Striking displays of blooms are blanketing DuPage County's prairies, and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County invites visitors to explore the trails to see them.
"Prairies may have flowers in bloom from May through October, and new colors seem to appear from week to week as different species come into their peak," said Kevin Luby, a naturalist at the district's Willowbrook Wildlife Center.
"August and September are some of the best times to explore prairies because visitors can see the transition from the many bright summer colors to rich tones of fall."
Summer blooms include the yellow blossoms on cup plant, compass plant, prairie dock and rosin weed, alongside brown and blue big bluestem and Indian grass. Purple prairie blazing star, scarlet cardinal flower and orange butterfly weed provide additional vibrant colors.
As the lingering blooms of wild bergamot and purple coneflower fade, yellow goldenrods and cream, blue and purple asters start to appear.
Three forest preserves in particular -- Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, West Chicago Prairie in West Chicago and Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn -- offer great shows and are all state-designated nature preserves.
The Poverty Prairie at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien is home to more than 300 native plants, and the Great Western Trail through Timber Ridge Forest Preserve in West Chicago offers its own colorful vistas.
At Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn, the trail through the Back 40 features woodland and prairie, where yellowish gentian and white snakeroot bloom.
Most DuPage County forest preserves are open daily from one hour after sunrise to one hour after sunset, and none have admission or parking fees. Visitors can find information and trail maps for these locations and others at dupageforest.org, under "Places to Go" and "Forest Preserves."