Nature is putting on a spectacular flower show right now at Cook County Forest Preserves’ Sand Ridge Nature Center in the south suburban Calumet region.
The native swamp rose mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) has hit full bloom, its super-sized six-inch blossoms bursting forth in seemingly every shade of pink from the palest blush to saturated fuchsia.
Look for the beauties along the nature preserve’s Lost Beach Trail, where they line both sides of a boardwalk traversing a portion of wetland that provides swamp rose mallow with the moist conditions and loam soil the plant needs to thrive.
You might even catch sight of the rose-mallow bee, a specialist pollinator that’s often mistaken for a bumblebee.
VIDEO: A spectacular flower show can now be viewed at Cook County Forest Preserves’ Sand Ridge Nature Center in the south suburban Calumet region, as seen on Aug. 2, 2022. (Patty Wetli / WTTW News)
The plants are typically in bloom for a month. While not as rare as the native state-endangered Kankakee mallow, which has only been found in Kankakee County, swamp rose mallow isn’t incredibly common in Illinois, according to Illinois Wildflower. The state lies near the northwest range limit for the species in North America.
The 585-acre Sand Ridge campus is part of a unique “dune and swale” landscape that formed when ancient glacial Lake Chicago receded thousands of years ago. The nature center is located at 15891 Paxton Ave., South Holland.
Note to visitors: Dogs are not allowed on the nature center’s grounds. Plant collecting is strictly prohibited — take photos, leave the flowers.