Photos of the Week – August 21, 2020

Several people have asked to see a photo of our backyard prairie garden. Here you go.

The Helzer backyard prairie garden in mid August.

At this time of year, the prairie garden is getting really shaggy looking. Early in the season, it’s a collection of distinct plants and clumps of plants, but right now it’s a kind of massive explosion of tall flower stems. I’ve also given up on pulling the bindweed that constantly infiltrates the prairie because it’s too interwoven among the tall plants to remove it without pulling the stems it has a hold on. Whatever. Pollinators feed on bindweed too…

Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/80 sec, 4/14

On Tuesday, I took a half hour break from writing to check out the pollinator scene in the garden. There was no shortage of insects milling around on the flowers. The challenge was to find the ones who would stick around long enough to be photographed. Here is a selection of images from that my mid-morning hiatus.

This moth was hiding beneath a flower. When I moved the flower to look at it, it started vibrating itself to warm its muscles before flying off to a safer spot. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/100 sec, f/10.
I’m not sure what bee species this is. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/60 sec, f/13.
Hover fly on stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, 1/60 sec, f/14.
Another common eastern bumble bee, this time on stiff sunflower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, 1/100 sec, f/14.
Common lagoon fly (Eristalinus aeneus) on stiff sunflower. Thanks to for identification of this cool European species. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, 1/250 sec, f/14.
This moth was sticking its long tongue into ironweed flowers. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, 1/250 sec, f/14.
Leaf cutter bee on stiff sunflower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, 1/320 sec, f/13.
Hover fly through the petals of stiff sunflower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, 1/200 sec, f/11.
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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.

10 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – August 21, 2020

  1. I tried to share your page on Facebook, and got this message:
    “Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.”

  2. I am with you on bindweed. However don’t despair. Cut it off at ground level so it won’t make deeper roots or worse, seed pods.

  3. A bit surprised to see so many big trees around your prairie garden but of course trees also play major parts in the environment :-)

  4. I can’t think of anyone who has asked for advice, but we sure get a lot of comments from passers by and there are several people who frequently drive or walk slowly down the alley just to check out the latest action…

  5. I suspect most prairie gardens are shaggy this time of year. My little prairie garden has been taken over by brown-eyed Susan and of course Canada goldenrod (I have been trying to pull up the latter over the years).. I like the brown-eyed Susan which are blooming in mass right now but they are very aggressive and seem to be shading out a lot of the shorter plants and grasses. I have thus pulled a lot of them out. I also have a type of very tall wild sunflower that grows in the more shady areas of the yard flower/shrub border and is very aggressive as well, I;m not sure what kind. sometimes it’s leaves turn brown and dry up before it blooms. Any suggestions/observations?

  6. Linda – deciding what to include/allow in a prairie garden is a definite challenge. I’ve gotten rid of most rhizomatous plants (which spread by long underground stems), including Canada goldenrod but lots of others. They just tend to take up too much space in a small garden. I like to go with more bunchy plants, but even so, it takes a lot of work to decide how much to allow each species to expand. Species like black-eyed Susan can spread, but at least they’re doing it by seed and I can remove the small seedlings each spring if/when there are too many. That’s a lot easier than trying to knock back shoots arising from underground rhizomes because those stems just keep popping back up all season long. There’s not a right or wrong way to do any of this, though – just make a garden that you get happiness from. Enjoy!

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