Photo of the Week – April 4, 2019

My stepson Atticus and I had a fun discussion about writing this morning and he reminded me about an April Fools post I wrote back in 2013. It’s the only time I’ve purposely misled my audience on this blog, and even then, I tried to make it pretty obvious that I was being funny, not serious. I hadn’t read the post in a long time and I enjoyed revisiting it. Here’s a link to it in case you’re interested.

The post also made me think about lobelias, since that was part of its topic. We have three different lobelia species that grow and bloom in our Platte River prairies. Palespike lobelia (Lobelia spicata) is the smallest and earliest bloomer, and grows in mesic sites. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) grow in wetter habitats, often along the edges of wetlands and streams.

Cardinal flower and blue lobelia intermingle in a restored wetland in our Platte River Prairies.

All three species are wonderful, and are always a welcome sight when they bloom. Cardinal flower is certainly the most spectacular, its scarlet color rare among wildflowers and particularly attractive to hummingbirds. Palespike lobelia doesn’t blare its presence nearly as loudly. It is often widely scattered across the prairie and its small flowers aren’t visible from very far away. Trying to find the post-flowering stems for seed harvest can be incredibly difficult, but each plant rewards the finder with hundreds of seeds. Blue lobelia has been the most difficult for me to photograph, but only because I struggle to get my camera to capture the beauty that is so obvious in person.

Here is a quick visual celebration of these three lobelia species to hold all of us over until mid-late summer when they start blooming again.

Blue lobelia.
Blue lobelia.
Palespike lobelia.
Palespike lobelia.
Cardinal flower.
Cardinal flower.
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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.

4 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – April 4, 2019

  1. Your photos of the Lobelia jogged my memory, and I went into my files. Sure enough, I have one photo of L. puberula from here in Galveston County. I’d guessed that it was Lobelia, and now I’m sure it is. All of them are beautiful, and that cardinal flower is a stunner.

  2. Have you ever seen a hybrid of Lobelia cardinalis and Lobelia siphilitica? I found one at one point. I was going to collect seed, but when I went back later I couldn’t locate the plant I had marked. It probably wouldn’t have mattered since hybrids are often sterile.


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