This is eastern skunk cabbage at Kankakee River State Park. It’s peaking through the soil earlier than most years after 20 days of above normal temperatures.

As I’m writing this, we are sitting at 20 consecutive days of above normal winter temperatures. I hate it.

I might be in the minority, but I prefer when winter behaves like winter. The cold temperatures of winter play an important role for many plants and animal life cycles. At Midewin, we are spreading seed across a variety of prairie habitats.

Many of those species require several months cold stratification for good germination rates. We might get a winter storm this weekend and perhaps February will be a deep freeze, but as our climate trends toward more of a southern U.S. climate (More like Texas in more recent predictions by 2080) I expect the “above normal” temp streaks to become more common over time.

With warm temperatures in mind, I stopped at the Kankakee River State Park to look for eastern skunk cabbage this week, and I found dozens of them poking out of the muddy soil. In cold years, this plant is buried under snow and won’t start peaking out until February or March. I have found some in January before, but usually they are sparse this close to the beginning of the new year.

If you are looking to get involved with nature in 2020, I want to point you to a couple interesting conferences coming up regionally.

Birding America Symposium — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 14 at North Park University in Chicago.

Experts will be covering birding topics from local perspectives, as well as from around the world. Keynote speaker is John Fitzpatrick, executive director of Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For more information, visit

Chicago Wilderness Congress — April 2. Registration opens soon. UIC Forum in Chicago. Visit

This year’s theme is: Inspiring Healthy Communities for People and Nature.

Reach Trevor Edmonson at

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