Tom's Blog

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lots of compass plants!

Despite the intense heat and drought, compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) is thriving all over Pleasant Valley Conservancy. Since this species is famous for its long root system (as deep as 12 feet, so they say), it is perhaps not surprising that the drought hasn't affected it yet.

Since this is an icon of the tallgrass prairie (with a C value of 8), it is nice to see it doing so well. In addition to our planted prairies, we now have it flowering in open parts of several of our savannas, and even the south-facing slope, although very dry, has several plants in flower.

Even the recently planted East Basin prairie has plants, although not flowering yet. (Our experience is that in a dry mesic prairie it takes about 6 years for this species to flower, obviously needing time to develop that impressive root system.)

According to Cochrane and Iltis, this species is a distinctive tallgrass prairie "indicator". Indeed, it is part of the logo of The Prairie Enthusiasts. Although it normally blooms in July and August, this year, with our unusual climate, it started blooming in mid June.

Compass plant is always the first of the four Silphium species to bloom. Prairie dock is just starting to send  up flower stalks, and cup plant and rosin weed are still primarily in the vegetative phase.


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