Tom's Blog

Monday, April 18, 2011

Early plant growth

The cool spring is delaying plant growth, but a few things are finally appearing. Prairie people generally look first for pasque flowers, which get their name from their association with Easter. For oak savannas, on the other hand, the early buttercup, Ranunculus fascicularis, is first to appear. We generally find this tiny plant first in unburned areas that have been mowed (which keeps down taller growing competitors), but a few days later it will start to appear in burned areas as well. The photo here is by Kathie.

This species has the relatively high C value of 6, and is one of our most reliable early spring flowers. According to Cochrane and Iltis, it is found in southern Wisconsin where its prime habitat is the oak savanna, although it might also be found in dry to dry-mesic prairies.

A number of other plant species are already visible now in the vegetative state, but won't be flowering for some time. These include golden Alexanders, Jacob's ladder, early meadow rue, and zig zag goldenrod. Another early species that we aren't so happy about is pale Indian plantain (Arnoglossum atriplicifolium) which we have given the derogatory name of PIP). If you have been following this blog, you know that last year we were overrun with this native but fiercely clonal and highly aggressive species. We don't want to eradicate it, but we definitely want to knock it back. Since its shoots are easy to recognize (see Kathie's photo above), we will be spraying them (probably with glyphosate) as soon as they get large enough.

Now that burns are over, spray season begins!


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