Kankakee Mallow on WGN Radio

Here’s the audio of the 20-minute interview I did about the Kankakee mallow on “After Hours with Rick Kogan.” I had a great time talking about this and Rick is definitely one of the best interviewers out there – definitely a Chicago legend.

Enjoy and don’t be shallow!

Big Ass Spider Visits My Eyeballs

I work at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and we have a pretty big physical footprint on the lakeshore here. However, only a fraction of that is planted with native Illinois plants – a little circular area just north of the large totem pole we have.

My colleague and I were walking around yesterday to scout out some potential programming spots, and while passing through aforementioned only native garden, we saw this: (more…)

Mudpuppying in Chicago: My Story

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On frigid cold January weekends, my grandpa used to take me ice fishing on Beebe Lake, in Saint Michael, Minnesota. As we sat there quietly on our plastic buckets, waiting for our bobbers to plunge, I remember marveling at all the clusters of people clad in marshmallow jumpsuits, eyes peeled on their 10” holes. In the land of 10,000 lakes, bundling up and hanging out on the ice all day is a tradition, one that every true Minnesotan must participate in each winter. (more…)

Submit Your Custom Event Banner Creations in the First Ever Habitat 2030 Event Banner Challenge!

1Calling all graphic artists, doodlers, and Microsoft Word photo Frankensteiners! We need you to submit your entries for the first ever Habitat 2030 event banner challenge! Habitat 2030 was awarded a generous grant from the Nature Conservancy Volunteer Stewardship Network including funds to print a 6 foot by 2.5 foot custom event banner that we will use at community events to broadcast our awesomeness. The banner selected in this competition will be printed and used forever to advertise Habitat 2030 to future restorationists everywhere! It may even become an archeological artifact one day when the Earth is free of invasive plants, and future humans want to learn about our buckthorny past! After we receive the banner submissions, it will be up to you, our members, to select the winner! (more…)

Kankakee Mallow Lazarus

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Langham Island – the green outline is where winter volunteer crews cut down brush. The blue circles are the last known locations of Kankakee mallow.

Since starting the campaign to change Illinois’s state flower to the critically endangered Kankakee mallow – Iliamna remota – I’ve become pretty enamored with this plant’s story.  The only living plant species known to come from within Illinois’ borders, as of last year, its native habitat of Langham Island didn’t appear to have any living plants left.  A group of volunteers formed Friends of Langham Island and set to work to restore the mallow and save it from the exotic invasives that threatened to add it to the long list of native extinctions. (more…)

Natural Phenomenon in an Urban Metropolis

The Chicago River has made great strides towards becoming a clean and vibrant waterway. Reports of aquatic wildlife, including muskrats, turtles, beavers, and even otters have become common place. While walking to lunch, I’ve seen a blue heron perched on a grass covered outcropping of concrete. I’ve noticed the increased recreational activity as kayakers (more…)

Ethnobotany of Curcurbita foetidissima

"Cucurbita foetidissima staminate flower 2003-05-19" by Copyright by Curtis Clark, licensed as noted - Photography by Curtis Clark. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_foetidissima_staminate_flower_2003-05-19.jpg#/media/File:Cucurbita_foetidissima_staminate_flower_2003-05-19.jpg

“Cucurbita foetidissima staminate flower 2003-05-19” by Copyright by Curtis Clark, licensed as noted – Photography by Curtis Clark. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cucurbita_foetidissima_staminate_flower_2003-05-19.jpg#/media/File:Cucurbita_foetidissima_staminate_flower_2003-05-19.jpg

While perusing Kelly Kindscher’s Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie last year, one plant especially stood out: Cucurbita foetidissima or Buffalo Gourd, Fetid Wild Pumpkin, Stinking Gourd etc. Not only did the Buffalo Gourd have an extravagant number of medicinal uses, but mystique, reverence, and fear surrounded it. (more…)