Tom's Blog

Monday, August 26, 2013

Outstanding blazing star populations at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

The promised superb blazing star display at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie has come to pass. (The 2 inches of rain last Thursday probably helped.)

There are two species of blazing star at Rettenmund: dwarf blazing star (Liatris cylindracea) and rough blazing star (L. aspera). The former is less common, and well worth seeing.

Both species were in full bloom on Sunday. We can't guarantee how long they will last. Because Rettenmund can be reached so conveniently, I would recommend a visit now.

Dwarf blazing star can be seen primarily on the knoll on the North Unit. This is just a five-minute stroll from the parking lot.

Rough blazing star is all over the preserve, although most lush on the North Unit and Saddle. In addition to the remnant populations, there is a substantial planted population in the Gateway Prairie.  This is worth seeing if you are planning to plant a prairie. Although this species was in our seed mix, at least some of the plants have probably moved into the Gateway Prairie from the remnant.

For the past five or six years, rough blazing star populations have been pretty skimpy here, with none all during last summer's drought. It is encouraging to see how well they and the rest of the prairie have recovered. Certainly this summer's good rain has been a major factor.

Dwarf blazing star (Liatris cylindracea) at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie (Kathie Brock photo)

In addition to the two blazing stars, the following are in full bloom: stiff goldenrod, showy sunflower, naked (or western) sunflower, upland boneset, big bluestem, and Indian grass. Past blooming and starting to set seed are (among others) compass plant, rosin weed, yellow coneflower, butterfly milkweed, short green milkweed, and Monarda.

In the far south part of the South Unit are large patches of a species we aren't too wild about: woodland sunflower. We have never had woodland sunflower here before, but there is so much now that you can even see the color from County F.

A final note: our work to eradicate sumac is being successful. All the large populations that we have been working intensively on for the past 4-5 years are gone. We will be back for careful monitoring in early October when sumac leaves will have turned red.


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