Photo of the Week – July 30, 2015

During our trip to the Grassland Restoration Network workshop in Minnesota last week, several of us got up early enough to catch sunrise at The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie on two beautiful mornings.  I shared a few photos from those outings last week, but thought I’d post a few more today.  I’ve got lots more…it wasn’t hard to find subject matter to photograph!

Leadplant and wildflowers.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) and other wildflowers abound on The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie near Glyndon, Minnesota.

Woundwort (Stachys palustris).

Marsh hedge nettle, aka woundwort (Stachys palustris).

The cool dewy morning allowed me to get pretty close to this resting monarch butterfly...

The cool dewy morning allowed me to get pretty close to this roosting monarch butterfly…

Beetle on Flodman's thistle.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

This beetle was feeding its way across the top of this Flodman’s thistle (Cirsium flodmanii) – at least I think that’s what I think the thistle species was… it’s always dangerous to guess when I’m far from home.

Common milkweed.  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

Common milkweed flower buds can be just as attractive as the open flowers…

Bee on milkweed.  TNC Bluestem Prairie, Minnesota.

This bee spent the night on a milkweed leaf and wasn’t quite warm and dry enough to fly off when I spotted it.  If you look carefully, you can see pollinia stuck on two (maybe three?) of its feet.  If you’re not familiar with the fascinating (and unlikely) story of how milkweed is pollinated, you can learn more here.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia).  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia).  This is a species we don’t find very often in the Platte River Prairies (though it’s fairly common nearby) so I always enjoy seeing and photographing it when I can.  As with other “composite” flowers, coneflowers are actually collections (composites) of two kinds of flowers – the ray flowers that look like petals and the disk flowers in the center.  Occasionally, as in this case, a genetic signal gets crossed and ray flower pops up where a disk flower should be.

If you find yourself traveling to or through northwestern Minnesota (just east of Fargo, ND), I encourage you to make the time to visit Bluestem Prairie Scientific and Natural Area.  You can find directions and more information on the site here.  The Nature Conservancy owns about 6,000 acres of prairie there, and their ownership is bolstered by several other tracts of conservation land right next door.  The prairie hosts nesting prairie chickens and beautiful tracts of northern tallgrass prairie.  It’s worth the trip to see it.

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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.
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9 Responses to Photo of the Week – July 30, 2015

  1. Joanne says:

    Beautiful pictures of Nebraska wildflowers, I have the purple coneflower in my garden, and added milkweed this summer — seems the monarch butterfly has come back to Willamette
    Valley in Oregon, Many have been seen in various locations, including my garden and others up and down the valley.

  2. John I. Blair says:

    Excellent photos as always. A couple of flower species I never see here in north Texas.

  3. Brad Guhr says:

    Thanks for the fantastic post and pollination links.

  4. stunning photos, Chris! –perhaps a blog on your secrets for getting them?

  5. emcinturf says:

    Hello, Chris! I always read your comments but this time I actually have something to contribute.

    First, thank you so much for featuring the wonderful prairie near Glyndon, MN! I grew up in Moorhead, a few miles west on the Red River, and have loved the prairie all my life.

    Second, I put in a rain garden this spring (good timing! we’ve had one of the wettest summers on record) and have a very nice stand of marsh milkweed (A. incarnata). Two or three days ago I read your great description of how milkweeds are pollinated. And what did I see today but a bee with her leg stuck in that cleft exactly as you described! She spun around and around, and I was afraid her leg would come off, but after a few seconds she broke loose and flew away, with a pollen packet attached to her foot. Just a few days ago I could not have understood what was happening, so thank you for exactly the right information at the precisely perfect time!

  6. Jaim says:

    I just found your blog Chris, it’s great! My husband manages a preserve in MT for TNC…ever heard of The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve? I love your photos, can you tell me what lens you’re using for those close ups? Great shots and great thoughts.

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