Photo of the Week – April 13, 2017

Prairie dandelion, aka prairie false dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata) is different from common dandelion (Taraxacum officianale), the one most people are familiar with in yards and weedy places.  Prairie dandelion is a native perennial wildflower, mainly restricted to dry unplowed prairies, while the other dandelion is a non-native species that seems able to pop up just about anywhere.  I’m actually a fan of both species, and don’t mind seeing common dandelion in our prairies, especially as an important early-season pollinator resource, but it’s always a treat to find populations of prairie dandelion.

Prairie dandelion at Gjerloff Prairie.

Prairie dandelion has a similar appearance to common dandelion, but there are some pretty strong differences as well.  The flowers are much larger, for example, and the leaves are long and don’t have the large serrations that common dandelion leaves have.  Prairie dandelion is considered to be a rare plant in many eastern prairie states, but is found across much of Nebraska – though it is certainly nowhere as abundant as common dandelion.

Close up of two prairie dandelion flowers.

While I was photographing prairie dandelion flowers this last weekend, I noticed a small grasshopper nymph feeding on the petals of one of the blossoms.  I took a few photos of it and moved on.  A few minutes later, I walked back past the flower and noticed the grasshopper had moved into a more visible location, so I took a few more photos of it.  When I got home and looked through the photos, my first instinct was that the second set of photos were better because I could see the whole grasshopper and it was better framed within the image.  Upon more reflection, however, I’m not sure.  Since some of you enjoy voting on this kind of thing, I decided to include both images, and you can tell me if you have a preference between them.  Just leave your vote in the comments section below.

Grasshopper nymph #1

Grasshopper nymph #2

It was a pretty tough winter for prairie photography around here; not much snow, and not even a lot of ice to photograph – with the exception of one notable ice storm.  I’m really glad that flowers and insects are finally breaking up the monotony of drab brown prairie vegetation.  It should be a fun spring.


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.
This entry was posted in Prairie Insects, Prairie Natural History, Prairie Photography, Prairie Plants and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 13, 2017

  1. Nancy says:

    Grasshopper nymph #2 … i like seeing those legs!

  2. Rick Champeau says:

    Looking for more spring blooming plants for my urban native garden, I’ve winter sown these this year in milk jugs out on the deck here in Milwaukee. No germination noted yet but looking forward to the pretty little yellow flowers. Rick.

  3. Rick Champeau says:

    I pick #2 also. The nymphs appear shorter and are kind of cute.

  4. James McGee says:

    There is a very old vouchered specimen (1858) from the Chicago Region. I does not seem right that something with dandelion in the common name would be locally extinct and state endangered (IL). Nebraskans are lucky to have it ranging across the state.

    Out of curiosity, when other people comment do their comments also sometimes say “Awaiting Moderation?” It just seems strange to me that this message shows up sporadically after submitting a comment.

  5. avanraaphorst says:

    I vote for photo 2 of the grasshopper nymph, because it’s obvious that it’s a grasshopper. In the first photo I looked carefully but was unsure what it was until I read your text. Nice photos, though — both of them!

  6. I like the second photo because I am trying to learn insects & I literally couldn’t make heads or tails of the first–couldn’t tell which end was up. I do like the first in another way, though–because so much field experience is like that–something ephemeral, partially seen.

  7. Karen H says:

    I like the first one. Seems I like the things I have to work for more than the obvious and showy.But both are great .

  8. shoreacres says:

    I far prefer the first photo. It feels more balanced, and the nymph is an integral part of the image. In the second, the insect almost feels like an afterthought: interesting, but not quite belonging. I suppose my real answer would be: for photographic quality, #1. For purposes of identification, #2.

  9. Scott says:

    I like the second one, primarily because I was easily able to see where the grasshopper had foraged.

  10. Pat says:

    I’ll vote for the second photo. I find bugs more interesting than flowers. And those are great legs. :)

  11. I love grasshopper #1. It looks like he’s shy and peeking out to see if it’s safe.

  12. Paul McCormack says:

    Aha. I didn’t know that we have an American dandelion. I like the article and of course, the photos.


  13. Joanne says:

    Unwanted dandelions in my lawn become beautiful in the prairie. Perhaps I should reconsider the flora for my lawn. Beautiful photos seem to be partial to #1

  14. Peg Bredeson says:

    Prefer the first one because it’s doing something inside & the other could just be resting. Know thia plant well but are very rare here. I’d expect to see it a little later (southern WI)

  15. Jane Papsdorf says:

    Nice photos. Love the yellow. Nymph 2. I like seeing the whole body.

  16. Bernie Buchholz says:

    Have you noticed if spring prescribed fire helps or retards prairie dandelion blooming for that spring?

  17. James McGee says:

    Here is a similar looking flower that is in Illinois prairies and savannas, but is not found in Nebraska.

  18. Lisa says:

    I find the first photo the most pleasing regarding composition. But I guess if you want a picture of a grasshopper….

  19. James C. Trager says:

    Both photos have their charms, but I’m going to go with the second one, for that view of those classic jumping legs!


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