We had a great time at the Grassland Restoration Network meeting at Konza Prairie this week. The long-term research going on there is phenomenal, and we were blissfully overwhelmed with knowledge and data about prairie ecology. I will try to synthesize some of that information into a blog post or two, but it might take me a while to digest it and figure out how to share it.
Compass plant at sunrise
In the meantime, one of many highlights of the trip for me was the hour or so of early morning photography I managed to squeeze in right around the headquarters of Konza Prairie. As the sun came up, I wandered around prairie full of compass plant (Silphium laciniatum), a plant that sorta looks like, but isn’t, a tall sunflower. There were lots of other plants and animals around too, but compass plant was clearly the star of the show, standing at least three or four feet taller than the surrounding vegetation and blooming audaciously. It was hard to point my camera toward anything else. As a result, today’s post is a kind of tribute to compass plant…
A blooming compass plant is surrounded by the huge beautiful leaves of non-blooming companions.
This tree cricket was one of many creatures, including lots of bees, enjoying the pollen of compass plant flowers.
Dickcissels were using compass plant as singing perches, but occasionally seemed to be feeding on them as well (or maybe just trying to get the sticky rosin off their feet – I couldn’t really tell.
Few of our prairies in central Nebraska have compass plant – we’re on the far western edge of its range. It’s too bad. Compass plants add a great architectural structure to prairies that the sunflowers and other tall plants in our prairies don’t quite achieve.
Thanks for the pictures! So disappointed that I could not join you all this year.
Hi Cami, yeah, you missed a good one. I hope you’re doing well.
The Compass Plant on the roadsides from Nebraska City to about 1/2 way to Lincon are amazing. Someone did a masterful seeding job!
Love the composition on that second to last photo Chris. Heard good things about the workshop from other attendees as well. Might just have to attend next go around.
I work on tallgrass prairie remnants and restoration in central Iowa, where several of the sites are blessed with abundant compass plants. One of my favorite prairie plants! Thanks for the wonderful photos.
re Dickcissels… birds…sometimes they just stop and look at their feet. My Severe Macaw assumes that posture frequently.
I always enjoyed my visits to the Konza and KSU. Sounds like it was a great meeting, and thanks as always for the incredible photography Chris!
I agree, it was an excellent and information-filled gathering, Chris. I’m so glad I went.
One thing I found interesting was how tall the congeneric rosinweed was there at Konza, sometimes even taller than the relatively short compass plants (compared to what I’m used to in eastern Missouri) right next to it.
Very nice treatment of the subject!
I love these sensitive pictures of the compass plant. Do they have prairie dock too? In Illinois we have usually have both growing together but occasionally only prairie dock.
Hi Kathy, Thank you. No prairie dock there. I believe KS (and Nebraska, where I am) are too far west for that species. To bad – it’s a great one too!
Silphium was always one of my favorites. I love the raspy texture of the leaves and, of course, the flowers are striking. I think I was influenced in my appreciation for compass plant by Aldo Leopold’s descriptions of it before I ever encountered it in the field.