Thursday, July 29, 2010

Field Check

I finally got around to taking a walk through the fields that I mowed last winter. I wasn’t looking for anything specific. I just wanted to see the general landscape and get a feel for how the progression from crop field to native grassland was proceeding. I began at the north end of the largest field and worked my way south. Native plants are beginning to dominate in this area.

This area was a mess of Yellow Sweet Clover just a few years ago. Sweet clover is a biennial and I theorized that opportunistic biennials would eventually diminish as the stand of natives became thicker. That seems to have happened here. Tall fescue is still a problem, but it is now being suppressed by the growth of the warm season grasses.

Bundleflower continues to colonize new areas of the field. I originally found the Bundleflower growing in a strip along the west side of the field. Although it was one of the first to begin moving eastward into the old cropland, its heavy seed doesn’t move far from the plant and progress has been slow. Light seeded plants, like the grasses, passed the Bundleflower by years ago and have managed to spread themselves completely across the field.

The small white blooms of the Bundleflower go almost unnoticed among the fern-like compound leaves. The flower is easily pollinated and lasts for only a short time. Most of the flowers have long since begun the development of seed pod clusters.

The mowing last winter has removed all of the standing dead stalks that would normally give the field a fuzzy appearance. The grasses are giving the landscape a nice green color. This is the best vantage point for watching hunting hawks and grassland birds.

The field is thick with insects. I’m sure I’ve seen the face on this female Eastern Amberwing being used on several cartoon characters. Note: This is a corrected identification. Thanks to Mangoverde for giving me the proper identification. It proves that if you know what you're looking at, but you wonder why it looks a little odd, you probably don't know what you're looking at.
Plants had no trouble coming up through the material left after last winter’s mowing. That mass of organic material is now in the process of decomposition.

Typical prairie grasses do most of their growing during mid to late summer. This is the same period in which organic materials decompose most rapidly on the soils surface. In nutrient poor soils, the grasses rely heavily on the nutrients released by dead plants decomposing on the soil surface. The grass leaves growing today essentially become next year’s fertilizer.

The tall wildflowers are hurrying up ahead of the grass. These Whorled Rosinweeds sometimes reach a height of eight feet. The tall grasses will have these plants hidden two months from now.

The late blooming goldenrods are just beginning to send up their flower stalks. The additional sunlight reaching these plants caused a mass of basal leaves to develop. I think this may have caused a slightly delayed start to flower production. In years of better than normal growing conditions, many perennial plants respond by replenishing their energy reserves at the expense of seed production. Hat might be what’s happening here.


  1. You share such a fine tuned perspective with your readers, making your posts so interesting and thought provoking to read. Now when I look out over my meadow and watch it's rebirth in the spring, I'll be seeing it with new eyes.

  2. The dragon is a female Eastern Amberwing.

  3. Thanks, Karen.

    mangoverde – Thanks for calling that to my attention. I must have succumbed to the hazards of late night posting.