We had a great time at the Grassland Restoration Network meeting at Konza Prairie this week. The long-term research going on there is phenomenal, and we were blissfully overwhelmed with knowledge and data about prairie ecology. I will try to synthesize some of that information into a blog post or two, but it might take me a while to digest it and figure out how to share it.
Compass plant at sunrise
In the meantime, one of many highlights of the trip for me was the hour or so of early morning photography I managed to squeeze in right around the headquarters of Konza Prairie. As the sun came up, I wandered around prairie full of compass plant (Silphium laciniatum), a plant that sorta looks like, but isn’t, a tall sunflower. There were lots of other plants and animals around too, but compass plant was clearly the star of the show, standing at least three or four feet taller than the surrounding vegetation and blooming audaciously. It was hard to point my camera toward anything else. As a result, today’s post is a kind of tribute to compass plant…
A blooming compass plant is surrounded by the huge beautiful leaves of non-blooming companions.
This tree cricket was one of many creatures, including lots of bees, enjoying the pollen of compass plant flowers.
Dickcissels were using compass plant as singing perches, but occasionally seemed to be feeding on them as well (or maybe just trying to get the sticky rosin off their feet – I couldn’t really tell.
Few of our prairies in central Nebraska have compass plant – we’re on the far western edge of its range. It’s too bad. Compass plants add a great architectural structure to prairies that the sunflowers and other tall plants in our prairies don’t quite achieve.
There is an unmistakable look to late summer prairies, and that look is YELLOW. Sunflowers, goldenrods, and Silphiums (compass plant, cup plant, rosinweed) are all front and center this time of year. The visual dominance of yellow flowers is obvious as I look back through some of my favorite prairie photos from this week.
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) in restored tallgrass prairie at Deep Well Wildlife Management Area west of Aurora, Nebraska.
A black blister beetle and another small beetle feed on the same Missouri goldenrod flower head.
Stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus).
Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum).
Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium).
During yellow season, anything that’s not yellow really stands out – especially when it’s tall and BLUE. Pitcher sage (Salvia azurea).
I wonder if anyone has gone through all the prairie flower species to see which color is most common (I’ll be someone has). It has to be yellow, doesn’t it? Purple, pink, and white are in the running, but I bet yellow wins pretty easily.