Photos of the Week – April 2, 2020

This time of year is one of transition between dormant and active. Last year’s prairie plant skeletons are still prominent. Seed heads are largely emptied, but not entirely. Green growth is starting to appear but the landscape still appears mostly brown from a distance. Here are some photos from our family prairie last weekend that illustrate those transitions.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) rosette.
Let’s make this one a quick quiz. Can you tell what this is? I’ll put the answer at the end of the post.
Common milkweed pods (Asclepias syriaca) were empty, but caught the warm evening light nicely.
I’ve always been captivated by Illinois bundleflower seed pods (Desmanthus illinoensis). The shape and patterns of the pods are great, but I’m also surprised how many seeds remain in the pods through the winter, given how precariously perched they appear.
I don’t know much about what eats the seeds. They look big and nutritious, but from what I understand, the seed coat is strong enough that the seeds pass through most animals intact (including the rumen of cattle).
A long-jawed orbweaver ( think?) spider made its web in the branches of an eastern redcedar tree I cut a couple weeks ago.
Last light of the day on the hill above the wetland.

The ‘mystery’ photo above is a close up of the dried seed head of wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), otherwise known as bee balm.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – April 2, 2020

  1. Bee balm. I thought it looked like middle of sunflower flower let’s when finished. Good game. Thanks.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Is there any chance that when you type the text for the captions under each of your gorgeous photos, you could use a larger, darker font, and one that doesn’t have serifs and thin lines mixed with thick lines? Both Helvetica and Times New Roman fonts are difficult to read, especially at smaller than 12 point size, and I can’t even read them on my large laptop screen without eye pain squinting behind my prescription glasses. When your New Post arrives in my email, I click on “Photos of the Week”, so that they will open in my browser.

    Also, in your introductory text below, Arial 9.5 and Helvetica 10.5 is lost on me. I would love to read your email introductions, and the captions under your incredible photos, but I can hardly see them because they are so small and pale. I’m sure other readers are in the same position. Reading text on a screen with light behind it isn’t the same as reading text on paper. Also, I use a blue light filter for nighttime use of my laptop, and your turquoise blue text gets altered when that program kicks in after sundown.

    I’m a former graphic artist, so I’m extra sensitive to font legibility, light, and color (and photography). If I have to struggle to read something, or if the layout is too busy, I skip it. I hope you will understand my comments about how the human eye perceives visual imagery. I am grateful that someone like you is taking the time and care needed to notice, compose, and document prairie images using macro photography. Plus, your endurance and patience in weather extremes to take advantage of your subject matter in both frigid and sizzling conditions is more than I and others could ever manage.
    Denay Trykowski, Subscriber

    • Thank you Denay – I really appreciate your willingness to tell me how it looks to you. It’s hard to think about readability from where I’m sitting. Most of what I can do depends upon WordPress templates etc., but I will take some time to dig into options. Thanks again!

  3. I love to see your great photos, especially now when it is hard to get out into nature.
    I could identify the Wild Bergamot, but had never considered this close of a view.


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