Photo of the Week – April 27, 2018

I feel like I need to apologize to long-time readers of this blog.  This is the seventh spring season I’ve photographed and shared via this blog, and each of those spring seasons starts with essentially the same wildflower species.  Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta), ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) – in no particular order – are the first three wildflowers I find and photograph almost every single year.  I’m always excited to find them because they are an important signal of a new growing season, but also because I’m desperate for something vibrant and colorful to photograph after a long winter.

Sharing those spring flower photos with you each year feels to me like a shared celebration of the annual prairie rebirth, but I also imagine some of you checking in on the blog, seeing the photos, sighing deeply, and checking right back out again.  If that’s you, I really do apologize, and you’re free to go.  I’ll try to do better next week.  For the rest of you, guess what!  It’s spring!  Look at these gorgeous flowers!!

Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) was blooming at our family prairie this week.  Most were extraordinarily short still, but flowering nonetheless.  It was as if they didn’t feel like they had time to grow to their typical height – they just needed to BLOOM ALREADY.

Quite a few insects were flying between and crawling upon the pussytoes flowers, but many were tiny enough I had to look awfully close to see them.  That included this tiny true bug.

Because of the extended cold weather this spring, the flowering season is getting a late start, but plants seem to be responding with phenomenal speed.  I visited our prairie six days before this photo was taken and didn’t see any flowers of any kind.  Less than a week later, ground plum (shown here) and its colleagues seemed to be racing to catch up, and were in full bloom in all their regular places.

Dandelions bloomed first, but were still difficult to find a week ago. Now they are all over the place, especially in places that were grazed hard last year.

More pussytoes.

While not particularly showy, the flowers of pussytoes must produce fairly significant resources of pollinator insects, at least in comparison to the mostly barren (of flowering plants) landscape around them.  Flies were the most abundant visitors, but so were bees, moths, and even a few butterflies.

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

14 Responses to Photo of the Week – April 27, 2018

  1. Kathryn Kerr says:

    I’m happy to see those three species!

  2. Patricia Mettenbrink says:

    Congratulations 🎈 on winning photo in Nebraska Life magazine ! It is amazing, like most of your photos, (sorry, I can’t do spiders) I truly enjoy your floral photos, the pussytoes are precious, can almost feel the softness.
    Thank you for sharing your journey !

  3. allysacervanteshallett says:

    I always find your posts so helpful for my artwork – thank you! I have been debating drawing pussytoes for a while now, but was never quite sure what pollinators to incorporate. Its often difficult to find plant-pollinator information, even in scientific literature.

  4. meaninglab says:

    I almost never say anything here, but I just want to thank you for such a consistently interesting and inspiring blog. Someday, when prairies are finally restored to the place in our country they deserve, your blog will be studied by people as THE source of understanding how it happened and how beautiful the results were.

  5. Nancy Ylvisaker says:

    Chris – I love seeing the same reassuring flower faces every year! Thank you!

    Nancy Ylvisaker

    Nature Conservancy of MO trustee

  6. Jane Papsdorf says:

    Did the flower, ground plum receive the name because of the flower color? I also enjoy all your blogs. The quizzes are very clever. I sometimes forward your blog to my brother who works in the Entomology Extension Dept. at Purdue. He told me he is impressed with your photography. I am too.

  7. shoreacres says:

    Our native dandelions are in full, sweeping bloom now, and it’s delightful — as delightful as seeing yours through your photos. For me, a great part of the pleasure of the seasons is seeing nature repeat her patterns. I look forward to seeing the last coot or white pelican depart, and the first spring flowers arrive. They’re like old friends, and it’s always fun to say hello again after their brief absence.

  8. Really enjoy your blog lots of outstanding info, images and comedy mixed in !!

  9. Jan Curry says:

    Never get tired of pussytoes!

  10. Anna says:

    As far as I’m concerned, it is important and uplifting to be reminded EVERY YEAR of the cycle of life and the beauties of the earth! Never get tired of it… Love the pussytoes and all the rest.

  11. Karen H. says:

    Pussy Toes are one of my favorite wild plants, not just because they are beautiful and early spring flowers. I love them because many years ago when I began volunteering for TNC they were the first plants you had me collect seeds from.
    After all these years I have finally had success germinating seeds and can add them to my home gardens.

  12. Thanks for your window into a world I don’t often get to explore, spring flowers and all!

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