Prairie Ecologist Spam

Ok, this is pretty tangential, but I just have to share.

One component of this blog that is hidden to everyone but me is the abundance of spam comments that show up in my queue, waiting to be approved or deleted.  A spam filter catches many of them, but a fair number still slip through.  While they are annoying, some of these fake comments can also be relatively entertaining – depending upon what kind of mood I’m in.  Right now, my mood is such that I think they’re funny.  See what you think…

Some of the comments are clearly just random words put together in the hope that they will sneak past the computer-driven spam filter.  Here are a couple recent examples:

“Ϲoaϲh Factorfy Online Canada Houseknecht told police hе wouldn’t see tҺem biild a bаse, and realized he previously been scammed.”There not another facility while using the production capability we have now here,” said Flеtcher.  Usain Boolt S Coach еel exceptional on his or her birthday cеlebration”It comes with a connectiion right now.All the wɑs being attempting ravishing, Nonetheless, there were clearky anything ononsense working with her perfectly seeing that.”

“Notch the ground, and gravel. Now, the ethical dilemmas that unlicensed contractors face a maximum penalty of five Cubans sentenced to nearly $1. The third tip is to consult your local municipal offices and manufacturing, to increase the likelihood of mold and mildew. ReliableRemodeler com offers homeowners a simple and only unlicensed contractors way they recommend to area. To conclude with, and on time, every contractor satisfied and comfortable through these holes and cracks.”

Other times, spammers use language that is strongly complimentary, hoping that I will approve the comment and their website address will show up next to their published comment.  Often, I can tell they are spam just by the broad nature of the comments (having nothing to do with the topic of the post), but now and then I have to look at the name of the supposed commenter to be sure.  Here are a few of the complimentary versions:

“I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site.  It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to create your theme? Exceptional work!”

“I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent info I was looking for this information for my mission.”

“Thanks in support of sharing such a pleasant opinion, post is nice, thats
why i have read it entirely”

Many of the spam comments are clearly written by non-native English speakers (e.g, the last of the above “complimentary” examples).  This can lead to some accidental, but very funny prose.  The following is the funniest spam comment I’ve seen yet:

“Excellent web site. A lot of helpful information here. I’m sending it to some buddies ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you in your sweat!”

Hee hee!

Ok, this is a prairie blog, not BuzzFeed, so let me at least give you something with some relevance to prairies…  Look!  Here’s a picture of a sensitive briar (Mimosa quadrivalvus) flower!

A close-up photo of the flower of sensitive briar, aka cat's claw, aka Mimosa quadrivalvus, aka Schrankia nuttallii.

A close-up photo of a flower of sensitive briar, aka cat’s claw, aka Mimosa quadrivalvus, aka Schrankia nuttallii.

Here's the same flower, photographed from slightly further away to give you a little context.

Here’s the same flower, photographed from slightly further away to give you a little context.

If you want to learn more about sensitive briar, you can read this previous post.

Sensitive Briar Explosion

It’s been a cool and wet year spring and summer here.  Seed harvest is about 2 weeks behind schedule because plants are flowering later than in recent years, and we’re seeing unusual abundances (high and low) of some plant species.  I assume most of what we’re seeing is related to the weather, though it’s always hard to tell for sure.

One species I’ve been noticing over the last week or two is sensitive briar (aka cat’s claw or Mimosa quadrivalvus).  It actually doesn’t seem to be blooming too far off schedule, but what I’ve noticed is that it seems to be popping up everywhere!  In our Platte River Prairies, sensitive briar is a species that is found in scattered patches.  A small prairie might have one or two patches of it, usually in fairly specific habitat niches – on the slopes of alluvial sand ridges in our lowland tallgrass prairies, or on tops of hills in our upland sand prairie.  It also does well on some sandy roadsides.  It’s never widespread, but often forms pretty large patches (living room size or so) where it does grow.  On some of the steeper loess hills east of us I’ve seen much larger populations on steep hillsides.

The "koosh ball" flower of sensitive briar is pretty hard to miss - especially because it usually appears with many others on plants that can cover areas of 6 feet in diameter or more. It's a distinctive-looking plant. Besides the showy flowers, sensitive briar has abundant spines on its stems and compound leaves that fold up when touched.

I’m not really noticing more populations in our remnant prairies this year, though the existing populations are certainly full of flowers.  Our restored (reconstructed) prairies are where I’m really seeing a lot more plants.  I’ve seen sensitive briar for the first time ever in a couple of sites, and have seen many more plants than ever before in others.  These are obviously not first-year plants, because they’re large sprawling individuals with lots of flowers, so they’ve clearly been around for a while – unnoticed by me.  (To be fair to me, most of the prairies where I’m now seeing sensitive briar also have large populations of Illinois bundleflower, which looks very similar to sensitive briar when neither species is blooming.) 

Because the restored prairies are all of different ages, I’m pretty sure that I’m not seeing plants that are simply getting to the age where they begin flowering – I think something happened that made a lot of them flower for the first time (or made more of them flower simultaneously).  The question is whether this year’s weather is responsible, or whether something that happened last year or previously that set this up ahead of time!  Don’t you love prairie mysteries?

One thing is for sure, my kids will be happy to see the additional sensitive briar plants.  Whenever we’re hiking past a sensitive briar plant, we always have to stop and pet it so the kids can watch the leaves fold up.  It is a neat trick, but I’m beginning to wish I’d never shown it to them…  Besides having to stop at each sensitive briar plant, we also have to stop and check any plant that has any resemblance to sensitive briar (bundleflower, leadplant, Canada milkvetch, groundplum, etc.) to make sure its leaves don’t fold up too!

As an interesting aside, the spines on sensitive briar seem like they’d be well-designed to prevent aggressive grazing by large herbivores.  They’re aligned along the long sprawling branches so that they point back toward the center of the plant.  This means that if an animal picked up the stem and tried to strip the leaves by pulling away from the center of the plant, they’d be pulling right toward the teeth of those spines.  Under light stocking rates, sensitive briar is rarely grazed by cattle, but under heavier stocking rates they will eat it.  I’ve only gotten to watch the process once, and sure enough, the cow I watched picked up the stem and simply stripped all the leaves right off – against the spines – and didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects at all.  Those are tough lips!