Monday night, I spent some time exploring the east bison pasture at the Niobrara Valley Preserve as the sun was going down. The bison have been concentrating their grazing on the east end of the pasture that was burned in March. Within that patch, most of the grasses have been grazed, along with the wildflowers they like best. The sky was pretty spectacular, so I spent time photographing the vibrant green landscape and the bright wispy clouds above it. When the sun was nearly down, however, I noticed the light illuminating patches of woolly plantain (Plantago patagonica), an annual plant that had just finished its flowering season. I dropped down to the ground and photographed the backlit plants until the sun finally disappeared.
I ended up with two favorite images from those few minutes. I like them both for different reasons, so I decided to share them both.
Woolly plantain is not a plant most people would call regal or beautiful, though it certainly has its charm. Because it’s often overlooked, I like that these photos feature it so prominently. Woolly plantain is a space-filler, a plant that can’t handle competition. It grows and flowers only when other plants are weakened enough that it can find spaces between them. A burned patch of sandy prairie grazed by bison creates perfect habitat for woolly plantain, and these photos celebrate the plantain, the prairie, and all of the processes that link them all together.
…Plus, it was pretty dang cool to be lying on my stomach, watching the sun go down over a huge prairie landscape while a big herd of bison grazed in the distance…