Thursday, August 18, 2011

Flora Minatures

Despite the vagaries of weather, Blue Jay Barrens cannot go through a full year without the soil in most areas becoming super dry. This flat section of ridge top holds no moisture and is one of the driest open spots around. Most of the plants here are adapted to the harsh conditions imposed by this situation. That doesn’t mean they don’t show any effects of the arid conditions.

I think of this ridge top as my collection of miniatures. Species that grow over six feet tall in the nearby prairies can barely make it to one foot here. A good example is this Whorled Rosinweed that is so stunted that it doesn’t display all of the common identifying characteristics. Identifying miniatures is often tricky when they don’t resemble their larger siblings.

A regular sized Spiked Lobelia would have at least ten times this number of flowers. There have been several times in the past that I was convinced that I’d discovered a new species only to have it flower and prove to be one of the miniatures.

Eastern Red Cedars form themselves into natural Bonsai trees without the help of any pruning. This one made progress because of the wet spring, but it will never be able to maintain this much green growth.

This Orange Coneflower has managed a height of eight inches and three tiny blooms. In moist soil, the Orange Coneflower can easily reach a height of five feet and produce over a hundred flower heads. Since the small size is due to environmental conditions and not genetics, the seeds produced by this plant would have the potential to produce a super sized plant if grown under the right conditions.

Diminutive Bluehearts hold their own in the rocky soil. This species reaches a height of almost three feet within 20 yards of these ten inch plants. This disparity in size shouldn’t surprise gardeners who know that improved soils conditions equal larger plants.

A stunted Flowering Spurge can barely produce a noticeable flower cluster. Nearby plants hold their large flower clusters three feet in the air and are visible from far across the field. I visit the land of miniatures each year and marvel at the tenacity of these tiny plants. Their ability to survive under such adversity assures me that the larger members of their species are far from stressed by the normal dryness of the Blue Jay Barrens landscape.

Tiny plants can still provide cover for interesting insects. This is a Bee Fly known as Anthrax georgicus. The larvae of this fly feed on Tiger Beetle larvae. I’m still searching for new species of Tiger Beetles for the Blue Jay Barrens list, so I hope these flies aren’t reducing the population of some species I’ve not yet seen.


  1. HI Steve...survival...amazing that those plants are alive,but also amazing what grows when the rain comes!!
    Make sure you have water with you when you head out into that dry and parched land!! : }}

  2. My goodness that soil is dry. We've had a little more rain over here, but could use more.

  3. Hi, grammie g. I try not to get too dehydrated when I'm out there in the desert.

    Hi, Lois. We seem to miss every rain storm that comes by. At least it was extra rainy early on and our well is in good shape.