Photo of the Week – September 27, 2018

One of my favorite aspects of my square meter photography project has been the chance to closely follow the lives of individual organisms over time.  For example, I’ve closely followed the progress of the two butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) plants within the boundaries of my square meter plot.  The plants bloomed beautifully back in late June, which was great, though fewer pollinators visited the flowers than I had hoped.  Perhaps correlated with that, only one seed pod was produced between those two plants.  Since then, I have been watching that one pod very very closely…

On the morning of September 24, the pod was just starting to open.

This week, that pod finally opened up, giving me the long-awaited chance to photograph some milkweed seeds within my plot.  As it turns out, it’s a good thing I was vigilant, because that pod opened up and emptied itself out out very quickly.  Within only a few days, the pod went from tightly closed to completely devoid of seeds.

By the afternoon of the same day (24th) the pod had opened up much more, exposing the seeds, which were beginning to dry out and fluff up.
The next day, September 25, the pod was wide open and seeds were beginning to fly out.
I was traveling on the 26th, so didn’t get to check in on my plot.  By the 27th, only three days after the pod opened, it was empty.  Some of the seeds landed close by, but others flew much further away.

While many of the seeds were blown well out of my little plot, a handful got stuck on adjacent plants, giving me the chance to photograph them.  Here are some photos of those seeds as they were coming out of the pod or after they got hung up within the borders of my plot.

Photo of the Week – November 26, 2015

The sky yesterday was mostly overcast and dark, but I looked out my window mid morning and noticed the clouds thinning a little.  I grabbed my camera and drove down to our family prairie for a walk.  It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the 50’s (F) and light winds.

Sun coming through dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie. Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.
Sun coming through a dotted gayfeather seedhead in late autumn prairie. Helzer family prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.

I rarely start these photo walks with a particular subject in mind, and yesterday was no exception.  I enjoyed looking at the bright red leaves on wild rose plants, and perused the tracks of various animals along the edge of the wetland.  However, I ended up spending most of my time photographing the seeds of dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) plants.

Dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie. Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.
Dotted gayfeather seeds still hanging on.

While many plants with wind-blown seeds released the last of those seeds weeks or months ago, most gayfeather plants are still hanging on to most of theirs.  It’s hard to know if there is an evolutionary adaptation involved in that delay, but it sure is appreciated by photographers like me.  …Especially in late November, when wildflowers and insects have disappeared for the winter.

Dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie. Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.
Dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie..

Dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie. Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.
More seeds.

Dotted gayfeather in autumn prairie. Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.
A big ‘ol jumble of seeds.

On this official day of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for many things – including my job, which allows me to work in, study, photograph, and write about grasslands and prairie ecology.  More than that, I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write this blog over the last five (!!) years.  Writing these posts forces me to explore more ideas and think more deeply than I otherwise would, and I learn a tremendous amount as a result.  Thank you for reading, following, and sharing your feedback.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.  Happy Thanksgiving!