Tom's Blog

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Late fall seed collecting

Kathie and I spent the day collecting seeds. Lots of species were now ready and we had a great time. Each of us had two buckets around our necks in addition to lots of paper bags (both large and small).

We found the Ridge Prairie to be a really great seed collecting site. We have somewhat neglected this small four-year old prairie, and were pleased to see that it had lots of plants with seeds ready to collect. Among others, we collected New England aster, gray goldenrod, sky blue aster, mountain mint, wild quinine, elm-leaved goldenrod, zig zag goldenrod, showy goldenrod, and false foxglove.

Mountain mint (Pycanthemum virginianum) and wild quinine make an interesting pair. Mountain mint is often thought of as a wetland species, and we do have quite a bit in our wetland, but the Ridge Prairie has lots more. This is a bit strange, since the Ridge Prairie is a dry mesic site, not exactly what one might expect as a good place for mountain mint. However, Cochrane and Iltis do mention that this species is occasionally found in dry prairies and oak-pine woods. No one has mentioned why this species has the common name "mountain", since its habitats are anything but mountains.

Wild quinine (Parthenium integrifolium), on the other hand, is supposed to be restricted to mesic and wet mesic prairie habitats. So what is it doing in a dry prairie? Actually, it has done fairly well in the Ridge Prairie, and we found it flowering in the second growing season.

In contrast to mountain mint, wild quinine is fairly uncommon in Wisconsin and is on the State Threatened list.

When collecting these two species, one has to pay attention, because their seed heads are fairly similar (see photos). Both have gray-colored flat-topped seed heads. Considering that their habitats are so different, it is interesting that they are found growing side by side in the Ridge Prairie.


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