Spring is a season of extremes. Temperatures have fluctuated between the low 20’s and the low 80’s (Fahrenheit) over the last couple weeks. That has to make life interesting for prairie animals and plants…
We’re still on the early edge of wildflower blooming, but activity has been ramping up slowly. Many of first round of flowers are going now, though most are still blooming mainly in areas cattle grazed short last year. Temperatures this weekend and next week should bring out the rest, including in the shadier/thatchier areas.
Last weekend, Kim and I went to Gjerloff Prairie on a pleasant evening. Kim was there to run trails and I was there to find flowers and just get a pulse of the prairie. Flowers were still pretty scarce that evening. A few ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) were blooming, along with a few isolated plants of other Astragalus species. I was hoping for prairie dandelions (Nothocalais cuspidata) but only found four blooming plants (all on grazed south-facing slopes). After walking most of the prairie to make sure there weren’t more, I returned to the biggest patch (3 plants) spent at least half an hour photographing them from various angles and perspectives.
We had a dusting of snow Monday night so I zipped out to our family prairie Tuesday morning to get some photos before it melted away. When I arrived, the temperature was still well below freezing, so I wore my insulated coveralls for what I hope was the last time this spring (though I haven’t packed them away yet).
Spring flowers are awfully tough, aren’t they? The 23 degree F temperatures and a light covering of snow didn’t seem to phase them at all. As with Gjerloff prairie, most of the flowering plants I found were where grazing had been most intense last year. Shadier areas were still pretty dormant.
I also checked out a big patch of wild plum shrubs at Lincoln Creek, here in Aurora. It was pretty cool out, but I was hoping to find at least a few pollinators using the flowers. When I arrived, I got to watch a queen bumble bee work her way through the patch, but once she left, I only saw a couple of flies, and only one of those seemed to be interested in the flowers. I might head back over this weekend when it’s warmer and see what’s moving then.
I hope you’re enjoying spring wherever you are too. This winter seemed like one of the longest in memory. I’m really looking forward to a summer full of exploration!