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A Nature Journal

Experience the natural world with east central Illinois master naturalists
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Are We There Yet?

Posted by Trent Hawker -

Story and photos by Roger Inman (2010)

As a group we Master Naturalists are a hopeful bunch. Just about all of our work anticipates future rewards. And so it is with the "pollinator pocket" my wife Cathy and I began two years ago. First, of course, we had to go to the Grand Prairie Friends plant sale. We got a Missouri ironweed, a milkweed, a cup plant, and a fourth plant which did not survive (probably New Jersey tea), all encircling our city street lamp. Unfortunately, we don't have much sunlight in our yard. The easement around the streetlight was our most promising location for prairie plants. The cup plant and the Missouri Ironweed were the only two that bloomed last year. But we are ever hopeful.

In the process of making the pollinator video last year (https://youtu.be/IrEIUKoi16g) we expanded our modest plot and covered it with dried leaves from the maple trees that were responsible for our shady yard. Again, we went to the GPF plant sale in the spring and added about a dozen new plants, including three New Jersey teas. I also put a short wire fence around the area to deter rabbits.

The waiting began. Waiting for the plants to grow. Waiting for them to flower. Waiting for the pollinators to arrive.

The New Jersey teas still don't look like they've grown at all, and one even died. Blooming was another story. The cup plant, now with six stalks up to maybe seven feet tall, is loaded with yellow flowers. The black-eyed Susans are also in full bloom. The great blue lobelias are actually showing some blue, and the Missouri Ironweed is teasing us.

I feel like the kid in the car who constantly pesters his parents. "Are we there yet?"

Maybe.

I feel the same about the ECIMN. Over the last year Maddie Kangas has done a great job keeping us on track and organized. Almost a year after losing our founder and leader, Sandy Mason, now we have gained a new educator, Ryan Pankau, and an expanded relationship with Trent Hawker. Our membership is growing, dedicated, talented, energetic, and forward-looking. We might as well accept it. We'll never "get there" because what we do, whether planting, removing invasives, improving habitat, or mentoring new MNs, is always forward-looking. I wouldn't have it any other way. But I would like for the Missouri ironweed to bloom soon, and then the goldenrod.



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