Friday, May 15, 2015

Blooming Season Potato Dandelions

Sunlight is a key factor in determining whether or not a Potato Dandelion, Krigia dandelion, will bloom.  Woodland populations receive much of their sunlight prior to emergence of leaves on the deciduous trees.  Even in mid-May, the tree leaves have not developed enough to completely block the sun.

Fallen leaves from previous years can also keep sunlight from reaching the developing plants.  Those plants that must push their way up through the leaf litter rarely bloom.  That’s one reason why I transplanted Krigia tubers into areas of sparse leaf litter.  Strong winds pushing over the ridge tops consistently push leaves away from certain areas.  It’s in these areas that the Potato Dandelions should prosper.  I should they could thrive if animals stopped eating them.  In this grouping of four plants, all have suffered some degree of damage from hungry plant predators.

This is the most common condition.  Leaves and flower stalks severely trimmed back.

This specimen lost nothing but a flower bud.  Since the flowers rarely produce any viable seed at Blue Jay Barrens, the loss of the flower does no harm to the plant.  As long as the plant is healthy, the roots will produce a nice collection of new tubers.

When I planted Potato Dandelion tubers into this location last summer, I placed them in groups of three or four.  This set of three plants represents the most successful grouping I could find this week.  All three have managed to grow without any predation.

The tuber planted here must have had exceptional vigor to produce three flower stalks.  The tubers produced from these three plants could easily result in 30 to 40 plants on this spot next year.

Judging by the amount of leaves being produced, the container bound Potato Dandelions are going to provide me with plenty of tubers to transplant to the woods later this summer.  These plants were caged a few weeks ago after some browsing animal ate all of the leaves.  The damage occurred prior to the development of flower buds, so there was no reduction in the number of blooms produced.

The original source of tubers for my container grown specimens was the ridgetop woodland at Blue Jay Barrens where the plants were found to be naturally growing.  By transplanting container grown tubers onto that same woodland ridge, I hope to expand the size of the population as insurance against some disaster destroying the original population.  I manage the plants and animals found naturally at Blue Jay Barrens and have made it a strict policy to not introduce any species from outside the property boundaries.  With luck, someday I’ll have clumps of these little beauties enhancing the entire 1500 feet of the ridge instead of just the current 100 feet.

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