Tom's Blog

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Establishment and long-term survival of shooting star

Shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia) is now in full flower all over southern Wisconsin. It is one of the great members of the early spring flora., with a C value of 7. During our restoration work, we have been able to observe shooting star development. It was native at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, primarily in savanna areas, and began to flourish as soon as we started clearing away the exotic invasive shrubs, especially honeysuckle. We now have rather large populations growing in areas of the East Basin where we removed honeysuckle two years ago.

Since we had these native populations, we collected seeds to add to the mixes we used to plant prairies in our former ag fields. For some years after these prairies were planted, shooting star was absent, but at about the 7th growing season it started to show. Currently, we have a lot of flowering plants scattered across Toby's, Valley, and the Pocket Prairies. Valley Prairie is now in its 7th growing season and this is the first year we have seen shooting star. These results agree with the research of Paul D. Sorensen (presented at the 12th North American Prairie Conference).

A site with specatacular shooting star populations, is Schurch-Thomson Prairie, where a whole hillside of brush was removed about six years ago. Almost immediately, huge amounts of shooting star appeared and this plant should be at its peak right now.

It seems that in these degraded areas, shooting star can remain alive in a suppressed (nonflowering) state under the shade of shrubs, but once sunlight comes in, it starts to thrive. How long can it remain dormant? The East Basin at Pleasant Valley Conservancy was a prairie remnant in the late 1930s but due to neglect by the late 1940s it had become wooded, and remained that way until we cleared it two years ago. Thus, shooting star can remain alive at least 60 years, perhaps longer. This agrees with observations that Rich Henderson has made (personal communication).

Obviously, not all prairie species show this sort of tolerance.


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