Spring Obsession

Man, I sure do love Carolina anemone (Anemone carolinianum).  It’s such a beautiful plant in such a compact package.  We have a few plants blooming in our prairie garden at home, but last weekend, I went looking for more of them at Gjerloff Prairie, owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute.  I don’t visit the prairie often enough to know for sure, but it sure seemed like there were many more patches of anemone than I’d seen in previous years.

There are both blueish-purple and pale lavender-white blossoms at Gjerloff, and sometimes the two were mixed within the same patch of flowers.  Interestingly, the white ones were easier to see at a distance then the blue ones, but both hide pretty well.  I often didn’t see them until I was within 5-10 yards.  They’re short, you see…

While it is a perennial plant, my limited experience tells me Carolina anemone flourishes when the surrounding vegetation is short.  Of course, that could be a function of visibility too, but I’m guessing it doesn’t bloom well when covered by thatch and tall skeletons of plants from the previous season.  (I’d be interested to hear from others about what kinds of response to management they’ve seen with this species.)  In our Platte River Prairies, I most often see them after a summer fire or after a year of intensive grazing.  The portion of Gjerloff prairie I found them in this year was burned and grazed pretty hard last year.  Other plant species seemed to be enjoying the abundant light in the grazed area as well, including numerous rosettes of ragwort (Packera plattensis) and quite a few individuals of prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata), which was just starting to bloom.  …More on prairie dandelion in an upcoming post…

Several different small bee and fly species were feeding on the pollen of the anemone plants last weekend, including the gorgeous little Lasioglossum species shown above.  I’m guessing the anemone is a very welcome resource for those early-season pollinators.  Carolina anemone makes its pollen easy to access, and when you find one plant, there are usually quite a few more right next to it.  That’s pretty handy for a hungry bee or fly searching for something to eat across a still-mostly-brown prairie landscape.

There are lots of great spring wildflowers, but I have to say the little Carolina anemone is my favorite.  At least this week.  Although that prairie dandelion is sure cute too…  Oh, and how can you not like pussytoes?  And violets…  Hmm.

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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 Spring Obsession

  1. shoreacres says:

    This is really interesting. I thought we had different species, since ours is white, and goes by A. berlandieri. But in John and Gloria Tveten’s book, I read that, despite the predominance of white in our area, there is a color range through pink and purple. Then, they added this:

    Anemone berlandieri is a recent name about which confusion still reigns… According to Johnston, it replaces A. caroliniana, the Carolina anemone that Hatch, Gandhi, and Brown treat as another distinct species.”

    So an anemone by any other name is still a beautiful flower, and one we share. I must confess, however, that I envy your purple!

  2. James McGee says:

    Here are two of my local favorites and a habitat shot. This calcareous gravel prairie is much different than your Platte River Prairies. It is not grazed, but the vegetation stays short because the gravel does not retain much water which limits the growth of warm season plants.

    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/photo/107874019080399894118/6015315728313613458?icm=false
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/photo/107874019080399894118/6020402952439934466?icm=false
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/photo/107874019080399894118/6015712445255434642?icm=false

    Since you mentioned thatch restricting plant growth, if you piled mulched leaves (cottonwood should be fine) about a foot deep on top blue grass then it would be smothered. After the leaves decompose, the bare soil that is left has few weeds and is excellent for seeding. If asked, often people and lawn care companies are happy to drop off leaves they have mowed from nearby lawns. The only problem with this technique is I don’t know if you would ever get enough mulched leaves to control the blue grass across an entire pasture.

    I wonder if the easiest route might be to select for dominance by warm season grasses for a long enough period that the blue grass gets eliminated then use grazing to weaken the warm season grasses so other less competitive species can get established.

    • James McGee says:

      My thought about selecting for warm season grasses to control blue grass wouldn’t work. The blue grass just stays at low levels and would simply rebound once the warm season grasses were grazed.

      Regarding smothering blue grass with leaves, it will require more than a foot of mulched leaves. The leaves will compact over time. They need to be thick enough so the blue grass gets smothered before they decompose to the point that the grass can grow through them. After the leaves decompose the resulting bare soil is an excellent seed bed. This would more likely be useful in a native plant garden than a restoration.

  3. Paul McCormack says:

    Ah, very pretty.

    ________________________________

  4. Joanne says:

    Fabulous way to start the day; your photos of flowers and bees are beautiful.

  5. Patrick says:

    It struck me seeing your close-ups how the flower structure of the Carolina anemone seems to resemble the native eastern pasque flower. Also very abundant this year.

  6. Gorgeous! We have a whole load of purple and white Balkan anemone in one of our woodlands here at the Bath Skyline in the UK. Im not sure that they are native – they were likely planted there at some point – but they are such beautiufl flowers and the pollinators love them. Like you say, a great early flowering food source for the nectarivores and they fill the wintery woods with colour :)

    Lovely photography – especially like your bee shot.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Alice

  7. Robert Cox says:

    Vivid photo of Carolina anenome. I bet mankind have yet to synthesize that color.

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