Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Autumn Barrens

Things look pretty brown on the barrens this time of year. This barrens is in shallow soil on a steep, south facing slope. A most inhospitable place for a plant to grow.

The dominant grasses are Little Bluestem, Side Oats Gramma, and Common Dropseed. None are showing much green right now.

The red leaves belong to Gray Goldenrod. You can detect a few green leaves right at the heart of the plant.

A little Eastern Red Cedar showing signs of stress. A lot of the little cedars growing in the barrens take on this reddish coloration during the winter. Those that survive will put on new green growth in the spring.

Here’s an extra large stalk left from a Rose Pink that flowered this summer. The plant is a biennial that dies after flowering, but there were dozens of seed pods produced.

I was surprised to find so many seeds left in the pods. Each pod produces hundreds of seeds. If all of these seeds produced plants, the hillside would be solid pink.

This Rose Pink plant was produced from last year’s seed. It’ll remain green and growing all winter and then will flower in the summer. The number of rosettes you see now will give you a good idea of what kind of flowering season to expect next year.

The Pasture Thistle is also a biennial and follows a growth pattern similar to that of the Rose Pink. Some of the outside leaves of the whorl may blacken and curl during an extremely cold winter, but the center leaves will remain green. This plant will be blooming early next summer.

I don’t know what this little guy is. It might be a St. Johnswort seedling. I raise a lot of wild plants from seed in an attempt to learn what the seedlings look like. Sometimes the seedlings bear little resemblance to the mature plant, especially plants that germinate in the fall. I’ll just have to wait to see what this turns out to be.


  1. After my recent post about Common Mullein and its biennial life cycle, it's interesting to see the Rose Pink and Pasture Thistle that you mention here. I am going to have to start paying more attention to what's green and growing throughout the winter so as to learn more plants. I like your idea of raising wild plants from seed just to see what the seedlings look like. I'm just beginning to know some plants in their seedling stages. It's frustrating that that's not something covered/photographed in the field guides that I have, though.

  2. Heather - A Field Guide to Native Plant Seedlings would really be nice. I've seen seedling photos in some native plant catalogues and in literature about plants used in conservation projects. A guide that covered a wide range of seedlings and included detailed descriptions would certainly be wonderful. Maybe you should take that on as a special project. Years from now we could all be talking about anxiously awaiting the next addition to the Heather Guides series.