Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Thursday Thirteen 158: Prairie Plants

Last week I promised pictures of some of the prairie plants I learned to identify on a recent guided walk through Greene Prairie, a part of the UW Arboretum here in Madison. It is a 50-acre restored prairie planted primarily by one person, Henry Greene, during the 1940s and 1950s. Many of the plants I am going to talk about are pictured in the photo I used for this week's header. All photos were taken by me—click on any one of them for a larger view.

Spiderwort. This is one of the prettiest and most easily recognizable of wildflowers, and one of my favorites. With 71 species, these plants are native to the New World from southern Canada south to northern Argentina, and grow in wooded areas and fields. The flowers can be white, pink or purple but are most commonly bright blue. Some species flower in the morning and then close up in the afternoon when the sun is shining, but flowers can remain open on cloudy days until evening. Though sometimes considered a weed, it is often cultivated for containers. Click here to see my Spiderwort and Bee, posted last weekend.

Golden Alexander is a hardy member of the carrot family. The leaves and fruit of this plant turn purple in the fall. Though it prefers wet habitats, it is sturdy enough to survive dry summers.

False White Indigo or Baptisia is another pretty flower I like. While it can be seen on both restored prairies of the Arboretum, it seems more abundant at Curtis Prairie, located along the southern edge of the main part of the Arboretum. Curtis Prairie is the oldest restored prairie in the United States.

Prairie Phlox is another pretty flower that grows in both woodlands and prairies, as well as alpine tundra. There are 67 different species found primarily in North America. Flowers can be white, pink, purple, blue or red.

Puccoon. I know, what an awful name for such a pretty flower, right? The word 'puccoon' denotes the plant as a source of a dye–a reddish color that was used by Amerindians for pottery, basketry, and personal ornament in various ceremonies.

Equisetum or Horsetail. This is one of the oldest plants in the world, dating back one hundred million years. It is considered a "living fossil," and some Equisetopsida in the Paleozoic era grew as large as trees. This plant is found on every continent except Antarctica, in wooded areas as well as prairies.

This itty bitty flower is a Bluet, or Quaker Lady, and only grows in one spot of Greene Prairie, preferring well-drained sandy loam and full sun. They are ideal for rock gardens.

Compass Plant. This plant earned its name as they tend to align their foliage East-West to present the minimum surface area to the hot noon sunshine. A mature plant ranges from 6-12 feet tall, with 6-30 large yellow flowers of 3-4 inch diameter (they are not yet in bloom at Greene Prairie). It is usually found in tandem with...

Prairie Dock. Its big green leaves are easily recognizable when gazing out at any prairie, as they are up to 18" long and 12" wide. Stalks up to 10 feet tall will sprout from the center, topped with yellow flowers.

These small, daisy-looking plants are known as Prairie Fleabane, and they are a 'lesser' daisy. They grow in both woodlands and prairies, as well as ditches. In fact, there are some growing behind my apartment complex. They are 1-3 feet tall, with 50-100 white flowers, often with several flower heads on a single stalk. Prairie fleabane can be found in almost every state of the continental US.

Penstemon. Also sometimes known as Beard-tongue, penstemon are most common across North America and Europe. There are 63 known species, and flowers are mostly purple, but can also come in red, white and orange. Native Americans used penstemon roots to relieve toothache.

Rattlesnake Master. Common in eastern and central North America, from Minnesota east to Ohio, and south to Texas across to Florida, some Native Americans used its root as an antidote for rattlesnake venom (hence the name). They have bristly or spiny leaves with a sharp tip, and will eventually be topped with greenish-white or bluish-white flowers.

Yellow Star Grass is actually not a flower, but an ornamental grass, and is also one you might see along roadways.

(Please leave your link if this is your first visit!)

Adelle Laudan * Shelley Munro * Kimberly Menozzi
Hootin' Anni * David Bridger * Harriet * Kristen
Darla M Sands * Janet * Jill Conyers * Paige Tyler
Robin Rotham * Tatiana Caldwell * CountryDew
Alice Audrey * Janice Seagraves * Inez Kelley
Jennifer McKenzie * Alexia Reed * Elise Logan
Colleen * Felicia Lind

More Thursday Thirteen participants


Adelle Laudan said...

Lovely pictures, such vibrant colors Thanks for sharing.
Happy T13!

Heather said...

Thanks, Adelle! :)

Shelley Munro said...

I like the spiderwort too. Great photos.

Kimberly Menozzi said...

