Friday, June 24, 2011

The June Prairie

The June prairie has a very distinctive look. The tall grasses are putting on a lot of leafy growth and have a bright blue-green blush. Hidden among the grasses are a multitude of plants just on the verge of blooming. The anticipation of the soon to arrive blooms is similar to the feeling I used to get as a child during the last days before Christmas.

Thanks to the abundant rainfall, there is an early show this year. Black-eyed Susans have bloomed in numbers far greater than normal. These plants normally behave as annuals or short-lived perennials. The right combination of weather conditions will stimulate germination of the seeds and create an uncommon abundance of plants.

This is our source of early color. Black-eyed Susans are quite common across their range and in some places are thought of as a slightly weedy plant. It’s odd that so many people equate abundance with weediness. Its numbers vary greatly from year-to-year at Blue Jay Barrens and I see it as another native species maintaining its presence in the community mix.

Besides color, it’s a major food producer on the prairie right now. This bee has picked up a nice load of pollen. Butterflies occasionally visit these flowers, but it’s mainly bees, flies and beetles that I find here. It makes me wonder if Black-eyed Susans are poor nectar producers.

Of course, the mark of a true native plant is its ability to sustain an abundance of animals with its various vegetative parts and still produce seed for future generations. Various herbivorous life forms will feast upon the flowers, petals, leaves, stems and roots of this plant. It may end the season as a pretty raggedy looking specimen, but it will still achieve its primary reproductive objective.

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