Photos of the Week – April 29, 2022

Wildflowers are back! Sure, there have been a few flowers here and there, but during the last week or so, color is really starting to ramp up in my local prairies. Finding those flowers is still a little like an Easter egg hunt, but the challenge rating of the game is decreasing significantly. I made the rounds of my three favorite local sites this week: my family prairie, Prairie Plains Resource Institute’s Gjerloff Prairie, and The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies (not in that order). Here is a big batch of wildflower photos from those three sites.

We’ll start with three photos of ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) at our family prairie. There are a couple big patches of this plant, as well as lots of scattered individuals, and they were all in full bloom last Saturday. The wind was howling, but by being patient (and taking even more shots than I normally do) I was able to get some sharp ones.

Ground plum (Astragalus crassicarpus). Nikon 10.5 fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/18, 1/200 sec.
Ground plum. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/320 sec.
Ground plum with last year’s pods under a barbed wire fence. Nikon 10.5 fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/18, 1/160 sec.

Tuesday morning, I was at the Platte River Prairies to set up a research project, but I arrived extra early to catch the sunrise. I was planning to find some puccoon, pussytoes, and/or violets to photograph, but wild plum called to me as soon as I arrived, with both abundant blossoms and a strong beautiful scent. The warm early morning light worked really well with the flowers and the breeze hadn’t picked up too much yet, so I got lots of nice photos. These are just a few. I tossed in a sedge photo too, just for something different.

Wild plum (Prunus americana) blossoms. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/250 sec.
Wild plum blossoms. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/250 sec.
Wild plum blossoms. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/13, 1/200 sec.
Wild plum blossoms. Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/200 sec.
Spikerush sedge (Carex eleocharis). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/9, 1/320 sec.

Finally, Wednesday was breezy, but not windy, and there was a very light veil of clouds across the sun. I was taking a vacation day to work on projects around the house, but took a break from my vacation day to drive north to the loess hills of Gjerloff Prairie by Marquette, NE. It was well worth the trip – as always. The remainder of these photos are from Gjerloff Prairie.

Blue violet (Viola missouriensis). Nikon 105mm macro lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/400 sec.
Prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata) and a tiny bee. All these plants are very short this year – I’m assuming that’s a drought effect. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/16, 1/500 sec.
Prairie dandelion anthers. Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox dcr-250 macro attachment. ISO 320, f/11, 1/800 sec.
Prairie dandelion with a loess bluff in the background. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 500, f/22, 1/250 sec.
Platte milkvetch (Astragalus plattensis) on a dry loess bluff. Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens. ISO 320, f/22, 1/160 sec.
Carolina anemone (Anemone caroliniana). Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox dcr-250 macro attachment. ISO 500, f/13, 1/2500 sec.
Carolina anemone. Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox dcr-250 macro attachment. ISO 320, f/18, 1/400 sec.
Carolina anemone. Nikon 105mm macro lens with Raynox dcr-250 macro attachment. ISO 320, f/14, 1/400 sec.

Apart from the plum and ground plum flower photos, all the others here were taken in sites that were grazed hard last year and entering a year of recovery. I’m not seeing much flowering in ungrazed areas so far, and this spring’s drought and wind have prevented any burning. The reduced light and cooler soils beneath the thatch and standing dead vegetation is pretty hard on many spring wildflowers. While these particular ground plum photos were from an ungrazed part of our family prairie, they were blooming in dry, low productivity soils that keep grass growth to a minimum.

Carolina anemone, in particular, seems tied to prairie patches that were either summer burned or grazed the previous year. I say that, but there’s got to be more to it because I’m really bad at predicting where I’ll find them. It’s always someplace with short grass, but it seems like I find new populations each year and rarely find flowers where I’ve seen them in previous years, even following management that I expect to encourage them to bloom. These are perennials, so you’d think they’d be more predictable. Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but I would. I see the same unpredictability at all three of the prairies I visited this week, as well as in my yard, where I’ve got a few plants I can keep a close eye on.

I did manage a few insect photos this week too, but stuck to a mainly wildflower theme for this post. I was really happy to see as many bees as I did, though, along with flies and a few moths and butterflies too. After weeks of blistering winds, I was starting to worry that flying insects would be grounded and end up starving to death. That’d obviously be bad for both pollinators and flowers. I’m still curious to see what seed production looks like from these first spring flowers, but seeing lots of sweat bees, hover flies, and others (including a couple queen bumble bees) this week made me more optimistic than I’d been.

I hope you’re seeing flowers wherever you are too. Have a great weekend.

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.

8 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – April 29, 2022

  1. The formatting of your posts has changed recently. Not quite as easy to read as it used to be. I am guessing this was something the hosting platform did? Any chance of changing it back?

  2. Our Anemone berlandieri can exhibit the same unpredictability. This spring, fields that had filled with them for years showed only a scattered few. But for sheer unpredictability, nothing beat these expansive fields around a church north of me. After years of being filled with bluebonnets, coreopsis showed up and took over; there hardly was a bluebonnet in sight. There must be an explanation, but I certainly don’t know what it is.

  3. As a Texas Master Naturalist, and care taker of a backyard pocket prairie, I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate each of your posts. Your eye for the photographic beauty of nature makes me happy. Thank you.

  4. how refreshing to see spring friends again. Where I live, Bloodroot is just starting to bloom in Stillwater Minnesota, many other spring ephemerals are preparing to show their beauty. It’s been a bit of a wait here.
    Thanks for the great pictures

  5. Pingback: Photos of the Week – May 6, 2022 | The Prairie Ecologist


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