Spines, Thorns, and the Plant Game

Ok, to be frank, this is kind of a weird post.  For some reason, during the last month or so, my brain has paid attention to spines and thorns as I’ve walked through prairies.  Given the relative scarcity of other photographic subjects, I’ve taken pictures of spines and thorns.  As a result, you get to see pictures of spines and thorns too.  I’m sorry.  To make it up to you, I added a couple more Plant Game questions to the end of the post because people seemed to enjoy them last time.  I still haven’t come up with the perfect name for the Plant Game, though I did appreciate the suggestions many of you provided.

While spines and thorns might seem like odd photo subjects, I’m hoping you’ll see some of the beauty I saw.  Plants employ them to help prevent herbivory, but if you look closely, those sharp pointy things are kind of pretty too.

Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) thorns. Hamilton County, Nebraska.

Buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum) seed pods. Hamilton County, Nebraska.

Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) thorn.

Woods rose (Rosa woodsii). Hall County, Nebraska.

Well, there you go.  Spines and thorns.



The rules are simple.  Just pick the fake plant name from each list.  Three of the names are official names of plants found in Nebraska.  The other is one that I made up.  Should be easy, right? GOOD LUCK.


This entry was posted in Prairie Plants and tagged , , , by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

8 thoughts on “Spines, Thorns, and the Plant Game

  1. I think the thorns are beautiful. I’m as fond of seed pods and withered plants as I am of pretty flowers, so these are right up my alley. Out of curiosity, do you have that thorny invasive — trifoliate orange — up there, too?

  2. Oh Yeah, Chris, excellent post! Having grown up loving the Sonoran Desert of south central Arizona, whenever I took my kids on a walk, I had to be very careful WHICH place I chose because some of the areas were loaded with cactus thorns like Cholla or ‘jumping cactus’ that do a nasty job if you get them on your tennis Shoes!
    Yes, Chris, Thorns are Very Important subject!!!!!! Pay attention!!

  3. I loved your attention to thorns and spines…..your photos are lovely, even uncomfortable plants have beauty and are understandable.

  4. Pingback: Photo of the Week – March 9, 2017 | The Prairie Ecologist

  5. When I was in grade school while walking home, I noticed the thorns on a hawthorn shrub. The fierce elegance of it struck me. I tore one off and kept it for years. The thought of it still reminds me of the wonders of nature.


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.