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Changing Landscapes: Open spaces have much to offer Kane County

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, March 29, 2013 12:32 p.m. CDT

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Kane County’s open spaces have a lot to offer, including native flowers and geological features.

But some of the jewels of those open spaces may not be as easy to find as, say, the historical Fabyan Windmill on the east side of Fabyan Forest Preserve along Route 25 between Geneva and Batavia, or the popular sledding hill, Johnson’s Mound, located off Hughes Road in Elburn.

Pam Otto, manager of nature programs and interpretive services at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, said there are a couple of spots within the St. Charles Park District boundaries where she loves to spend time. Persimmon Woods is one, and by sometime around April 15, she said woodland wildflowers begin to crop up.

Norris Woods Nature Preserve, near Johnor and Third avenues in St. Charles, is a 73-acre preserve that also features interesting spring wildflowers, Otto said.

Some native wildflowers that can be found in the Kane County area include hepatica, trout lily, wild hyacinth, bloodroot, wood anemone and spring beauties.

Those looking for seasonal colors can visit the Hickory Knolls Natural Area on Campton Hills Road, west of Peck Road in St. Charles. Otto said this is a vibrant area with great spring, summer and fall colors.

“There are so many preserves with so many unique qualities,” she said.

Otto said prickly pear cactus can be found growing at the Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, located at 35W003 Route 31 in South Elgin. While there’s debate as to whether the plants grew there naturally or were placed there, they seem to thrive in that area, Otto said.

While native plants may be easy to spot, a significant geological formation in Bliss Woods Forest Preserve, 5S660 Bliss Road, Sugar Grove, may not be as easy to notice.

Known as the “Kaneville Esker,” a glacial formation sits on the east side of Bliss Road. It looks like a hill, but it’s actually a winding ridge of stratified gravel deposited by a glacial river.

“It was famous,” said Mary Ochsenschlager, who now is retired from the St. Charles Park District as assistant superintendent of natural areas and interpretive services. “Early in the century, professors brought geology students to observe it. Most of it’s been graveled out [since].”

Otto said nature lovers can see great horned owls nesting this time of year, and it’s almost time for a pod of white pelicans to head into the area. She said the pelicans can be found in late March and early April, and they tend to settle at the Dick Young Forest Preserve on Nelson Lake Road in Batavia. But they’re only here for a short time.

“I imagine it won’t be too much longer before we start seeing them,” she said.

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