Thousands of spectators are expected to swarm into Carbondale this month for a rare glimpse of a full eclipse of the sun.
Since the eclipse is expected to last less than three minutes, tourists will be looking for ways to spend their time. Visitors can find more of Mother Nature’s highlights at Giant City State Park, located south of Carbondale.
Although August seems like a hot, barren time of year, Giant City will be alive with colors as dozens of wildflowers will be in bloom.
“In August the forest starts to settle a little bit,” said Jennifer Randolph, an Illinois Department of Natural Resources interpreter at Giant City. “So, you start seeing a lot more things out there in the late summer. We have a lot of different bloomers in the park. The snake root will be everywhere, a beautiful little fuzzy white flower. Mistflower, another one of those little fuzzy flowers, it’s a beautiful little purple color. There is a lot to see in August.”
And, while the grass may be turning brown and some tree leaves starting to fade, the forest floor remains vibrant.
“There is plenty of color,” Randolph said. “The sunflowers, which is one of the largest flower families you find, there are lots of different sunflower varieties. The hispid sunflower, it’s just lovely. You get those bright yellow pops. And, actually, there is a lot of purple out there. There’s a lot to see.”
While some flowers have specific habitat needs, flowers should be in bloom throughout the park.
“It’s really park-wide, Randolph said. “A really interesting place to go in the park that not a lot of people go to, and they really should, are some of the ag fields we have. Those are some great places to go see some of your prairie-type plants and also butterflies. You’ll find a lot of the milkweeds down there. The ironweed is a beautiful deep purple flower.”
Granted, not everyone is a botanist, but there are plenty opportunities to identify the blooming beauties.
“We encourage people to bring things to the Visitor Center,” Randolph said. “It’s often people will bring in their phone with a picture and want to know what it is. We have some wonderful wildflower resources here.
“Our wonderful volunteer Jan Sundberg has a great book of wildflower pictures. She has taken all the pictures herself in the park. So, if somebody is out in the park, sees a really pretty flower and doesn’t know what it is, take a picture and bring it in to us. I’m sure we can identify it for them. We have staff here that just love to geek out on identifying wildflowers and fauna.”
While many of the flowers will be readily on display on roadsides and fields, Randolph said there are some flowers worth seeking out.
“We have a blackberry lily that should be blooming in the park about the time of the eclipse,” she said. “It’s a lovely flower, bright orange. It’s not as common, but we do have several trails you can find it blooming. Another really cool flower is the Nodding Ladies Tresses. It’s a gorgeous little white plant. There’s only a few locations it grows in the park.”
The Nodding Ladies Tresses can sometimes be seen along the road near the Giant City Lodge. The blackberry lily can been seen on Indian Creek Trail.
And, even visitors who don’t spend time on the trails will see plenty of color.
“Things like jewelweed, mistflower or snakeroot, you can find everywhere in the park,” Randolph said. “Ironweed is growing in the fields. Downy Skullcap is another really beautiful flower you find on the Giant City Nature Trail and Trillium Trail. Of the eight trails we have in the park, you’ll find something different on each trail. There’s always something to see.”