The prairie is finally waking up (again) around here. Before last weekend’s blizzard weather, plants were starting to green up, but all that stopped for a while last weekend so we could enjoy one last (?) snowstorm. We didn’t end up with much accumulation on the Platte River, but our Niobrara Valley Preserve got over a foot of snow. Yesterday afternoon, the sun was warm and bright along the Platte, so I took a few hours to enjoy the latest reboot of spring.
It’s supposed to cool off again this weekend, but the forecast doesn’t show temperatures dropping below freezing – at least for the next week. Maybe spring will actually catch on this time? It’ll be interesting to watch plants like windflower (Anemone caroliniana) that started to grow and then got frozen off – multiple times. Will they still bloom, or will they just give up and wait for next year? Regardless, it’s sure nice to see something moving around in the prairies besides dead plant stems being blown around by the wind. Let’s go spring!
In my last post, I mentioned that I didn’t mind having dandelions in my prairies. Here is a further celebration of this beautiful, tough little plant.
While dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are kind of weedy, they are not invasive – at least not in our prairies. They essentially fill spaces left when perennial plants are either absent or weakened. Typically, they come and go from the plant community pretty quickly, except in places (like around our shop) where frequent mowing and/or poor soil conditions prevent more competitive plants from establishing.
The dandelion’s status as a non-native plant doesn’t bother me in the least. It is an attractive species and is great for pollinators – especially in the early part of the season when few other plants are blooming in our prairies. Until relatively recent history, dandelions were seen as a useful and attractive garden plant around the world. We’ve made the social decision to call it a weed, but that doesn’t change it’s ecological value. You can read more about the history and uses of dandelions here.
If you can get past the social aesthetic of dandelions as weeds and look at them as just a flower, they’re really very pretty. Kids, who haven’t yet been pressured to label dandelions as a nuisance, can see that beauty – why can’t we?