Spring Obsession

Man, I sure do love Carolina anemone (Anemone carolinianum).  It’s such a beautiful plant in such a compact package.  We have a few plants blooming in our prairie garden at home, but last weekend, I went looking for more of them at Gjerloff Prairie, owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute.  I don’t visit the prairie often enough to know for sure, but it sure seemed like there were many more patches of anemone than I’d seen in previous years.

There are both blueish-purple and pale lavender-white blossoms at Gjerloff, and sometimes the two were mixed within the same patch of flowers.  Interestingly, the white ones were easier to see at a distance then the blue ones, but both hide pretty well.  I often didn’t see them until I was within 5-10 yards.  They’re short, you see…

While it is a perennial plant, my limited experience tells me Carolina anemone flourishes when the surrounding vegetation is short.  Of course, that could be a function of visibility too, but I’m guessing it doesn’t bloom well when covered by thatch and tall skeletons of plants from the previous season.  (I’d be interested to hear from others about what kinds of response to management they’ve seen with this species.)  In our Platte River Prairies, I most often see them after a summer fire or after a year of intensive grazing.  The portion of Gjerloff prairie I found them in this year was burned and grazed pretty hard last year.  Other plant species seemed to be enjoying the abundant light in the grazed area as well, including numerous rosettes of ragwort (Packera plattensis) and quite a few individuals of prairie dandelion (Nothocalais cuspidata), which was just starting to bloom.  …More on prairie dandelion in an upcoming post…

Several different small bee and fly species were feeding on the pollen of the anemone plants last weekend, including the gorgeous little Lasioglossum species shown above.  I’m guessing the anemone is a very welcome resource for those early-season pollinators.  Carolina anemone makes its pollen easy to access, and when you find one plant, there are usually quite a few more right next to it.  That’s pretty handy for a hungry bee or fly searching for something to eat across a still-mostly-brown prairie landscape.

There are lots of great spring wildflowers, but I have to say the little Carolina anemone is my favorite.  At least this week.  Although that prairie dandelion is sure cute too…  Oh, and how can you not like pussytoes?  And violets…  Hmm.

Photo of the Week – May 19, 2016

Gjerloff Prairie, formerly known as Griffith Prairie, is a beautiful site on steep loess hills adjacent to the Platte River.  It’s owned and managed by Prairie Plains Resource Institute, and was burned earlier this spring.  I walked around the prairie for an hour or so this week to see how things were progressing since the fire.  From a distance it didn’t look like there was much to see – just a lot of short green grass.  Up close, however, there was a lot going on, and I didn’t have any trouble finding photography subjects..

The topography of Gjerloff Prairie is always interesting - if challenging to hike - but especially so after a fire.

The topography of Gjerloff Prairie is always interesting – if challenging to hike – but especially so after a fire.

Many plants, including this leadplant (Amorpha canescens), were growing strongly after the fire and a month of good rains.

Many plants, including abundant leadplant (Amorpha canescens), were growing strongly after the fire and a month of good rains.

It was nice to visit the only population of tuberous false dandelion (Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus) in Nebraska. The southern Plains wildflower was discovered at Gjerloff prairie in 2004.

It was nice to revisit the only population of tuberous false dandelion (Pyrrhopappus grandiflorus) in Nebraska. Normally found only in Kansas and southward, this wildflower was discovered at Gjerloff prairie in 2004.

Smooth sumac (Rhus aromatica) can be overly abundant in some prairies in our area, but hangs out mainly on a few waslopes at Gjerloff prairie. It resprouts easily after fires, and looked vibrant and healthy this week.

Smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) can be overly abundant in some prairies in our area, but hangs out mainly on a few steep slopes at Gjerloff prairie. It resprouts easily after fires, and looked vibrant and healthy this week.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) was just starting to bloom on the warmer south-facing slopes of the prairie.

Spiderwort (Tradescantia occidentalis) was just starting to bloom on the warmer south-facing slopes of the prairie.

And, of course, I found a crab spider to photograph. Although they are particularly small this time of year, they are all over the place on flowers, and weren't difficult to find once I started looking.

And, of course, I found a crab spider to photograph (on pale poppy mallow – Callirhoe alcaeoides). Although they are particularly small this time of year, crab spiders are all over the place on flowers.