Photo of the Week – December 19, 2014

Do you recognize this tallgrass prairie plant?

Grand River Wildlife Unit.  Mount Ayr, Iowa.

Grand River Wildlife Unit. Mount Ayr, Iowa.

 

No?

 

Well, it is a member of the carrot family.

 

Early European settlers thought its roots could provide an antidote to rattlesnake bites.

They were wrong.

 

The plant somewhat resembles yucca (soapweed), except that it’s flower is very different.

 

It’s probably easier to identify from the flower…

Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).  Tucker Prairie, Missouri.

Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium). Tucker Prairie, Missouri.

In a crowded field of distinctive and unique prairie wildflowers, rattlesnake master holds its own. Its spiny leaves and characteristic round white flowers help it stand out, even in prairies, roadsides or flower gardens loaded with many other showy species.  Pollinators seem to appreciate its blooms, and many different insects gather nectar and pollen from them.  Rattlesnake master just barely occurs in Nebraska – reaching into the very southeast corner of the state – but is common in more eastern tallgrass prairies.

The Nature Conservancy's Kankakee Sands, Indiana.

The Nature Conservancy’s Kankakee Sands Efroymson Family Prairie, Indiana.

Enjoy your weekend, and have a great Holiday Season!

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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.
This entry was posted in Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 19, 2014

  1. Jesse Bolli says:

    We have a small patch at Homestead NM of America (near Beatrice, NE). It is located on the hillside where the CCC planted the prairie sod in the late 1930’s. The sod was harvested just a few miles from here. It would be interesting to know if it came with that sod or if it was from seed that was purchased and thrown out. Either way it is a very cool plant to encounter.

  2. btremback says:

    One of my favorite plants! It’s not native here in Vermont, but does occur in the wild in extreme southwestern New England (Connnecticut). I learned it as a child in Illinois and loved its common name. In my garden, it’s very popular with mud dauber wasps, small native bees, and hover flies. It’s attractive in all seasons, from the rosette of strap-like leaves in the spring, to the heads of white flowers beginning in July, to the rigid stalks and bristly seed heads that stand above the snow all winter.

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