Prairie Plants or How To Distinguish Between The One With The Purple Flowers and That Other One With Purple Flowers

In addition to watching 80s Dance movies, this summer I have  job working in the Hernandez Lab! Huzzah!

So far we’ve been doing  a lot of really cool projects with the GRASS experiment which is looking at the effects of the presence or absence of two big C4 grasses. We also came up with a name for the herbivory experiment: FENCE (Finding Evidence of Native Critter Exclusion). So it’s been a lot of grinding litter and smushing up dirt so far, with the hope of coming up with some good data very soon!

Probably one of the best parts of the job (other than the stimulating conversations and SCIENCE parts) is getting to spend at least a portion of most days out in the Arboretum. Specifically the prairie.

For people who don’t know prairie is the term used for North American grasslands, i.e. prairie is found nowhere else on the planet. Sadly much of the prairie has disappeared in the past two or so centuries. Gee, I wonder why. In Minnesota less than 10% of the pre-settlement prairie remains.

There is some good news, though. Many people (such as Mark, Dan, and the wonderful Arb Office crew) are working on creating prairie restorations. All of the prairie in the Arb is restored prairie, with new sections being added about every year. Already certain prairie specialists such as the Henslow sparrow and the prairie vole have made their way to the restored Arb prairie. A hopeful sign that something is indeed going right!

Here are some of my favorite plants from the Arb!

Sage (Artimisia ludoviciana)

Sage! Smells great, easy to distinguish by it's pale almost white coloration.

Sage! Smells great, easy to distinguish by it’s pale almost white coloration.

Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Also smells good! Opposite leaves and stuff.

Also smells good! Opposite leaves and stuff.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed susans have the distinctive dark center and fuzzy almost piercing stems.

Black-eyed susans have the distinctive dark center and fuzzy almost piercing stems.

Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)

A huge species of sunflower, they can grow over seven feet in a single growing season! Their leaves point north!

A huge species of sunflower, they can grow over seven feet in a single growing season! Their leaves point north!

Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)

The leaves have a sort of dusty coloring. I really like the look of these plants, because they remind me of the inevitable decay of all life. And they're pretty!

The leaves have a sort of dusty coloring. I really like the look of these plants, because they remind me of the inevitable decay of all life. And they’re pretty!

So that’s some of the work I’m doing this summer. More updates to come.

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