Photo of the Week – August 18, 2016

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 in restored tallgrass prairie at Deep Well Wildlife Management Area west of Aurora, Nebraska.
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.
A black blister beetle and another small beetle feed on the same Missouri goldenrod flower head.
Stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus).
Stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus).
Compass plant.
Compass plant (Silphium laciniatum).
Rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium).
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).
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.

No complaints here.

Photo of the Week – May 5, 2016

Wildflower viewing this time of year, at least in the prairies I know best, is more like an Easter egg hunt than a fireworks show.  Spring wildflowers tend to bloom within just a few inches of the ground, nestled among the early growth of grasses and wildflowers that will literally overshadow them within just a few weeks.  Their short stature, small blooms, and (usually) solitary nature don’t detract from their beauty, however, and each “egg” is well worth the hunt.  Earlier this week, I enjoyed a pleasant hour or so finding these colorful little surprises at our family prairie.

Prairie violet is scattered across the prairie, but numbers are highest near
Prairie violet (Viola pedatifida) is scattered across our prairie.  I assume some host caterpillars of regal fritillary butterflies, which are common in our prairie and can only feed on violets, but I’ve never actually found a caterpillar on a violet.  They’ve got to be there.  Somewhere.
Broad patches of pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) have already gone to seed.
Broad patches of pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta) have already gone to seed.  Competing vegetation is kept short within pussytoes patches because the species is allelopathic, meaning that it releases chemicals to stifle growth of other plants.
Most dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) plants have also gone to seed. While they were blooming, they were a major source of food for early spring pollinators.
Most dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) plants have also gone to seed. While they were blooming, they were a major source of food for early spring pollinators.
Fringed puccoon, aka narrow-leaf puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is on the downhill side of its blooming period.
Fringed puccoon, aka narrow-leaf puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) is on the downhill side of its blooming period but is among the most abundant of spring flowers at our prairie right now.
It's not hard to see where fringed puccoon gets its name.
It’s not hard to see where fringed puccoon gets its name.
American vetch (Vicia americana) seems to sprawl awkwardly across its neighboring plants.
American vetch (Vicia americana) seems to sprawl awkwardly across its neighboring plants.  It never seems to be abundant, but I seem to stumble across a few plants each year – and often in different places than I remember seeing them before.
Tendrils on the tips of American vetch leaves wrap tightly around stems of adjacent vegetation.
Tendrils on the tips of American vetch leaves wrap tightly around stems of adjacent vegetation.  I’m not sure what benefit this might provide the vetch plants.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre) might be the most elegant of the flowers currently blooming in our prairie.
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre) might be the most elegant of the flowers currently blooming in our prairie.