Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wildflower Weekend Day Two

On Saturday September 22, day two of the Kansas Native Plant Society Annual Wildflower Weekend (AWW) began at Southwestern University here in Wifield, Kansas. The annual membership meeting began with donuts, coffee, a photography contest, and a silent auction on all sorts of native plant stuff. The emcee of the meeting was the newly elected president Michael J Haddock (author of 'Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas'). Normal business matters took place, appreciation of those officers who served the previous year and welcoming new officers. Speakers spoke on the current state native grass Little Bluestem and programs/resources available from the society to speak and introduce the prairie to schools or groups. The photo contest winners were presented, followed by our main speaker Jim Mason of the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Kansas. Jim's topic was 'Flying Flowers' which of course is our native butterflies, many images and facts were presented and afterwards we recieved a free copy of his Pocket Guide of Kansas Butterflies. Nice gift.
 We finished our catered lunch and headed south to our second AWW field trip, Chaplin Nature Center. This preserve, owned and operated by the Wichita Audubon Society is situated on 200 acres of diverse native habitat adjacent to the Arkansas River.
Arkansas River near Chaplin Nature Center
To begin we capooled to the Center building located on the upper hills overlooking the river. We hiked throught native hardwoods, a tallgrass praire and them the river itself. Many enjoyed wading in the shallow current and others enjoyed watching butterfly taggers capture Monarchs and adding tag information.
No this doesn't harm the butterfly and provides information for Monarch Watch.
Alien Life Form?
I originally thought the plant above was some variety of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium) but I was incorrect.
It is Verbesina virginica  L. - Frostweed or White Crownbeard.
Flowers: July-September
Height: 2-8'
Comments: The common name frostweed comes from the plant's behavior when there is a hard frost. The stem splits near the base and the sap that seeps out freezes in conspicuous ribbons of ice. Helianthemum bicknellii is another Kansas plant that goes by the common name "frostweed".*
 Doesn't it look like Joe Pye here? I didn't take a lot of images at the Center which is disappointing now. However on my way home through a shortcut I happened upon this choice mass of Eriogonum annuum  Nutt.- Annual Buckwheat. Very impressive image of blooms in a very sandy location.
Wow, how impressive for a weed native plant. Surely there are improved varieties of Buckwheat.
Flowers: July-September
Height: 1-3.5 ft.
Comments: Native Americans boiled the plant and used the resulting liquid as a lotion to treat ant bites and mouth sores. They sometimes rubbed the fresh leaves on bison and deer hides to help tan them. The sparse foliage and dense hairs of annual Eriogonum help it tolerate droughts.

Day Three to come.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Annual Wildflower Weekend Day One (continued)

On September 21 of the this year the Kansas Native Plant Society held it's annual wildflower weekend, my previous post explains the agenda: Day One Part One.
This is the second part of the first Day and we 'botanized' the lower area of the first property in the draw which is a dry creek bed. Unknown to me there is a few native Joe Pye weed varieties such as Late Eupatorium (Eupatorium seratinum), which frequented this dry creek bed in mostly full shade as shown below.

Flowers: August-October.
Height: 1.5-6.5 ft.
Uses: Native Americans boiled the flowers and took the tea to treat typhoid fever. *
 We were in the height of Monarch movement as you can see.
While I was there, I found this unique plant shown below, couldn't ID it. Does anyone have an idea? Almost like a persicaria. Yep its dotted smartweed (Polygonum punctatum) also called Water smartweed.
Flowers: July-October
Height: 1-3 ft.
Uses: Native Americans treated stomach pains with a decoction of dotted smartweed leaves and flowers.
Comment: The common name refers to the tiny glandular dots on the perianth. *
That was about it in the draw. Lets move back to the top on the way back to the vehicle.
This is Kansas, so we have to have sunflowers. Willowleaf sunflower (Helianthus salicifolius).

Flowers: September-October
Height: 5-10'
Uses: Quail and prairie chickens consume the seeds.

Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) below:
Flowers: June-September
Height:  2-4 ft.
Uses:  Native Americans made a hot beverage from plains coreopsis, and early settlers placed plants in their mattresses because they believed they repelled fleas and bedbugs.
Later that evening we were treated to a Bluegrass concert at the Southwestern College Auditorium. The Tallgrass Express String Band played original music written about the Tallgrass prairie. 

