Archive | May, 2016

Calumet Quarter at Rainbow Beach Dunes

25 May

CQ students 2016-05-20

Students from University of Chicago’s Calumet Quarter visited Rainbow Beach Dunes to learn about stewardship, urban nature areas, and prickly pear cactus!

Here’s a blog post from student Saul Levin:

The Cacti at Rainbow Beach Dunes

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my strongest impressions and most pressing questions following our visit to Rainbow Beach Dunes are about the “sexiest”[1] part of the dunes: Opuntia humifusa, more commonly known as Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus.[2]

I was interested by the impressive abundance of the cacti at the site we visited, especially when I discovered that its abundance is not consistent across its range. The prickly pear cactus has no unusual legal status at the federal level, but it is listed as rare vulnerable, or endangered in three states.[3]  The cactus owes its abundance in part to its ability to reproduce in three different ways.[4]  O. humifusa can reproduce through pollination and seeding. Detached segments can also travel on passing animals or simply fall off and roll away, taking root nearby. A third option called “layering,” in which still attached segments input new roots into the soil, explains why it is so difficult to distinguish adjacent plants from one another.

Read the rest of Saul’s article here, and view the gallery from their May 20 trip here.



May 28: Community Stewardship Workday

23 May

rainbow wood betony


Come out to Rainbow Beach Dunes this Saturday May 28 for invasive species management!

More beautiful native plants are blooming, like Triglochin maritima [seaside arrow grass], Pedicularis canadensis [wood betony or lousewort; pictured above], Sisyrinchium angustifolium [blue eyed grass, in the iris family], and Lithospermum canescens [hoary pucoon]. (Find out about all these species and more at Illinois wildflowers.)

But the invasive Bromus tectorum [cheatgrass or downy brome] is also making itself known across the site and we need volunteers to help remove it! Join us this Saturday May 28 from10am-12pm.

Remember to prepare for the weather and terrain: it could be cool and wet, or sunny and warm! Sturdy shoes, long pants and water are recommended. Tools, equipment, and snacks will be provided. Please RSVP here, and contact co-stewards Alison Anastasio ( or Jen Raber ( with questions.


Directions and a map can be found here.

Rainbow Beach Park runs parallel to South Shore Drive from 75th-79th Streets. Find directions and a map here.
By foot, walk east from South Shore Dr. on 77th St.
By car, you can only access the park at the southern end.
From the north/west, follow Hwy 41 east as it splits from South Shore Drive at 79th St. Turn left into the park at Farragut.
From the south, follow Hwy 41 north and turn right on Farragut, just before the intersection of 79th/South Shore.
Once in the park, go past the stop sign and water filtration plant and turn right at the next opportunity, into the parking lot before the Field House. Go to the southeast end of this lot and park. Meet at the entrance to the Nature Area, which is located at the southern end of the beach (look for the banner!).


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