Located in downtown Naperville along the Riverwalk, ERA and its team of subconsultants worked with the City of Naperville to provide a structural assessment of the Moser Tower, home to the Millennium Carillon. It is said to be one of the four largest carillon structures in the United States. Our findings during the investigation phase verified that the tower was structurally sound and within the realm of repair. That led to ERA’s development of contract plans and specifications to address the required concrete repairs, steel repairs and painting, and waterproofing issues experienced at the base of the tower. The project was let in May with construction commencing in June. Workers are currently installing scaffolding around the entire perimeter of the structure so they may access repair locations. ERA is providing construction engineering services to the City to help ensure the repairs are constructed in accordance with the contract documents. The Moser Tower and Millennium Carillon will be closed to the public for the remainder of the 2021 season and the bells will be silenced until construction is completed in the fall.
The final plant of the week for July is the native Halberd-Leaved Rose Mallow (Hibiscus laevis).
A native wetland perennial found in most areas of the state, this native hibiscus looks like a tropical plant that escaped from the jungles of Hawaii but is content growing in the swamps, riverbanks, and marshes throughout central Illinois and some counties at the north and south ends of the state. This plant can be identified in the off-season by the bunches of upright brown stalks and is difficult to distinguish from the related but rare Swamp Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) without foliage present.
While this plant does not lend itself particularly well to landscaping due to its need for wet soils, it can be grown successfully in rain gardens where the ground stays moist year-round. The large flowers are great for pollinators and nectar-seeking insects of all kinds due to their large size and readily accessible pollen-producing organs.
Distinct features of this plant aside from the showy attractive blooms are the interesting lobed foliage and fascinating flower buds protected by a medieval-looking cage of spiky bracts. These bracts seem to act as a defense against herbivores, though they are not very effective as they are soft and flexible.
Just blocks from the original McDonald’s location in the City of Des Plaines, Illinois, ERA worked with the Little Bulgarian School to construct a new parking lot facility for the renovated school building originally constructed in 1930. The original site only had 31 parking stalls. The improved parking lot provides 60 new parking stalls and 3 ADA spaces along with an improved drop off area. The parking lot required MWRD permitting and underground stormwater storage was needed to comply with stormwater detention and water quality requirements. The new driveway entrance onto Lee Street is an unmarked Illinois State route that included recent streetscape improvements. New drainage has helped to eliminate the frequent basement flooding. The school is now fully functional and was even able to help the community by making their space available to local sports leagues during the slower times of the year.
Plant of the week is back! This week’s featured plant is Common Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).
Common Jewelweed is an herbaceous annual plant with translucent succulent stems and interesting orange flowers. Common throughout Illinois in shady, wet areas, the plant can be found in varying habitats from stream banks, bottom woods, and disturbed areas with moderate soil moisture where a shallow fragile root system can dig into soft sediment and organic material. There is one other Impatiens species in Illinois, Impatiens pallida, or Pale Jewelweed. It is very similar to Common Jewelweed but has yellow flowers instead of orange and appears to be more tolerant of dry soils.
Aside from the unique two-part flower, Jewelweed flowers exhibit a trait known as ‘cleistogamy’ where self-pollination takes place inside a small, closed flower without the need for external factors. This trait means less energy is spent on producing large showy flowers, pollen, or nectar, that would otherwise take away from seed production or general plant growth. Another interesting feature is seed dispersal. Once flowers are pollinated and die back, the seed pod grows into a narrow green pod, which then bursts open on contact, hurling seeds in every direction as shown in the below slow-motion video.
While all of this may be fascinating in and of itself, the best part about Jewelweed is its anti-itch properties. Frequently the number one active ingredient in poison ivy cream and some bug bite medication, jewelweed is a fantastic natural remedy for things like mosquito bites, poison ivy, and stinging nettle (which coincidentally all happen to grow in similar locations). Simply tear off a leaf and crush it up in your fingers to release the plant’s sap and rub it on the affected areas. Of course, the first time you apply or try any foraged ingredients, sample a small amount and wait to see if any adverse reactions occur before applying more.
This week we will be looking at a broad group of plants in the genus Carex, commonly referred to as Sedges.
Sedges are a grass-like plant in the family Cyperaceae. Split down into several genus below that, Carex is the most commonly found genus of Sedge in Illinois with over 2,000 known species around the world, and 193 species described in Robert Mohlenbrock’s Illustrated Flora of Illinois. Carex species are easily confused for grass, especially when the interesting seed heads are not present, but they can always be discerned by remembering the phrase “sedges have edges”. This is because all sedges, and some other genus in the Cyperaceae have triangular stems, though some or more pronounced than others. They usually grow in tufting clumps known as a ‘hummock’ and have favorability to wet areas such as stream banks and wooded wetlands but can also be found on dry sand and hill prairies.
