Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January Gray Goldenrod

The Gray Goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis, is another of those plants that is actively growing on the prairie. This is a short growing species that tends to behave itself if you invite it into your flower borders. It’s an attractive species that I always stop and notice and I found a lot going on with the plant this winter.

At first glance, I thought this plant was still shedding ripe seeds. It turns out that these seeds never fully developed and there’s nothing left but a shriveled seed coat holding the fluffy pappus filaments. It makes the plant quite noticeable in the brown grass.

This plant consisted solely of basal leaves last year, but will probably send up a flower stalk this year. Gray Goldenrod sends out short rhizomes that produce new plants quite near the parent.

Two new plants are growing from the base of the old flower stalk. There’s not always enough energy left after the plant flowers, to support this type of basal growth. The plant normally continues its vegetative expansion by way of new growth from the rhizomes. Perhaps the energy that should have gone into developing seeds is now being used by these new sprouts.

Not only are the plants actively growing on the prairie, the insects are out to eat them. I found this larva feeding on the sprouts at the base of the old seed stalk. It was active enough to run when I disturbed it.

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