Photo of the Week – April 24, 2015

The aesthetic values of prairie are more subtle than those in many other ecosystems.  There is much beauty to be found, but you sometimes have to look for it – it doesn’t often rise up and slap you in the face.  That’s especially true in the early spring as the first wildflowers are just starting to bloom.

If you had driven past the Platte River Prairies this week, you would have likely dismissed them as a lot of brown grass with a little green grass here and there.  Blah.  But if you’d gotten out of the car and taken a walk – and if you had been especially observant – you might (MIGHT) have spotted one of my favorite wildflowers.

Viola rafinesquii, a tiny and easy to miss wildflower.  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Viola rafinesquii is a tiny, beautiful, and easy to miss wildflower. The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Known variously as field pansy, Johnny Jump-up, and other names, Viola rafinesquii is an annual violet species that makes its appearance in the early spring, just before most better recognized flowers begin to bloom.  One a short hike yesterday, the Fellows and I spotted several hundred of these plants, but if we hadn’t been specifically looking for them, we probably would have missed them altogether.  The plants stand only a few inches tall, and the diameter of the flowers is about that of a dime.

It’s a gorgeous little plant, but you’ve got to get on your hands and knees to really appreciate it.  In that way, it’s a pretty good metaphor for prairies in general – if you don’t look closely, you’ll probably miss the beauty altogether.

…and that would be a shame.

 

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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.

8 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 24, 2015

  1. My name is Ed George and I’m assisting as volunteer Lincoln, NE’s PEOPLE’S CITY MISSION with a field project. What wildflowers would be desirable to plant on their property to attract desirable insects as bees and butterflies? Would there be a market for wildflower seeds and production for the market place to support PEOPLE’S CITY MISSION? THANKS, ED GEORGE   From: The Prairie Ecologist To: sorghumetanol@yahoo.com Sent: Friday, April 24, 2015 7:27 AM Subject: [New post] Photo of the Week – April 24, 2015 #yiv0321455535 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv0321455535 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv0321455535 a.yiv0321455535primaryactionlink:link, #yiv0321455535 a.yiv0321455535primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv0321455535 a.yiv0321455535primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv0321455535 a.yiv0321455535primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv0321455535 WordPress.com | Chris Helzer posted: “The aesthetic values of prairie are more subtle than those in many other ecosystems.  There is much beauty to be found, but you sometimes have to look for it – it doesn’t often rise up and slap you in the face.  That’s especially true in the early spring ” | |

  2. Karen Hamburger says:

    Chris

    Once you pointed them out I found all kinds of them.

    Need to follow you around more!!!

    Karen

  3. pat2727 says:

    A favorite!

  4. Gary Shackelford says:

    Chris,

    Is this the same species as Viola bicolor?

  5. So do you consider this species native? I hear different interpretations.

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