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Alabama Adventures: Longleaf Pine Treasure Forest

After hearing about Pinus palustris from several southern botanist friends, I had to see the trees for myself! I had the great pleasure of ...

31 December 2015

Fond Farewells to 2015!

2015 has been incredible! I haven't published all the posts from some of my travels (a few posts are sitting in drafts), so for now I'll recount memorable moments!

In January, Steve gave me a birthday gift that would set me up for a year for of botanical adventures: a membership to the Chicago Botanic Garden! We took the kids to see Sansho-En, their beautiful Japanese garden. There was snow on the ground, but the 40-degree weather made for a perfect stroll through the garden.

February was the month that I had my long hair chopped off! I fawned over the works of Redoute on display at CBG, and spent Valentine's Day admiring the Spring Flower Show with my husband.  I started propagating Comosum chlorophytum pups!

Frozen shores and orchids made for a wonderful March; finding Yucca filamentosa on the beach kicked off my fascination with that plant, and visiting CBG's annual Orchid Show left me with a new appreciation for Orchidaceae. Later that month Steve and I had our first volunteer experience.

April brought spring ephemerals, lovely Narcissus, and magnificent magnolias! I saw endless Symplocarpus foetidus at Petrifying Springs Park in Kenosha, hiked Volo Bog's Interpretive Trail to find Sarracenia purpurea, and came face to face with deer at Lyons Woods Forest Preserve in Beach Park. I also enjoyed hiking at Kettle Moraine and Horicon Marsh!
May was full of more fantastic hikes: Moraine Hills, Volo Bog, and several locations in Lake County. The kids enjoyed exploring Wehr Nature Center and our family hiking. I ended up wandering 3.5 miles north into Winthrop Harbor because I kept finding cool wildlife and wildflowers in the woods. I took Steve to CBG's Butterflies & Blooms, where we saw beautiful butterflies galore.

My favourite experiences this year were in the next two months! 

In June, Steve and I took the kids to check out Cantigny Park, which had plenty of historical and horticultural sights. Later on in the month, Steve took me on a roadtrip to Atlanta, and we made stops in Alabama. We witnessed a breathtaking sunrise in the mountains of Tenessee. 

We had enough time to briefly check out Atlanta History Center, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta Botanical Gardens before we had to check into the hotel and put our over-24-hours roadtrip-induced insomnia to bed. It was my first time being back in the Atlanta area since I was a kid, and I loved it.

I had my first really, really difficult hike in the southern heat from the nature center to the top of Arabia Mountain and back -- alone.

I managed to squeeze in two more solo hikes and one sunset hike up the monadnock with Steve before we left Georgia in July. I saw Diamorpha smallii, Phemeranthus teretifolius, Mimosa sp., Pinus taeda, Centrosema virginianum, Commelina sp., and so much more!

We made our way down to Mobile, Alabama to see Mobile Botanical Gardens and their Longleaf Forest. MBG was a great rest stop of sorts, and seeing the Pinus palustris after the prescribed burn was fantastic, as well as the Rhexia sp. I spotted. We also went to Dauphin Island to see Fort Gaines and the white, sandy beaches. The Uniola paniculata was a sight to see! I was delighted at the wildlife: crabs, hermit crabs, and pelicans.

On our way home we stopped at Splinter Hill Bog; I hiked alone to find Sarracenia leucophylla. Despite the land being much flatter than Arabia Mountain, the heat was unforgiving, I took the long way around, and I forgot my water bottle. That was my second really, really difficult hike, but it was so worth it. There were so many pitcher plants! I only wish I had more time to explore. Before we left Alabama I was able to see Tillandsia usneoides on the roadsides and in a cemetary in Montgomery.

August was the month Spike the Amorphophallus titanum didn't bloom after much anticipation. I spent a lot of time wandering around Lake County to appreciate local flora and fauna. I also made sure to enjoy the horticultural excellence at CBG beyond giant stinky plants.

Inspired by my experiences with them at Dauphin Island, I got hermit crabs in September. Of course, I continued hiking and had a good time botanising as I roamed. In October Alice the titan arum (Spike's sibling) surprised everyone by blooming! I was lucky enough to see the Peggy Notebaert herbarium. I saw so many interesting plant specimens, as well as extinct Conuropsis carolinensis & Ectopistes migratorius. There were even neat fossils from Mazon Creek! During a volunteer workday collecting seeds, I saw my first native, wild orchid: Spiranthes cernua -- in bloom!

Mid-October was my first time volunteering with Habitat 2030 at a joint workday with Plants of Concern. I met a lot of amazing people! Near the end of the month, Steve and I went on a ghost tour with his step-mom and sibling. We didn't see any ghosts, but we learned quite a bit of Chicago's tragic history (and got exercise to boot since it was a walking tour)!

November was packed with fungi sighting and more volunteer work. I had my first experience sorting seeds at a Cook County workday. I visited CBG and saw Nepenthes flowers, which I had never seen before.  

And finally, in December, by networking with H2030, I connected with people from LaBaugh-Hernandez 2030 and joined them for a few workdays at LaBaugh and Somme Woods! There was a great Winter Solstice bonfire event at Somme, and I had the great pleasure of seeing Garfield Park Conservatory yesterday with Steve.

What a year I've had! I have a lot of great plans and high hopes for 2016. I hope that this year has been good for you, too. I also hope you continue to follow me on my adventures, whether on here, Instagram, or both! Happy New Year!


 I only have photos starting in January, until early July at the end of my Alabama adventures. At some point I will add pictures from July - December 2015 and will update this post at that time!