Monday, May 18, 2009

Potato Dandelion

The Potato Dandelions, Krigia dandelion, are showing the last of their blooms and the leaves are beginning to show signs of yellowing and wilting. Available literature describes this plant as being found in open woodlands having dry, loose or sandy soil. While this is a generally correct statement, Potato Dandelions do their best growing in full sunlight.

The Blue Jay Barrens population was found in a wooded area on a dry ridgetop. Even though most growth occurs during November through April when the trees are without leaves, the lack of sunlight causes the Potato Dandelion leaves to be short and rounded, with a purple bloom that makes them resemble small Trout Lilies. Blooms are rarely produced under these conditions.

When planted in the open, the leaves narrow and elongated while producing several filamentous lobes. Flowers become numerous. A single plant can easily turn into several dozen by the next season.

So why is it so rare? One thing became very clear after I transplanted a couple of plants up close to the house where I could watch them. Almost every plant eater you can think of finds these plants to be delicious fare. The only vigorous population I can maintain is in a five gallon pot surrounded with chicken wire. There’s a struggling population in one of the beds in the vegetable garden. All attempts to establish self maintaining populations have failed because of predation.

The second problem is a failure to produce viable seed. It's hard to colonize new territory if there's no seed to send out. I never see typical pollinators visiting these flowers. In the photo, you may notice a small dark spot sitting on the edge of the flower. This is a small fly that seems to choose one flower and stay there. Most flowers this spring had a single resident fly that never seemed to leave. A couple of flowers had a collection of tiny beetles that also seemed not to move from flower to flower. Hand pollination efforts have resulted in fewer than one seed produced per flower. I have had no luck germinating any of the seeds.

By June, all signs of the plant will have disappeared, but it’ll be back by the end of October.

1 comment:

  1. Steve - these are your population of Krigia aren't they? You don't think that they are all one plant do you? Same DNA. Clones. Maybe if you get some from somewhere else and they could reproduce. Or worse yet is the pollinator gone...