Such pretty photos of such pretty plants! This makes me want to go out for a walk and see what I can find. Sadly, I'm in the city, so I doubt I'd find anything as colorful.

Happy TT!

HOOTIN' ANNI said...

Interesting, so very interesting!!!! I love flowers and I enjoy everything botanical. This was a super read.

Come join me and read my Thursday post of you can. It's HERE

David Bridger said...

Aren't they beautiful? Thanks for sharing.

I am Harriet said...

Those are some wonderful pictures.

Have a great Thursday!

Kristen said...

I had no idea what any of those flowers were officially named...I even got the daisy wrong! Interesting about the rattlesnake master and the east-west plant (which obviously I have already forgotten its name!). Good for you for learning something new!!

Darla M Sands said...

Very nice! Great information, too. I'm looking forward to a fall visit to St. Louis arboretum. It's one of the oldest in the country. And they're having a Japanese Festival! Should be great. You've got me even more psyched for that. Thank you.

jillconyers said...

Nice photos and beautiful colors. The greens really catch the eye.

Paige Tyler said...

Those are beautiful!


My TT is at

Heather said...

Shelley: Thank you!

Kimberly: You'd never know I'm in the city, would you? The Arboretum is a nice oasis in the midst of chaos.

Anni: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it! *g*

David: Very beautiful. Thanks for visiting!

Robin L. Rotham said...

Nice! I love wildflowers. And not-so-wild flowers, too. The house we moved to -- Mr Robin's grandmother's house -- has perennials planted everywhere. It's nice to look out the windows and see something besides grass and weeds! I'll have to see if there's enough for a TT.

Janet said...

That was a really cool lesson, thanks!

Heather said...

Harriet: Thank you, I'm glad you liked!

Kristen: mean the compass plant? *g* I thought the direction thing was pretty neat too.

Darla: Yay, glad to get you psyched up for your upcoming trip! I've never been to the Arb in St. Louis, but the Japanese festival sounds cool. I love visiting botanic gardens in areas I visit. One is never the same as another.

Jill: Thank you. Isn't amazing how many different shades of green there are in a prairie?

Paige: Thank you! *g*

Tatiana Caldwell said...

Thanks, I needed that relaxing walk through that pretty prairie today.

Heather said...

Robin: Thank you. It's nice that I have the Arboretum so close, especially as there is little grass outside my apartment building now, and what is here stinks from being over-run by dogs and their negligent owners. I bet Mr. R's grandmother's house is gorgeous with all those perennials.

Janet: Thank you, and thanks for visiting!

Heather said...

Tatiana: Happy to oblige! I wish I felt up to such a long and leisurely walk today!

CountryDew said...

Great photos and very interesting facts to go along with them. I think I have fleabane growing here along the fence rows. Very informative!

Alice Audrey said...

Oh thank you! I can use this post for research.

But where's the bee?

Heather said...

Anita: Thank you. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you have fleabane along your fenceline - it seems to grow everywhere!

Alice: Does that mean you wouldn't be opposed to seeing more pics from the prairie? And hey, I already posted the bee. Anyone who wants to see him can just scroll down, hehe...

colleen said...

Ijust learned about spiderwort recently: There were lots of bluets on this same hike.

Heather said...

Colleen: Oh, I missed that one. I'll have to pop back over and read it. Thanks for visiting!

Elise Logan said...

so pretty! We haven't much prairie around here, so we make do with Queen Anne's Lace.

Inez Kelley said...

Love the colors! Great photography as well.

Heather said...

Elise: Actually, I'm surprised I didn't see Queen Anne's Lace there - I see along roadsides all the time.

Inez: Thank you! *VBG*

Jennifer Leeland said...

Oh so pretty!!! I've found that the same wild flowers will have different names in different areas.
Very cool.

Janice said...

Beautiful pictures. The only one I recognized was horse tail, which grows in the mountains near my home.

Happy TT.


Heather said...

Jennifer: Yes, locals may sometimes call plants by something other than their "given" name, and some plants may be known by more than one name (like the baptisia and horsetail).

Janice: Very cool! They are quite an adaptable and unusual plant, aren't they?

Alice Audrey said...

Yeah, if you want to post more. Wait. I think you did.

Heather said...

Alice: Yeah, I kind of did. In fact, I've taken so many pics at the Arboretum over the past month that I could post a different photo every day for the rest of the year. Well, there won't be one every day, but I'll certainly be posting more Arb pics, from both woods and prairie.

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