Photos of the Week – September 10, 2021

Yesterday’s sunrise was hazy and colorful and made me late getting started on seed harvest. It’s hard to resist a colorful sun and calm winds…

A hazy sunrise through prairie grasses at Lincoln Creek Prairie. Nikon 18-300m lens @300mm. ISO 320, f/11, 1/640 sec

The haze stuck around all day. While we were harvesting seeds at a restored wetland, we came across some big patches of lobelia – both blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Because there still wasn’t much breeze and the haze was making gorgeous light, I exercised by authority and tenure and did a little photography while the Fellows continued harvesting seed. I only felt a little bad about it.

Blue lobelia in a restored wetland in the Platte River Prairies. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/11, 1/200 sec

Autumn in the Platte River Prairies is mostly about yellows and golds. Sunflowers, goldenrods, and other yellow flowers often swell up within a prairie of green-turning-golden grasses. White flowers like bonesets and asters provide accents here and there. However, if you know where to look, autumn is also the time when blue flowers make an appearance. Blue is not a common color among flowers – partly because it doesn’t seem to attract as many pollinators as other colors. This time of year, though, both blue lobelia and pitcher sage (Salvia azurea) are making their presence felt. I didn’t photograph any pitcher sage yesterday, but we definitely saw it as we carried our buckets through the prairies.

Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/200 sec
Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/10, 1/500 sec
Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/14, 1/160 sec
This bumblebee was just warming up and drying out after apparently spending the night on this flower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/125 sec
A tiny crab spider was hanging out on this blue lobelia flower. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/11, 1/200 sec.

After I got home, I grabbed some lunch and caught up on some emails and other computer work. I couldn’t help noticing, though, that the wind velocity was still fairly low and there was enough haze to somewhat diffuse even a mid-afternoon sun. My mind wandered. I figured it must be time for downy gentian (Gentiana puberulenta) to be blooming. We don’t have that species in our lowland Platte River Prairies, but there are some nice populations in the loess soils of a couple nearby prairies owned by Prairie Plains Resource Institute. I decided I’d better go check on it and headed for Gjerloff Prairie. Sure enough – more blue flowers!

Downy gentian at Gjerloff Prairie. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/8, 1/1250 sec.
Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 500, f/6.3, 1/1250 sec.
Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/6.3, 1/1600 sec.

Feeling blue? It might be a great time to see blue flowers in a prairie near you. Even if all you see are yellow and white flowers, that’s still worth the trip, right?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Chris Helzer. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

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