Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Some Prairie Flowers

Spring time color appears more slowly on the prairies than it does in the woods.  The first really noticeable display comes from the Hoary Puccoon.  These bright yellow-orange flowers truly herald the beginning of the prairie flower show.

Hoary Puccoon is one species among many short statured prairie plants that must hurry its development early in the spring season in order to complete the flowering and pollination stage before becoming overgrown by the tall grasses.

A seasonal favorite is the White Blue-eyed Grass.  The bloom is small in size, but highly noticeable among the dead stalks of last year’s grasses.

Flower color trends towards white, but some blue or purple markings are not uncommon and some blooms may exhibit a light blue shade.  Even the bluest examples of White Blue-eyed Grass are far lighter than the other species.

A close examination of the plant clearly shows the resemblance between these members of the Iris Family and their common flower bed relatives.  The amazing thing is that the thin, flattened stems have the strength to remain upright.  I always imagine that the first strong gust of wind will lay them all down.

The first of the Wood Betony plants are just beginning to bloom.  This plant is somewhat parasitic on other plants.  It is most common along the margins of prairie openings where it would have a chance at parasitizing tree roots.  I don’t know the full list of possible host plants.  I’m assuming that its occurrence among a wide range of plant communities means that there are many possible hosts.

One of the smallest of the current bloomers is the Fringed Houstonia.  This plant attains a height of only a few inches and does that in the small openings between the tall grass plants. You might note a close family resemblance to the common Bluets.

It’s bad enough that the plant is so small, but some of the key diagnostic features are almost impossible to see with the unaided eye.  Tiny hairs around the margins of the basal leaves are this guy’s claim to fame.  Early season prairie wildflowers are always numerous the year following a wet season.  I’m expecting big things out of the prairies this year.


  1. Love the red Pedicularis. Ours are mostly all pale yellow, a few with a little blush of red.

  2. HI Steve...You sure are having some gorgeous blooms in your wild prairie garden!!
    Love them all wish we have some of those ..
    YOu can just send me a bouquet, for recovering from my eye surgery (tommorrow) so get them shipped quick!!

  3. Thanks Lois.

    Hi James. I've never seen any of the yellows around here. I haven't spoken to anyone who is familiar with populations of mixed colors.

    Hi Grace. My wife is always telling me that I know nothing of appropriate responses to special occasions. I never thought about getting you flowers. Instead, I took photos of a cute animal for tomorrow's post. Approach with caution.