Friday, July 24, 2015

Prairie Plant of the Week - "Ratibida pinnata"!

"Ratibida pinnata - Yellow Coneflower"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
I made this prairie forb the "print of the week" because it was peaking nicely here at the studio prairie pastures - so why not "plant of the week" too!?

As I mentioned before, this is a very common native prairie flower or forb (flowering herbacious plant).  Most will recognize it a first glance but maybe by different names.  I like to state the scientific name for a plant if I can - that way there is no argument what plant is being discussed!  This plant (Ratibida pinnata) is commonly referred to as a "Gray-headed Coneflower" or a "Yellow Coneflower", and even some times a "Prairie Coneflower"

"Gray-headed Coneflower" refers to the light green or gray flowering head when it first appears - before filling out with small florets and turning brown.

This prairie flower will adapt readily in a flower garden but tends to be pretty tall at times (4-5 feet here in the pasture) so it needs support from other plants or will lie down from being top heavy.

There is not any odor or smell that I can detect from the flowers, but the bees and butterflies are non-the-less attracted to them...the bees can often be seen pollinating by going round and round the rim of florets.  The smell of this plant's seed heads when they are dry and ready to pick - is "amazing"!  Its a wonderful smell that has come to mean "prairie" in the autumn to me.

Thanks for stopping by - hope to see you on the Tallgrass!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Prairie Plant of the Week - Monarda fistulosa!

This week we have Monarda fistulosa - know by some folks as Bee Balm or Horse Mint. Most prairie folk know it as Wild Bergamot. Its a member of the mint family and is a common native over most of the North American prairie region. This is one plant that pollinators love - "Bee Balm" aptly describes how much bees like it...Bumble Bees in particular! 

One thing I notice about Wild Bergamot is the heat of the summer matures the flowers very quickly and they just do not last long enough for me - if I don't get out there when they "peak", its too late for good pictures!  We've had a couple days (today is one) with temps in the mid nineties and a heat index into the 105 and higher range...that's moving these flowers right along!  I made a point of getting out the the past couple days and this morning to catch them before they wane.

Thanks again for stopping by - we'll see ya on the Tallgrass!

Plant of the week - Echinacea angustifolia

Thought I'd post a prairie flower from the pastures here once a week.  I started this on my Face Book page and thought why not on the "A Tallgrass Journal" blog?!- Last week was Echinacea - most people recognize purple coneflowers, well this one is native to our county and some surrounding counties in NW Iowa - this one is Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower - not to be mistaken as Pale Purple Coneflower or Echinacea pallida (which we also have here). Your common garden variety - Echinacea purpurea is not native here - don't plant it in native settings, keep it in your yard.

Most sources do attribute the Echinacea pallida to being native in NW Iowa, so there's sometimes a question as to what you are seeing.  The easiest visible difference is the longer/narrow "rays" (some folks think of them as petals) on the E. pallida...these rays also droop much more.  Also the E. pallida is much taller - I've seen it regularly at 3-4 feet or slightly taller, whereas the E. angustifolia is much shorter (2-2.5 feet) with short rays.

Curiously, I have never seen E. pallida on a native prairie here in NW Iowa - just on reconstructed prairie or roadside plantings.  The native pasture here had E. angustifolia originally as did the native prairies in the county's SE corner.

I actually think that our Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower would make a great graden plant too!

Thanks for stopping by - see you on the Tallgrass!