Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 Teasel Seed Head Collection

I have completed collecting Teasel seed heads for the 2015 season and am happy about the progress being made in reducing the number of Teasel growing in the fields.  Gathering the seed heads prevents the ripe seed from being scattered about the field and producing a new generation of this non-native invasive plant.

This is the third consecutive year that I have gathered Teasel tops from the seven acres of Teasel infested young prairie at Blue Jay Barrens.  This area, formerly the site of a moderate Teasel infestation, was practically Teasel free this year.

Most of the Teasel was scattered across the field as individual plants or small groups of two or three.  Areas of concentrated Teasel were generally less than 20 feet in diameter.

Unusual this year were the random plants that appeared to have lost their tops to browsing deer.

These topped plants managed to send up new shoots that flowered and produced seed heads.  The deer are going to have to do better than this if they wish to be heralded as a new weapon against Teasel.

My entire 2015 collection fit into three feed sacks, none of which was filled.  Total weight collected this year was 36 pounds, a 63 percent reduction over last year’s 97.5 pounds.  Teasel has a two year life cycle.  Year one is spent as a basal rosette of leaves.  During its second year, the plant sends up a tall stalk and produces flowers.  The plant then dies and the seeds are dropped as the plant dries.  The reduction in population size this year is a result of the 2013 seed crop being removed from the field.  The Teasel population size should continue to shrink, but the seeds previously dropped in the field can wait several years before germinating, so it will be a while before the population is reduced to a negligible amount.

I’ve had a lot going on the past couple of weeks, so the only time I could put to collecting Teasel was early in the morning.  Awaiting me each morning were a few Teasel heads, dew laden Indian Grass and a large collection of spider webs.

The webs were the product of the Banded Garden Spider, a common resident of this field.

Each orb web was accompanied by a structure of random webs to one side.  The spider was sandwiched between these two creations.  I assume the intent of the random webbing is to give the spider notice of the approach of a possible predator, such as a spider hunting wasp.

I left one late flowering Teasel head in place for a couple of days to give this Red-Banded Crab Spider a chance to finish its meal of Robber Fly.  That big fly should be more than enough to fill up the spider.

The buzz of Robber Flies was common throughout the field.  Diogmites species like this were especially abundant.

A first for me at Blue Jay Barrens was the sighting of this Citrine Forktail.  This tiny damselfly would be nearly impossible to find if you were searching for it.  I saw it only because the low angle of the sun made the insect appear as a bright fleck of gold among the sea of Indian Grass.  I don’t know what it was doing out in the middle of a dry prairie so far from water, but I’m glad it was there.

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