Monday, April 20, 2015

Mid-Season Potato Dandelions

The container grown Potato Dandelions, Krigia dandelion, are growing so rapidly that their image changes daily.  As long as I employ methods to exclude predators from the container, the plants flourish.  The abundance of leaves provides energy for the production of flowers and underground tubers.  A single plant may produce a dozen or more tubers during the spring growing season.  At this rate of reproduction, it doesn’t take long to build up a large population.

I thought this would be a good time to check on the progress of Potato Dandelion plants growing from tubers planted last fall into this ridgetop site.  This most closely matches the site of the original Blue Jay Barrens population of the rare Potato Dandelion.

A combination of wind and rainfall runoff patterns create patches of bare ground in this area.  Plants growing in these bare spots receive enough sunlight to stimulate production of flowers.

Some of the plants are looking quite healthy.  All of this growth has arisen from a single bean sized tuber.

Other plants have suffered damage from foraging Wild Turkeys.  Turkeys also create patches of bare ground, but at a cost to the plants.

I originally planted some tubers at the base of this cedar.  Turkeys chose this location as a place to take dust baths, and created two large wallows.  What once looked similar to the area in the right foreground, is now devoid of plants.

Potato Dandelions at the original site struggle to put their leaves up through the leaf litter.

The extra effort necessary to push leaves up through the leaf litter is enough to cause these plants to fail to flower.  I will occasionally clear the fallen leaves from a small area and allow the plants to produce flowers.  It’s nice to see the plants bloom, but since the flowers don’t seem to produce any viable seed, the activity give little benefit to the population as a whole.  The non-flowering plants still produce many new tubers, so the population continues to expand.

There may be other populations of the plant at Blue Jay Barrens, but there is only a narrow window in the spring when the plants are easy to see and finding them is complicated by the presence of the White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum.

White Trout Lily is probably the most abundant woodland spring flower growing in the uplands at Blue Jay Barrens.  The shape and color pattern of the young Trout Lily leaf is remarkably similar to that of the Potato Dandelion.  That’s the Trout Lily on the right.  With hundreds of Trout Lily leaves in view at any one time, it’s easy to see how a random Potato Dandelion leaf could escape notice.

As long as my container grown plants continue to produce plenty of tubers, I will transplant the excess into suitable locations.  It doesn’t look like I’m in danger of having a shortage.

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