Friday, August 17, 2012

Blooms on the Dry Prairie

Growth on the prairies is mimicking that of the Prairie Garden.  That’s encouraging, since that’s how I had hoped my artificial creation would act.  However, the actual growth is less than encouraging.  This area of short grass is typically dotted with bright color at this time in the season.  The color this year is almost entirely pale green.

Some plants are actually doing well despite the odd weather.  Little Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes tuberosa, is looking very well.  Its full height of about six inches is just not enough to make it very noticeable.

Petals of the Spiranthes flower never look quite real.  I always imagine them as being made of ice crystals or clear plastic.

Whorled Rosinweed blooms are a bright yellow that should be visible from a considerable distance.

Unfortunately, instead of their normal five foot height, the plants are averaging closer to 18 inches.  The plants are also producing just a single bloom instead of the usual half dozen.  The flowers are well hidden by the grass.

Flowering Spurge is similarly diminished this year.  The plants normally top out around three feet tall.  These are lucky to reach a foot.

Bluehearts have remained relatively unaffected.  Height is slightly reduced, but the flower spike is just as full as ever.  Their blooms are too small to be easily seen at a distance, so they don’t do much to brighten the landscape.

As with those in the Prairie Garden, the Round-podded St. Johnswort is producing a new set of blooms.  The recent rains must have really invigorated this species.

Rose Pink continues to bloom.  This species has been blooming for the last couple of months and shows no signs of slowing.  Some of the early bloomers are already drying down and releasing seed.

Partridge Pea is blooming at a normal rate.  This species has the potential to form tall plants with many flowers, but Blue Jay Barrens specimens are always small and only produce one or two flowers.  I may collect a few seeds from this annual plant and see how large the plants get when given good soil and plenty of water.

Hairy Small-leaved Tick Trefoil always does well and this year is no exception.  The flowers are not large enough to make a showy display, but there will be enough sticky seed pods this fall to cover a person’s pants legs as they walk through the field.

Another specimen of the same Trefoil species appears to have grown with its flower stalks fused.  There are always oddities of some sort showing up in the fields.  I would prefer to find oddities that turned out to be species I have not yet encountered.  It’s getting to be too late in the season for the prairies to suddenly burst with color.  Next year has got to bring a better display.


  1. Hi Steve...I have not seen as many wild flowers as usual here this year, and what there is of them doesn't seem to be doing that well either!
    The Ladies tresses is gorgeous..but that last one is a really mixed up fella : }!
    Hope you have a good weekend!

  2. Hi Grace. In order to balance things out, the plants should knock themselves out flowering next year.

  3. I'm sure you know partridge pea is a legume that prefers poor soil. It may not grow well in good soil.

    The soil in my neighborhood is sandy (the area I live was once an Eocene age beach), and lots of partridge pea grows in spots with disturbed bare soil.

    I may be wrong, however. I once decided to plant some pole beans on the cheap. Because it was a legume, I didn't think they would need any fertilizer. They didn't produce well, so I looked up what the local agricultural agents recommended, and they did prescribe a good dose of fertilizer.

  4. Hi Mark. I've seen Partridge Pea on deeper soils within a few miles of my place that produce a stalk tall enough to hold a dozen or more flowers. Those soils are still considered poor for agricultural use, but they are much deeper and have a greater moisture holding capacity than anything on my property.