Beneficial to local wildlife in many ways, Carex species provide forage food for animals and insects grazing on foliage, waterfowl seeking out seeds and seed heads, serve as host species for several caterpillars and other insects, and create nesting areas for small songbirds and mammals.
Most importantly, sedges can be used in home landscaping with few issues as no known Carex species are invasive. The varied size, shape, colors, attractive inflorescence, and tolerance for varied soil and moisture can be an asset to any home landscape. While many horticultural varieties exist, primarily from Asia, it is best to seek out native varieties that local wildlife can recognize and benefit from.
Included below are a variety of collected seed heads all found within one small woodland garden, and two species identified in varied habitats. The variety of shape and texture can create visual interest year-round as the plants mature, flower, and change color in the fall.
Pictured species are as follows:
Photo C: Carex vulpinoidea (Foxtail Sedge) in a flooded wetland
ERA is excited to welcome Amelia Chaille to the Site Development Department! Learn more about Amelia below.
This week’s featured plant is Asarum canadense, also known as Wild Ginger!
Wild ginger is a low growing ground cover plant in the Aristolochiaceae family of pipevine plants known for their highly unusual flowers. Wild ginger is easily identifiable by its heart-shaped fuzzy leaves that seem to glimmer in sunlight and an unusual looking small red flower that grows out of the leaf base and droops to the ground. Found mostly on dry to slightly moist woodland slopes, this plant can form dense colonies on the forest floor below a traditional open canopy of oak, sycamore, and hickory.
There is not a single most interesting aspect of this plant, from the interesting foliage to the unusual flower, wild ginger also serves as a substitute to traditional ginger (Zingiber officinale) from southeast Asia. The fragrant rhizome can be used fresh or dried and ground into a powder to impart flavor into cooking. Just as fascinating is this plant’s approach to reproduction. Unlike many other flowers, A. canadense does not attract pollinators with sweet fragrances and the allure of nectar, but instead chooses to attract beetles and flies using the scent of decaying flesh. This is a trait commonly associated with the gargantuan century plants, often featured in many botanic gardens (Amorphophallus titanium). With beetles as the primary pollinator, this is only one of the reasons the flowers droop to the ground. Once the flower is pollinated, the seeds develop and the pod splits, revealing seeds with a fleshy coating similar to that of species in the Trillium genus. This bit of food is then carried away by ants with the seed still attached, where it will germinate away from the parent plant and begin a new colony of Ginger.
Meet our interns for this summer: Jennifer Ray and Samantha Heatherly! They will both be working in ERA's various departments in the office and out in the field throughout the summer. Learn more about them below.
This week’s plant is Utricularia macrorhiza, or the Common Bladderwort.
Utricularia is a highly specialized group of plants that can be found across the globe and can range widely in habitat from floating in stagnant bogs, nestled in moss on mountaintops, and climbing trees in rainforest canopies. What sets these plants apart from others is that they have adapted to grow in nutrient-poor environments and have since devised a way to supplement their intake of nitrogen and phosphorous by digesting micro-invertebrates such as nymph-stage insect larva. While there are several insectivorous plants, like Pitcher Plants, Sundews, and the famous Venus Flytrap; Utricularia, or Bladderwort, trap prey using one of many small bladders located along its root structures that have fine hairs surrounding a lidded opening. When a small organism brushes these hairs, the trap springs open with such force that it causes a vacuum, sucking the prey inside and closing the lid. That’s right! This is one of Illinois’ few native insectivorous plants.
Common Bladderwort can be found throughout Illinois in sunny stagnant water and is normally only observed when the bright yellow flowerheads poke up through the surface in the summer, otherwise it may be confused for pond scum, algae, or other less exciting pond weed. While some species in the Utricularia genus are terrestrial (living on the ground) and some are arboreal (living in trees or rock faces off the ground), this species is fully aquatic. It can be easily separated from other aquatic plants by the round bubbly traps spread among the fine moss-like foliage that float just below the water’s surface.
Here is a link to a video of the trap in action: https://youtu.be/Zb_SLZFsMyQ?t=50
Engineering Resource Associates, Inc. (ERA) is a consulting firm providing civil engineering, structural engineering, environmental science, and surveying.