Tom's Blog

Friday, September 23, 2011

Prairie gentians!

For some years we have been unsuccessful in growing prairie (downy) gentian (Gentiana puberulenta), but suddenly we have six or seven good areas in the Ridge Prairie. This small planted prairie, now in its sixth growing season, has turned into a highly diverse site.

Prairie gentian, with a C value of 9, is fairly uncommon in Wisconsin, although I know of three prairie remnants where it can be found. According to Cochrane and Iltis, "This gorgeous species, so characteristic of prairies, deserves protection." Curtis considered it the most beautiful of all gentians.

It is possible that it has been growing in the Ridge Prairie for some time and was missed, as it is a tiny plant nestled among the tallgrass prairie. It is the latest of the gentians to flower, and does so at a time when the prairie is choked with tall plants. You can't see it from a distance; you have to stumble on it as you are walking through. Marci found the first specimens while collecting seeds. Kathie immediately found three other small patches, and I found a couple more. Fortunately, I had my Nikon with me, with a macro lens.

In the past Kathie had tried unsuccessfully to grow prairie gentian in the greenhouse. Strange then that these Ridge Prairie specimens arose from seeds that we had just "thrown out." We think the quality of the seed must vary considerably from year to year. Presumably 2005, when the Ridge Prairie was planted, must have been a good seed year. The seeds had been hand planted in a small area that Kathie had reserved for special forbs.


Blogger Scotkat said...

Stunning they are such a delight to see at this time of year.

October 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM  

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