 Photo(above) and song lyrics (below) courtesy of their website
 Big Bluestem:  The King of the Prairie -  Anne B. Wilson 2010

In this tune, we sing praises to the economic, cultural and
biological significance of this signature Flint Hills species”the tallest of the
warm season grasses that compose the tallgrass prairie.   The title comes
from the Greenwood County Conservation District King of the
Prairie contest for the tallest Big Bluestem plant (a recent winner was
almost ten feet high!).

Lyrics:Oh the Big Bluestem grows on the prairie Great Plains
He can handle the heat and a month without rain
He blankets the pastures with tall purple stems
In the warm summer evenings they dance in the wind

In the warm days of April his first blades will show
And start drinking in sun to send carbon below
The roots take that energy to make the grass grow
In the cycle of life the Big Bluestem knows

Hes the King of the Prairie; hes the tallest of all
Hes green in the summer and red in the fall
He grows high on the ridge and in the meadows supreme
The cows and the calves love his kingdom of green

Hes the cattlemans favorite with his bushy green leaves
Those heifers and steers he surely can please
His roots go down twelve feet, his stems reach up nine
When they burn off the prairie, he grows back just fine

He has riches of rhizomes and ligules and blades
And he wears his crown low by the soil for shade
A turkey foot serves as his scepter so high
To carry his seeds for the next summertime     CHORUS

His roots are a far beneath the ground of the plain
They build up the soil and drink up the rain
Those roots grip the ground in the flood and the storm
And hold the grass up to the sunshine so warm      CHORUS

Fun time was had by all. Day two to come. 

*All plant data derived from 'Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas' by Michael J Haddock, current president elect of the Kansas Native Plant Society.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Annual Wildflower Weekend Day One

As I introduced the subject of the Annual Wildflower Weekend in my home town of Winfield Kansas in a previous post, I would like to add a few more details of the occasion.
 Snyder Ranch - Dexter , Kansas
But first a few words about the society from their web page: The Kansas Native Plant Society (KNPS) encourages awareness and appreciation of the native plants of Kansas in their habitats and in our landscapes by promoting education, stewardship, and scientific knowledge. More information here. The society is made up of plant geeks! Why else do you think I joined? Upon joining this summer I also joined the KNPS Google Group which lists member and other naive plant happenings such as workdays, collecting seeds for renovating prairies or reclamation projects, workshops, prairie tours, and other fun stuff. It's great to socialize with people who have the same interests. Initially I mainly joined just to attend the prairie tours offered during the Wildflower Weekend. A month later I received a very professionally created agenda for the meeting and tours and Friday the 21st of September was the beginning of the tours.
The first tour was a overgrazed drought ridden cow pasture with the majority of the 'botanizing' done along the county graveled road and dry creek 'draw'. We initially meet at our local Southwestern University parking lot and had a convoy to a local members ranch house near the pasture.

The first plant the group identified was Oxalis violacea-Violet wood sorrel, violet oxalis.
Flowers:April-June, occasionally again in September.
Height: 4-8"
Description: Forbs, perennial. Flowering stalks 4-8 in. tall, arising from bulbs.
Comments: The leaflets fold and droop, and the flowers close at night or on very overcast days. Several Great Plains tribes fed their horses the crushed bulbs to enhance their speed. Pioneers were said to have made pies of wood sorrel leaves when gooseberries or rhubarb were not available. *
Hilariously we as a group had this diminutive plant surrounded viewing its splendor when an unaware bystander walked right on top of it. Bye.

From there we basically splintered off and wandered around like zombies, under the influence of this  Kansas prairie. This overgrazed area consisted mainly of Amphiachyris dracunculoides -Annual broomweed and Liatris punctata-Dotted gayfeather, button snakeroot , or blazing star.
Height: 6-30 inches.
Comments:This species was called 'crow foot' by some Native American tribes, because crows were often observed eating the roots in the fall. Dotted gayfeather produces a taproot that can reach a depth of 15 ft., making it quite drought resistant. Native Americans utilized the roots as a food source and to make a tea used to treat stomachaches. *

Next Eryngium leavenworthii-Leavenworth eryngo photographed with of leaf of Silphium laciniatum-Compass plant.

Flowers: July-September
Height: 1-3 ft.
Comments: At first glance this plant resembles a thistle, but is actually a member of the Parsley Family. This speicies is named for its discoverer, Melines Conklin Leavenworth (1796-1862), an explorer, army surgeon, and botanist.*

That concludes part one of day one. Part two will deal with the forbs in the dry creek bed in the 'draw' with some interesting Joe Pye.

*All plant data derived from 'Wildflowers and Grasses of Kansas' by Michael J Haddock, current president elect of the Kansas Native Plant Society.