Photo of the Week – November 23, 2012

No, they’re not orange blueberries…

Late horse gentian (Triosteum perfoliatum). The Nature Conservancy’s Rulo Bluffs Preserve – southeastern corner of Nebraska.

Also known as wild coffee because its fruits can be used as a substitute for coffee, late horse gentian’s orange fruits stand out in autumn woodlands.  I found a small group of these plants on the edge between prairie and woodland at our Rulo Bluffs Preserve a couple weeks ago.  They were pretty hard to miss – I saw them from about 20 yards away as I came up out of a deep wooded draw.  I was hoping to get some photos of the prairies before the sun went behind the nearby bluffs, but I couldn’t resist pausing a few moments to photograph this unique plant.

This entry was posted in Prairie Natural History, 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.

11 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – November 23, 2012

  1. looks good enough to eat , I have some useless info on your study of flies, The house fly hums in the middle octive key of F, I know I know its crazy.

  2. Nice fall photos, Chris. I would love to visit this Rulo preserve on my next visit to home farm in Richardson County. How does one locate it? –Excuse me, now I have to go find a housefly to listen to.

  3. I think the horse gentian is beautiful…the color of a great sunset! I’ve been searching for bittersweet. Have some growing up an elm tree in my pasture. But it NEVER seems to come back to the same place twice. How do I cultivate this plant to always have it around?
    I heard you speak at Science Cafe and have been following you ever since!

    • Hi Carol – great to have you on board! I like bittersweet too. I don’t know anything about cultivating the wild plants, but we tried to get it started in our yard by buying some from a nursery. We got both genders, but haven’t seen any flowers yet. Apparently, I’m not the right person to ask for help on this one! If you do buy it, be careful not to buy the invasive one (oriental bittersweet). Good luck!

  4. We have Triosteums in the Chicago area. I also saw them on the South face of the Mohawk Valley when I lived in upstate New York. I mentioned this species as a possibility to Stephen for his Spring Creek restoration. He did not think it was a priority at the time. Maybe Stephen will see you post and reconsider. He does love things that grow in oak savannahs.


    • I agree, James M., that this genus does indeed have a place in an oak savanna restoration. It goes rather unnoticed in summer, but becomes noticeable in every oak woodland/savanna I can think of because of its “little oranges” in fall.

      And yeah, like, Brodie, I want to make it to Rulo Bluffs, next time I’m up that way.

      James T.

      • Now that I think more about it … maybe the reason Stephen did not think collecting seed of this plant was a priority was because he already had lots at Somme Prairie Grove. He was probably saying it wasn’t a priority for me to collect because he already collects plenty of Triosteum seed.

    • Sorry – it’s a kind of valley, but usually fairly steep and narrow. “A wooded draw” is a term used to describe a wooded area between two grassy hills. In this case, it was a draw between two ridges that were mostly wooded.


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