Friday, April 11, 2014

Winter Annuals - Pot vs. Barrens Grown

The rains have come and temperatures have warmed.  That means the little winter annuals of the barrens are growing rapidly in order to gather sunlight and produce a crop of seed.  This must be done before neighboring plants grow tall enough to block the source of light.  The plants of my container bound barrens show change on an almost daily basis.  Blooms are not too far in the future.

The Draba cuneifolia that made such exceptional growth early in the season have developed a central stem and numerous side branches.  Below freezing temperatures during a period of no snow cover caused one plant to die and several others to develop dead areas on the leaf tips.  That bit of adversity hasn’t slowed these plants down any.  If our County Fair had a Draba category, I think this plant would be a sure winner.

Flower buds crowd the tip of the main stalk.  This cluster of buds alone will produce an amount of seed equal to at least a dozen normal sized plants.  Add to that the seed that will come from the flowers developing at the ends of the many branches and this plant will produce as much seed as 40 or 50 normal plants.   The total amount of seed from this one plant may exceed the total of all the plants growing in one of the barrens openings found at Blue Jay Barrens.

This is more typical of the container grown Draba cuneifolia plants.  I would expect this plant to produce two or three flower stalks.

Although I try to reproduce the barrens ecosystem in my containers, the true barrens provide much harsher growing conditions.  You won’t find any super sized Drabas growing out here.

This Draba cuneifolia is typical of the maximum sized plants found growing in the barrens.  It is just slightly smaller than the average pot grown specimen and will produce one or two flower stalks.  Fortunately, each flower produces an abundance of almost dust sized seed, so chances are good that some seed will survive to produce plants next year.

Container grown Leavenworthia uniflora is an impressive sight.  Leavenworthia produces no elongated stem.  The leaves radiate out from a central base in the same manner as the common dandelion.  Several pairs of short, pointed leaflets line the leaf stalk which terminates in a flat, roughly five lobed leaflet. 

Flower stalks emerge from the center of the plant at the base of the leaves.  Each stalk will bear a single flower which produces about a dozen seeds.  A plant of this size will produce ten or more flowers.

The barrens grown plants are noticeably smaller.  This plant was so small that the leaf stalk never got long enough to produce leaflets.  This small leaf cluster is capable of supporting only one or two flowers.  A single flower stalk is seen here, but it is early enough for the plant to produce a second if conditions remain favorable.  Annuals have only one chance to produce seed, so every bit of the plant’s energy goes into the effort.

Draba reptans is the smallest of the Drabas.  It could easily take 40 of these plants to equal the leaf area of one average sized Draba cuneifolia.  Most of those rocks seen in the photo are actually sand sized.

The Draba reptans that I find in the barrens are about equal in size to those grown in pots.  One reason for this may be the fact that I have a tough time actually spotting any plants smaller than this.  If I crawled around with a magnifying lens, I may find some of those extra tiny plants.  There’s no question that a lot can be learned about a plant by growing it in a container, but you can’t always apply that knowledge to field situations.

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