Photo of the Week – June 21, 2019

REMINDER!  Our Butterfly Bioblitz is one week away (June 29) at the Platte River Prairies.  Please RSVP if you’re coming.  You can see more information here.

So much has happened over the last few weeks, I’m pretty far behind on sharing photos.  On the way back from the North American Prairie Conference, Kim and I stopped at a couple different sites.  One of those was the Clymer Meadow Preserve northeast of Dallas, where site manager Brandon Belcher and his interns gave us a tour.  Clymer is a beautiful example of blackland prairie, and was resplendent in color, especially where they had done a summer prescribed fire in 2018.  Brandon is a really thoughtful land steward and it was fun to learn from him and see a prairie type that is very different from our Nebraska sites.

The Nature Conservancy’s Brandon Belcher walks through Clymer Meadow Preserve a few weeks ago.

Among all the blooming wildflowers, I recognized the genera of many of them, but not the species.  A lot of the flowers were clearly different, but some – like the Silphium growing at Clymer – looked just like a our rosinweed at home, but wasn’t.  It’s always an eerie, but fun, feeling to almost recognize a bunch of plants…

Dark clouds dissipated as we walked, providing some nice photographic light, so I was that annoying person who slows the tour by repeatedly stopping to take pictures.  Since I did that, I feel like I should at least share some of the nicer ones I got.  Here they are:

Centaurea americana (American basketflower).
We spotted several stick insects as we walked around, which probably means there were thousands of them…
Another of the stick insects.
If you look closely at the flower (Dracopsis amplixicaulis) on the left, you can see a couple petals are folded up. Often, there is either a spider or caterpillar inside a folded petal like that. In this case… (next photo)
…it was a caterpillar. I don’t know what kind, but maybe a savvy reader will save me the trouble of looking it up!
Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a species that just makes it into the southeastern corner of Nebraska. I also see it now and then in planted populations, but it was fun to see and admire it in its native habitat.
This little spider also seemed to enjoy having eastern gamagrass around…
I believe this is a black swallowtail larva and Kim and I both think we remembered that it was on prairie parsley (Polytaenia), but I won’t guarantee that.
The wildflowers were just stunning in the 2018 summer fire units. This is not a selected photo that makes it look like there were more flowers than there really were – it really looked like this across much of the site.
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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.

5 thoughts on “Photo of the Week – June 21, 2019

  1. American basket-flower is one of my favorites, and I’ve been bemoaning its absence in several areas where I’ve consistently found it in the past. Just this morning, I found two good-sized patches in bloom — in an area where I’ve never seen them. Silly nature! On a return trip to Sandyland, I found an equally handsome stick insect. They’re such fun creatures.

    It has been a fabulous year for flowers across Texas this year. Next year, I’m going to try to plan a little better and follow the bloom north.

  2. I must wonder if you are coveting thy colleagues prairie. I wouldn’t blame you. As you said, “The wildflowers were just stunning …”

  3. Delighted to have you come visit here in north Texas. Although I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting the Clymer Meadow Preserve of blackland prairie, my little church here in Arlington has a very small meadow filled with Eastern Crosstimbers flowers and grasses (sandy soil over clay) that was especially beautiful this spring thanks to the plentiful rains. Would have loved if you could have visited here and photographed some of the details in it!

  4. Great to hear you got to spend time with our prairie peep Brandon! He also manages NPAT’s Paul Mathews Prairie in the same area! The Gilgai in the Mathews Prairie are crazy! We compare it to walking on a waffle! I assume you witnessed some Gilgai at Clymer too! I enjoyed both your workshop and keynote presentation at the conference. Sure hope I can make the trek up to your neck of the prairie someday!

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