Friday, July 3, 2009

Gray-headed Coneflower

Gray-headed Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, is just starting to bloom at Blue Jay Barrens. Today there are only a few blooms per acre. By next week there will be hundreds and the show will continue for the next couple of months. I can’t help but think prairie when I see the drooping petals and raised disk of this flower.

These flowers have been growing right along with the tall prairie grasses, but have remained unnoticed. These flower heads are just days away from revealing their presence with a bright flash of yellow.

There may be a couple of dozen flowers per plant, but the blooming period will be extended over a long period. As the last of the flowers bloom, the first bloomers will have nearly developed mature seed.

This is a wonderful plant if you like to see narrow stems soaring into the sky above your head. Of course, these plants only get about four feet tall, so you have to put your head quite near the ground to get this effect.

These flowers provide food for a wide variety of prairie wildlife. About 5 percent of the young flower heads had a resident fly. Some flies were busy probing the flowers with their mouths, while other flies just sat quietly.

A little weevil has tucked itself into the space at the base of this flower. These weevils seem to feed on pollen, which is still a few days away here. Maybe it pays to stake out your territory early.

Some nice plum colored aphids have begun a colony on this flower stalk.

The ants again. This time they're getting honeydew from a couple of bird-dropping colored leaf hoppers.

These beetles are being quite rough on this flower. When predators are about, it doesn’t pay to be the first to come out.

Here is what’s left of last year’s seed head. Still an interesting feature in the prairie landscape.

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