Nine-o’clock on a Tuesday morning – it’s time to hit the trails. I hadn’t planned to go out with the Tuesday morning group today, but they were going to visit the fen and look for fringed gentians, so I decided to tag along after all.
Out on the prairie, the native grasses are coming into their prime. The really tall ones out there are big bluestem. Here’s the top of my head, and I’m almost five-and-a-half feet tall. One of our group was over six feet and these grasses were taller than he! They are well-named.
From a distance, these grasses add some lovely earth-tone colors to the landscape, but up close they are spectacular. Grasses are greatly under-rated by most people. Here is big bluestem in bloom:
Little bluestem isn’t quite as spectacular, but it was covered with little bits of fluff:
Sweet everlasting is doing very well right now. These plants give off an aroma like maple syrup. Mmmm. It’s hard to believe, but it is true! And they don’t open much more than this. Take a walk out on the prairie now and you will see small clumps of this flower. Bend down and take a sniff.
There are still plenty of thistles in bloom, and while mostly we find butterflies and bees flitting around and sipping nectar, today we found this lovely white crab spider lying in wait. I think a butterfly would’ve been a bit too much for it, but I’ve seen photos of bees who have fallen victim to these spiders. Insects beware.
On the same thistle, which was also crawling with ants, we had this pair of ladybugs. The combination of ladybugs and ants suggested that there should also be aphids present: the ants herd the aphids and the ladybugs hunt them. We didn’t see any aphids, though. Hm. These ladybugs are not from our dwindling native species – these are introduced Asian species.
And just in case you think we just look at flowers and insects, here is the group looking up! There were some birds darting around the tree tops: cedar waxwings and possibly great crested flycatchers.
Ah, now this was my big find for the day. These dark rosy flowers caught my eye, primarily because they seemed to be growing on a goldenrod. What? Goldenrod has yellow flowers! Could it be a gall? No – no galls look like this. These were genuine flowers. A closer inspection and we saw that these flowers were part of a vine, which was so closely entwined with the goldenrod it was hard to tell them apart. When I got back to the office I looked it up: groundnut or wild bean. It’s another native of the grass lands. Another plant to add to my life list.
We made our way around to the fen. Grass-of-Parnassus is in full bloom right now and there is quite a bit of it growing out there. This one had a visitor.
These sweet little blue flowers with the white throats are Kalm’s (or brook) lobelia. Lovely, lovely little flowers. Very sweet.
But no fringed gentians today. Still, the groundnut was a nice find and makes up for the gentian (which I have seen before). And all those glorious grasses – the prairie is a beautiful place.