Photo of the Week – October 14, 2016

It feels like autumn has arrived.  We had frost on the ground yesterday, most wildflowers are done blooming, fluffy seeds are erupting across the prairie, and leaves and stems are turning from green to yellow.  Leaves of shrubs and trees in and around prairies are turning red and gold.  It’s also quiet.  Yesterday, as I walked through a small prairie here in town, the only noises I heard were plants rasping against each other as I walked through them.  Insects and birds were largely absent, or at least silent.

Here are some fall prairie photos from this week.

Smooth sumac

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) leaves, those still hanging on, are a gorgeous red right now.

Milkweed

It’s a good time of year to see milkweed seeds floating about.

Wild cucumber

Wild cucumber (Echinocyst9s lobata) growing between prairie and the Platte River.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper, (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) just a few feet away from the wild cucumber.

Aphids

I’m not sure what kind of sustenance this milkweed bug larva and its three friends (which feed by sucking plant juices) were getting from this dry milkweed pod.

Stiff goldenrod

Stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) maintains great red and yellow coloring, well after it is done blooming.

Canada milkvetch

Canada milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis) pods show the exit holes from the insect that ate the majority of its seeds this year (and most years).

It’s going to be a long time before I can photograph wildflowers again.  The winter is always hard in that regard.  Prairie life during the winter largely goes underground, which is sensible, but difficult to photograph.  I enjoy the challenge finding color, texture, and light to photograph during the long winter months, but I sure will be glad to see the first wildflowers again next spring.  For now, however, I’m going to get as much enjoyment as I can from the fall colors of the prairie.

Smooth sumac

Smooth sumac again.  It’s hard to walk past something with this kind of color.

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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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5 Responses to Photo of the Week – October 14, 2016

  1. I think the aphid is actually a very young Large Milkweed Bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) nymph.

  2. Lynne says:

    Loved your photos – as usual.

  3. Paul Nielsen says:

    The wildflower season may be ending, but the frost, snowflake, ice season is beginning. A macro lens and an early morning frost on the grass or car window can be your friends. Hoarfrost even more so.

  4. Paul says:

    Wonderful stuff Chris! Thanks so much for sharing those!

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