Tom's Blog

Monday, May 19, 2008

Great year for wood betony

This is a great year for wood betony (Pedicularis canadensis). At Pleasant Valley Conservancy we have seen more this year than we ever have. Most of it was planted, but we also have it in a couple of remnants.

However, where wood betony is really displaying is Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie, another State Natural Area that Kathie and I manage. The hillside is almost solid color; more than we have ever seen.

Wood betony is an interesting plant because it grows semiparasitically on grasses. It has tiny specialized rootlets that are able to penetrate the roots of other plants and get part of their nutrition that way. If you see large patches of wood betony, there are often grass-free zones around them. This can be seen nicely now at Black Earth Rettenmund, especially in the small planted prairie at the entrance to the preserve. The large patches there seem to live in their own special spheres, with very few plants around.

At present, Black Earth Rettenmund is worth a visit, even a special trip. You won't see a better prairie right now!


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