Photo of the Week – July 16, 2015

Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa) is just starting to bloom in the Platte River Prairies.  It has beautiful and intricate flowers with very long anthers protruding from its tiny blossoms.  At least it usually does…

Blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

Scaly blazingstar (Liatris squarrosa). The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

I was photographing some blazingstar flowers earlier this week when I saw one with a grasshopper sitting on it.  It sat still long enough for me to get a few photos of it.

Grasshopper on blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

A grasshopper standing innocently(?) on top of scaly blazingstar.

Only when I looked the above photo on my computer screen did I notice the absence of most of the long white anthers I’d seen on other flowers.  Surely, I thought, it’s not a coincidence that the grasshopper is present but the anthers are not…?

Grasshopper on blazing star (Liatris squarrosa)  The Nature Conservancy's Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.

The grasshopper eating one of the long anthers.

Sure enough, looking back through my other images, I found one of the grasshopper eating an anther.  Caught red-handed!  (So to speak.)

Just because they are called “grass”hoppers doesn’t mean that’s all they eat.  In fact, many grasshoppers eat pollen and other parts of wildflowers.  Some are fairly specialized, while others are generalists in terms of the plant species they feed on.  Even among the grass-feeding grasshoppers, there is great variety in which grass species and which parts of those grasses each species eats.

For the sake of the scaly blazing star (and our seed harvest efforts this year), I hope at least some of the anthers survive uneaten so the plants can make seed.  As more flowers open, maybe their abundance will be more than the grasshoppers can keep up with.  At least in past years, we’ve usually gotten pretty good seed harvests from blazingstar, so I’m not too worried.

Just interested…

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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 Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Photo of the Week – July 16, 2015

  1. liz says:

    Yummy anthers!

  2. Denise Westlake says:

    Yes, interesting! And thank you.

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