Tom's Blog

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Spring flowers in bloom

Things are picking up now at Pleasant Valley Conservancy. In addition to those early low-growing plants (early buttercup, wood anemone, violet wood sorrel, the two prairie violets), we are starting to see more upright plants. The two most common right now are shooting star (Dodecatheon meadii) and large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).

Although shooting star grows in prairies, it is really a savanna species, and we are seeing it now in virtually all our savannas. Because we had an especially good burn year, it is forming large populations.

Shooting star has the ability to remain alive but suppressed in a heavily wooded savanna and then when sunlight is brought in during restoration, it flourishes. The White Oak Savanna and the East Basin have especially large amounts of shooting star which arose in that way.

Shooting star can also be propagated from seed but generally takes six to seven years to flower. During those formative years it is virtually impossible to find in the wild, since the seeds are very tiny, as are the seedlings. During those early years, a substantial bulb is being formed. Once this bulb is established, it will generally flower every year.

Large-flowered Trillium is a woodland species, a so-called spring ephemeral. In the Driftless Area of Dane County, this Trillium can often be seen from highways in large patches, often spreading down from the woods into the road cut. About 5 years ago I measured the population at Pleasant Valley Conservancy as 2.5 acres, but with our very successful burn last fall, the population is not only larger, but a new one has popped up.


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