Photo of the Week – December 8, 2011

Tuesday morning was on the chilly side.  When I woke up, it was clear, calm, and minus five degrees Fahrenheit.  In short, a perfect day to head out for some prairie photography!

A frosty seed head of Canada wild rye at a restored prairie on the campus of The Leadership Center - Aurora, Nebraska.

As the sun rose, I was tramping through the snow in a small restored prairie on the east side of Aurora.  I shared the prairie with a small flock of tree sparrows moving around the prairie and feeding on seeds from tall wildflowers and grasses.  There were also a few tracks of mice through the snow, and a great horned owl flushed from the wooded edge of the prairie as I walked in.  Otherwise, it was just me and a lot of frosty prairie plants.

I didn’t set out to photograph any particular thing, but I ended up focusing mainly on frozen flowers.  Below are a few of the images I came home with.  (Click on any photo to see a larger, sharper version of it.)

Entire-leaf rosinweed

New England aster

Tall boneset (Eupatorium altissimum)

Common evening primrose

Annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Canada wild rye

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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14 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 8, 2011

  1. j.hammonds says:

    What camera/lens were used in taking these lovely images, and did you use a tripod?

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Hi Julie,

      The photos were taken with two lenses – a Nikon 28-300 and a Nikon 105mm macro. Normally, I would have used the 105 for all, but I’m trying out my new 28-300 and I like the way it close focuses. Nikon D300s camera.

      Yes, tripod on all the photos. Several were shot at 1/8 of a second exposure or slower to get sufficient depth of field.

  2. Martha says:

    Beautiful. It isn’t that cold yet in NE OK but we’ll be looking at frost and snow soon enough.

  3. James McGee says:

    I am having trouble telling the difference between the different Elymus.

    James

    • Chris Helzer says:

      I’m not sure I understand your confusion? These two are both Elymus canadensis – nodding heads, long awns, etc. In our prairies, we really only have two to choose from: E. canadensis and E. virginicus (or virginiana, whichever way it’s supposed to be)

  4. James McGee says:

    A local expert told me we were collecting seed of Elymus canadensis during an outing this Fall. I thought the plants were Elymus riparius. I looked at pictures online and this did not help the situation any. I guess E. canadensis has larger paleas with undulate-divergent awns. It seems to me both species have nodding spikes (although keys indicate otherwise). This whole experience has left me with a lack of confidence in my ability to distinguish these two species.

    • James C. Trager says:

      Is your E. virginicus realy that or is it E. glabriflorus, Chris? Down here, the upland E. glabriflorus, has longer, very exerted spikes and narrower glumes. The whole plant is taller and grows in locations that are sunny at least part of the day.

      James, the differences and similarities you mention for E. canadensis and E. riparius are correct. The former is also a more robust grass, with more florets per spike (but I haven’t counted them). The undulate awns straighten out or simply become gently curved when wet, making them hard to distinguish from the never-undulate awns of E. riparius.

    • Chris Helzer says:

      I see. I’ll have to double check our Flora to see if both occur here, but as far as I know, they don’t.

  5. Beautiful photos. I suppose someday I’ll have to start trying out using a tripod with slow, natural light exposures – they have a quality to them that can’t be achieved any other way.

  6. James McGee says:

    Chris, I think you are starting to understand my confusion. I did not include this species before, but we also have E. glaucus in my area. This species is listed as present (most likely as a waif) by various sources even though it is not included in “Plants of the Chicago Region.” E. glaucus is very similar to E. canadensis. As if this genus is not difficult enough!

    Here is a website that might help you with Mr. Trager’s E. glabriflora question.

    http://herbarium.usu.edu/webmanual/

    James

    • Chris Helzer says:

      James and James. Sorry, we live simple lives out here in central Nebraska. Both our state botanist (office down the hall from me) and the Flora of Nebraska confirm it as E. canadensis. E. glabriflorus has never been reported from Nebraska, but has been in KS near our border. We have E. macgregorii, but only along the eastern tier of counties. Just good old E. canadensis and virginicus here in our prairies. (and a whole lot of other species that used to be Agropyrons and other fun genera, but are now lumped into Elymus)

  7. James McGee says:

    What about Elymus curvatus, E. elmoides, E. lanceolatus, E. macgregorii, E. repens, E. scribnerii, E. trachycaulis, and E. villosus as listed in the website I posted? Are these species usually included in another genus?

    James

    • Chris Helzer says:

      According to the Flora of Nebraska (2006) E. curvatus is part of E. virginicus. E. elymoides and lanceolatus are west and/or south of my area. I don’t see E. scribnerii in the book. E. villosus is more of a woodland plant. E. lanceolatus and trachycaulis are wheatgrasses, and pretty different than wild rye. As I said below, E. macgregorii is only on Nebraska’s eastern edge. The ones (in Nebraska) that look most similar to E. canadensis are villosus, virginicus, macgregorii.

  8. James McGee says:

    Your references must be more comperhensive than mine. I could find no information on E. curvatus, E. elymoides, E. scribnerii, or E. macgregorii. When all else fails … google. :)

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