Photo of the Week – May 19, 2016

Gjerloff Prairie, formerly known as Griffith Prairie, is a beautiful site on steep loess hills adjacent to the Platte River.  It’s owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute, and was burned earlier this spring.  I walked around the prairie for an hour or so this week to see how things were progressing since the fire.  From a distance it didn’t look like there was much to see – just a lot of short green grass.  Up close, however, there was a lot going on, and I didn’t have any trouble finding photography subjects..

The topography of Gjerloff Prairie is always interesting - if challenging to hike - but especially so after a fire.

The topography of Gjerloff Prairie is always interesting – if challenging to hike – but especially so after a fire.

Many plants, including this leadplant (Amorpha canescens), were growing strongly after the fire and a month of good rains.

Many plants, including abundant leadplant (Amorpha canescens), were growing strongly after the fire and a month of good rains.

It was nice to visit the only population of tuberous false dandelion (Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus) in Nebraska. The southern Plains wildflower was discovered at Gjerloff prairie in 2004.

It was nice to revisit the only population of tuberous false dandelion (Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus) in Nebraska. Normally found only in Kansas and southward, this wildflower was discovered at Gjerloff prairie in 2004.

Smooth sumac (Rhus aromatica) can be overly abundant in some prairies in our area, but hangs out mainly on a few waslopes at Gjerloff prairie. It resprouts easily after fires, and looked vibrant and healthy this week.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) can be overly abundant in some prairies in our area, but hangs out mainly on a few steep slopes at Gjerloff prairie. It resprouts easily after fires, and looked vibrant and healthy this week.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) was just starting to bloom on the warmer south-facing slopes of the prairie.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) was just starting to bloom on the warmer south-facing slopes of the prairie.

And, of course, I found a crab spider to photograph. Although they are particularly small this time of year, they are all over the place on flowers, and weren't difficult to find once I started looking.

And, of course, I found a crab spider to photograph (on pale poppy mallow – Callirhoe alcaeoides). Although they are particularly small this time of year, crab spiders are all over the place on flowers.

 

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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 – May 19, 2016

  1. Joanne says:

    It is a crazy world — which is why I appreciate your posts, pictures, etc. They brighten the day for me. Lovely wild flowers and prairie scenes , Keep posting them

  2. Linda B. says:

    We were there recently and took note of the false dandelion and pale poppy mallow. I always enjoy revisiting them through your artistic view. Beautiful pictures!

  3. Patrick says:

    i see some some prairie plants I don’t recognize, so perhaps you can help. In photo #1, on the bluff edge, I see a cactus. Which kind is it? Prickly pear? The fuzzy plant nearby, about 8in tall, I’d guess…haven’t seen that one before. What is it? In the landscape picture #4, what is flower about to bloom behind the smaller sumac on the left? Is that locoweed? I’d never seen a false dandelion either, so thanks for that photo. Always something to see and learn on different prairies!

    • Chris Helzer says:

      Hi Patrick. I don’t actually know the cactus for sure. I’d always assumed it was Opuntia fragilis but as I looked the other day, I don’t think it is. I need to figure it out. The silvery-white plant is woolly plantain (Plantago patagonica). It’s the plant in the first photo and also the one hiding behind the sumac.

      • James McGee says:

        It is most likely O. humifusa unless it is an eastern station for one of the species typical of the great plains. O. macrohiza and O. fragilis are typically is found in gravel soil. Also, O. macrohiza only has two spines per areola and O. fragilis has smaller pads.

      • Patrick says:

        Thanks Chris and James. Need to get out that way sometime and we for myself!

  4. W.T. Ward says:

    Sometimes loess deposits contain fossils of land snails. Has anyone had a look?

  5. W.T. Ward says:

    The reason I ask about fossils is that the paleontology professor at the university where I attended law school had done his diss on several hundred thousand late-Pleistocene snail shells from loess deposits that had formed from dust blown off Wisconsian glaciers: he performed various statistical analyses on them. In later years he told me the collection was stored in the attic of an academic building where he taught, and he commented this was too often the fate of such collections.

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