This week I visited a portion of one of our restored prairies that I hadn’t been to for a while. During the last couple of years we’ve been grazing it fairly hard, so the wildflower displays haven’t been fantastic. I was pleased to see that the rest we’re giving the prairie this year has allowed those wildflowers to do their thing.
The site was seeded in 2003, and included a number of excavated wetlands. Portions of the upland seeding came in well and others have some issues, but for the most part, the wetlands look great.
This year, for the second time since we seeded the site, some of the wetlands are experiencing an explosion of an annual plant called prairie gentian (Eustoma grandiflorum). The plant is closely related to, but in a different genus than, the gentian species familiar to many tallgrass prairie enthusiasts. Our gentian is an annual that shows up mainly in wet prairies, with an apparent affinity for alkaline soils. It’s an awfully pretty flower, and when it’s blooming in abundance, makes for a spectacular floral show.
Click below to see more photos from yesterday morning.
I’m not sure whether the weather or last year’s grazing management (or a combination of both) were responsible for the explosion of prairie gentian this year. I need to dig through our seed harvest records and my field notes and see if I can figure out what other year we saw a similar phenomenon. It’d be interesting to see if I can find a pattern of response.
I don’t feel like I did a good job of capturing the scene very well. Sometimes, I feel like my photos end up pulling out selective views of a prairie that overestimate the aesthetic beauty and abundance of flowers there. In this case, it was the opposite. You’ll just have to use your imagination!