Photo of the Week – August 10, 2012

I’m up on the Niobrara River again, but this week’s photo comes from back down on the Platte.  It’s awfully dry, but even in the drought there are some areas of green and even some blooming flowers – including these rosinweed plants.

Rosinweed flowers in restored grassland. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.


This entry was posted in Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants and tagged , , , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

9 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – August 10, 2012

  1. I have also noticed here in Northern Illinois the Silphium’s have been doing quite well through the drought, one of the benefits of deep roots!

  2. Chris, I noticed some nice large trees in the background. They appear to be Burr Oaks. Do you have any species typical of Savanna under the oaks at your site? Have you put any effort into restoration of Savanna dependent species?


    • James M – Actually, those are cottonwoods along a fenceline. We don’t have any oaks in the Platte Valley, so we don’t get to do any savanna restoration. The only oaks I get to play with are down at our Rulo Bluffs property.

        • Those cottonwoods are much wider branched than I am used to seeing in my area. All this talk about cottonwoods made me look through my coffee table book titled “Tallgrass Prairie” by John Madson and Frank Oberle. I found some pertinent prose in the chapter titled “The Far Edge, Into The West” pp. 75 and pp. 76.

          “Back East it was never highly regarded. Other trees were at least as big, with far better woods and reputations. To be a cottonwood in an eastern forest was to be a ninety-foot weed.
          But all that changed near the 100th Meridian where most eastern trees faded and failed, dying of wind, thirst, and general loneliness out along the buffalo rivers. There the cottonwood came into its own, not suffering by comparison with the lordly oaks, maples, chestnuts, and tulip trees of the eastern states. It was enough that it was simply a tree, thick-bolded and broad-limbed, breaking the infinite sweep of sky and grass and signifying shade, firewood, and water in a land that was notably lacking in all three.
          If there was one tree symbolizing the great open grasslands of the West, this was it. Sometimes it was a loner, like this old Flint Hills sentinel. But often the cottonwoods gathered in gallery forests along such storied rivers as the Cheyenne, Platte, Powder, Smoky Hill, Cannonball, Knife, and Crazy Woman Creek. In summer, their shade and grassy understories might be sought by bison herds or encamped Indians. Mountain men carved pirogues from the thick trunks; the Plains tribes used the inner bark for winter horse feed; ranchers built corrals of cottonwood and hanged rustlers from cottonwood limbs. The cotton wood may have come all the way from the Atlantic seaboard, but it was The Western Tree of fact and Fiction, if such can be said of any tree. …”


  3. About half of the rosinweed plants on my plots nearby this photo are completely dried out–and I mean completely! They look like they’ve been at 60C for 48 hours in a drying oven. I think the variation in soil texture in the area and subtle variation in elevation above the water table are making all the difference.

    • I wonder how long it takes rosinweed roots to reach their maximum depth? In other words, your plots are relatively young – is it possible the roots of those plants are still shallow? As you say, though, soil texture is the more likely cause. That’s the fun thing about alluvial soils!


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