly making their way up the Savannah River to the port to unload their cargo containers while the dolphins play.

But there’s also something so very satisfying about sitting with the top down on my convertible at sunset, watching the first stars appear on the horizon and moonrise over the prairie.