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.
Several years ago, Brian Obermeyer of The Nature Conservancy hosted our annual patch-burn grazing working group meeting in the Flint Hills of Kansas. We stayed overnight at the Flying W ranch, a guest ranch in Chase County, KS. In the morning, I went for a walk with my camera to see what I could find as the sun was coming up.
Tallgrass prairie, rocks, and the remnants of an old rock fence in the Flint Hills of Kansas.
It was a beautiful morning for a walk, but I was having trouble finding the right shot. Sometimes smaller prairies are easier to photograph than large ones because there are fewer choices! Often, when this happens, I pull out my macro lens and start looking for flowers and/or insects to photograph, but I really wanted to capture the landscape I was in, so I kept the wide-angle lens on and kept walking. Eventually, I came upon an old rock fence and followed it until I found some color and texture to put in front of it.