You’ve probably noticed that my favorite photo subjects are insects and flowers. You’ve probably also noticed that insects and flowers are pretty uncommon during Nebraska winters. By about this time each year, I start feeling a little desperate for photo subjects. Last weekend, I went for a long walk in a prairie north of town, trying to find something, ANYTHING, with some color other than brown. The best I could come up with were some small rosettes of common evening primrose (Oenothera villosa) scattered along south-facing prairie hills. I spent way more time than necessary photographing these little red leaves, but I did feel a little better afterward.
Rosette of common evening primrose (Oenothera villosa).
There were quite a few different rosettes to choose from, and each had its own unique beauty.
…ok, that’s not true – they all pretty much looked the same. But there were a few minor differences, and did I mention I was feeling desperate?
See how different the rosette below looks from the first one? It’s COMPLETELY different. A little.
Look, these leaves have a little green in them! Isn’t that exciting?
No, this is a different plant and different leaves from the earlier one.
Spring is coming soon, right?
(I have about a hundred more photos of these…)
After a long week in Texas, it was nice to spend a restful afternoon at our family prairie last Saturday. The weather was gorgeous and we spent a great day playing with the dogs, cooking hot dogs on a campfire, cutting small cedars, hiking, and (of course) doing a little photography.
Kim spent much of her afternoon thumbing through seed catalogs and planning this year’s garden. The dogs played a lot of frisbee…
When diffuse clouds covered the midday sun for a little while, I grabbed my camera and set out to add some photos to a little project I’ve been working on – finding color in winter prairies. The subjects that caught my eye on Saturday were prairie plant rosettes. Most biennial plants (and some short-lived perennials) in our prairies spend their first year as a tightly arranged cluster of leaves close to the ground – a rosette. Those leaves photosynthesize enough to get the plant’s root system started, giving it a head start on its second year growth. Often, rosettes are found in areas of prairie that are recently grazed or mowed because competing plants are both short and weak, opening up space for new plants to establish. Rosettes often stay green much of the winter, but the leaves can also turn other colors like red or yellow.
The green fuzzy leaves of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).
Another rosette. Maybe common mullein (Verbascum thapsus)? I don’t remember seeing mullein before at our prairie, but that was the best guess of my friend Grace Kostel when I sent her this odd-colored cropped photo…
As I write this, I realize that I don’t actually know for sure how rosette leaves work. I’ve always assumed that the leaves on a rosette lose their green color for a while during the coldest parts of winter and then green up again in the spring. That is different from what most prairie forbs (wildflowers) do, of course, because their leaves drop off in the fall and they grow new ones in the spring. Does anyone know if leaves in a rosette really can turn red/yellow and then green again?