Chicago Botanic Garden’s Dixon Prairie

Here’s another post about a summer visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden. This time I want to write about Dixon Prairie, one of the less visited parts of CBG.

Dixon Prairie is a 15 acre restored prairie with six different ecological communities, from wet to dry, black earth to sand and gravel. In addition to the grasslands, there is burr oak savannah, wetlands, and lagoons. Wildlife – insect, bird, mammal –  is numerous and diverse.

We were there in July, when the wildflowers seemed to be at their peak. Fortunately, Judy brought her camera.

Blue Heron in the lagoon along the prairie. CBG is working to improve shoreline erosion.
Blue Heron in the lagoon along the prairie. CBG is working to improve shoreline erosion.
Heron in flight.
Heron in flight.
Doe in the grasses.
Doe in the grasses.
2009-07-19 13.55.13
Purple Martin House.
Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)
Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)
Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea)

If you live in the Chicago area, go see the Dixon Prairie! Do you have a favorite local prairie, meadow, or “wild” garden?

Before concluding, I want to respond to the questions asked by Nadezda at Nadezda’s Northern Garden.

My favorite Christmas flower: Amaryllis.

Christmas preparation I never miss: Buying gifts.

What is the scent of Christmas: Judy’s baking.

Favorite Christmas song: Dropkick Murphys’ Christmas Song (with thanks to my friend Joanna).

30 Comments on “Chicago Botanic Garden’s Dixon Prairie

  1. Dixon Prairie looks wonderful. I love the way you captured the common milkweed in the half bloomed state..beautfiful!
    The Dropkick Murphy song is too good! LOL As a Bostonian, I’ve been a fan of theirs for years. The video for The Season’s Upon Us is riotously funny. Google it if you haven’t seen it yet!

  2. Tell Judy, good captures. Deer and heron usually do not stand and pose. I am always happy to see botanic gardens have these wild outdoor spaces. Most don’t have the space, but is great when they do. Ours does have some wild areas and I have seen deer. The pond is small and has many varieties of ducks. We have a nature preserve in our area that really is a wonderful place to take the family for a day of nature. It is great Chicago has a place like this with spaces of biodiversity.

    • I agree that it’s important to have an area of managed wild plants and fauna. The Dixon Prairie is one of my favorite parts of the Botanic Garden, though I have many favorites.

  3. Lovely to see a prairie representation in a botanical garden and that the local wildlife appreciates it as well as the humans!

    • “Prairie representation” is a good way of putting it. The designers contrived to have the maximum number of prairie environments in the smallest space.

  4. Prairies and wild meadows as part of a garden amaze me. I always wonder how much time and effort it takes to make them look beautiful. My really and truly wild meadow is nothing but weeds, with just a very few flowers at certain times. So, I know this must be an amazing accomplishment as well as an amazing place to see.

  5. Hi Jason, I wonder if you can see any of my comments in your reader, as i don’t see any in the post. Anyway, i always try with your every post, whatever! I am awed at the beauty of your wildflowers!

  6. I have been making half-hearted attempts to create a prairie area in my garden, but as you said, it’s a huge amount of effort and I get discouraged easily. But now that I see that Casa Mariposa has been successful with dalea, I may try it.

    • Are you trying for an actual prairie or meadow, or just a border with a mix of flowers and grasses? Have you seen the guides to planting a prairie on the website of Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin? From what I’ve heard, the big challenge is to keep the weeds down while your prairie species are becoming established.

  7. What a beautiful spot, you got some great photos to remember it by. I love prairie style gardens and natural meadows. We have left the back section of our property go wild (we’re rural) and I’ve never regretted it one second. Nothing I like better now than to see the grass swaying and birds flitting through picking seeds.

  8. I like how botanic gardens now are incorporating wild areas, not just showcasing plant collections. And this one does look like a treasure. All the pictures are beautiful captures, but that culver’s root is crazy! Love that shot.

  9. Again, I must get down there more often in the summertime! So many beautiful gardens in the Chicago area. Of course we have some nifty ones up here, too. Thanks for the tour and the reminder!

  10. Wow. I love the ‘untamed’ look of the landscape and those orange flowers. =)

  11. I can imagine how much work was needed to make this place look natural. We are trying to put in a meadow garden at work, and we are in a 2 year process of trying to rid the place of non-native invasives.

    • Keeping the invasives out is a never-ending job, but once there is a thick sod it becomes harder for the invasives to get in. The burnings also help.

  12. Seeing this made me long for spring and summer! 🙂 I don’t love living on the Prairies in the winter (it’s way too cold and there are no trees to keep out the biting winds!) but there is nothing to match the beauty of the wildflowers and the grasses during the rest of the year. The CBG did an amazing job of Dixon Prairie. The photos are fantastic.

    • That’s nice of you to say about the photos, Judy gets the credit of course. You’re right about CBG and the work they do, it is a fantastic institution.

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