Monday, May 18, 2015

Blooming Season Potato Dandelions - Three Days Later

It seemed likely to me that the Potato Dandelion flower buds seen a few days ago would be open today, so I made a trip into the woods to check.  I was suitably impressed by what I found.  All but one of the buds had opened.  On my previous visit to this site, the plant in the foreground of the above photo had three stalks topped by buds.  This morning there were two stalks with flowers.  The third stalk had disappeared completely.  I’m hoping the predator that removed that stalk has had its fill of Potato Dandelions.

The yellow bloom atop the tall stalk made it easy to find the plants.  I even found another cluster of plants that I hadn’t noticed before.

The ground wasn’t quite as bare around the new found cluster.  The leaf litter was only about one leaf thick though, so the plants had no trouble thrusting their leaves into the light.

I went down to the other end of the ridge to check on the original Potato Dandelion site.  This section of woods suffered a lot of damage from grazing cattle, and things are struggling to recover from that negative impact.  The cattle have been gone for over 30 years, but the Whitetail Deer are doing their best to take up where the cattle left off.  The deer have left a well developed browse line through the entire woods and are changing the composition of the forest understory with their overbrowsing of preferred food plants.

I was pleased to find blooming Potato Dandelions at the original site.  Four out of five years will find zero plants blooming here.  I noticed that the long term snow pack that existed in the woods this past winter had significantly compressed the leaf litter.  This may have made it easier for the plants to get their leaves out into the sunlight.

Whatever the reason, I counted 11 flowers at the time of my visit.  The only time this site has come near this number of blooming plants is when I’ve physically removed the leaf litter prior to the emergence of the plants.  It will be interesting to see if any of these flowers produce viable seeds.

This is how the plants look during a normal year.  Plenty of elongated leaves fall limply across the leaf litter like they were subjects in a Salvador Dali painting.

It looks like the flower count is destined to increase.  I found many plants that were just beginning to send up flower stalks.  When you are used to most years passing without a single Potato Dandelion flower, a year with an extended blooming season could prove to be quite overwhelming.

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