Sunday, June 27, 2010

Plant Dilemmas? Does It Matter?

 Narrow-leaved purple coneflower
(E. angustifolia)

Have you ever had some activity ultimately bringing a lot of unforeseen decisions and issues? 

I'm in the middle of a labor intensive situation here at Prairie Hill Farm.  Last year the county took 24-28" of soil out of our road's ditch and added it to the top of the road.  The ditch sides are very steep now; the property side is something like a 70-75 degree slope and the road side is 55-60 degrees.  They're now about 5 and a half feet deep if not more so!

The county gave me a couple small buckets of native seed late in the fall after accidentally planting the ditch in brome and other vulgarities(!).  I'd requested a native seed mix that the county has from a statewide grant from the University of Northern Iowa., but they evidently didn't tell the guy that was doing the actual seeding! Well, I got to kill the ditch during a late November warm spell and started over again this spring.

It's been a ton of work, hand pulling and now cutting all the nasty things that plague these situations (Lambsquarter, Buffalo Bur, Nightshade, Canada Thistle, Sow's Ear, Ragweed, etc, etc...).  The ditch sides are too steep to mow and the June precip is torture - 14.35" here just this month!  If I could count on that every year I'd opt for wetlands plantings!  In the meantime I'm wondering how much of the seeding that's coming up will drown out?  (Its in standing water as I type this)

I think that's par for the course isn't it, also Murphy's Law usually comes into play as well.  But something that I've thought about on more than one occasion has me wondering.  I'm seeing some Pale purple coneflower coming from my ditch mix.  What's the problem?  Well, maybe none, but I'm leaning toward not being sure I like that!

I've always had a pet peeve about working on native plantings with things that aren't necessarily native to that location.  I'm in O'Brien County; the only native echinacea I've been able to find in O'Brien County is E. angustifolia, not E. pallida.  I've been hard pressed to find Pale Purple coneflower anywhere near here - except in plantings done by "People". But is having some Pale purple coneflower in the ditch going to cause issues with the Narrow-leafed Echinacea in the native pasture?
I have no idea.  Does it matter? idea.  But somehow it seems like I'm sleeping with the other side if I let it go...

It's just a ditch!  Ya but...oh well...what do you think???!!

Now, I have had some garden variety Purple coneflower escape into the pasture edge and promptly did away with it (E. purpurea), but I'm trying to keep the pasture on a course of it's original plant species and domestic plants are not helpful in any way (nor desirable).

Prairie spiderwort
(T. bracteata)

I try not to introduce things that would not have been here 2-300 years ago.  Another plant I see show up in "conservation" plantings that is not native to this part of Iowa is the Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis).  The spiderwort native to this region of the state is the Prairie spiderwort (T. bracteata) - a shorter plant happier in gravelly drier sites, has longer bracts than the Ohio.

Do you suppose I'll find T. ohiensis in the ditch in future years?  Should I care???!!  Does it really matter?  Geeze, I haven't the foggiest!  What do you think!?


  1. I can't write well, but I think always your flowers on the wild flowers pictures are got love from you. The top of photo is joy of their wind.

  2. Thank you Makiko; your writing is much better than you give yourself credit! I appreciate your comments very much.