Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Prairie Sunflower: Helianthus petiolaris

Prairie Sunflower
In early summer, stalks and leaves vastly outnumber the flowers on wild Prairie Sunflower plants.

Several of the Sunflower plants we saw in July were topped only by one single bloom.

(Given the number of buds, though, I suspect that as summer rolled into August and even early September, the ratio of flowers to leaves on these prairie wildflowers changed.)

Prairie Sunflowers grow well in dry sandy soils, reaching heights of up to three feet.

Brown-centred sunflowers, up to about four inches across, provide a cheery splash of colour on the landscape.

Prairie Sunflower blowing in the wind
at Grasslands National Park

Single Prairie Sunflower plant,
just coming into flower. 

Prairie Wildflower: Prairie Sunflower  
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada
Photo Date: July 26-29, 2011. 


Monday, May 28, 2012

Scarlet Gaura: Beeblossom, butterflyweed

Scarlet gaura blossoms,
bending in the wind.  
Delicate and beautiful, Scarlet Gaura is also a very tiny prairie wildflower — and one that's tricky to isolate and photograph among all the other grasslands plants with a small point-and-shoot camera.

The butterfly-like (bee or spider-shaped?) flowers of Scarlet Gaura are the palest pink — even white, in the summer glare — when they first open, and then deepen in tone to rich dark scarlet as they age.

Scarlet Gaura is a kind of evening primrose, and although these pictures were taken mid-afternoon, some sources say the best time to look for them is in the evening.

Look carefully — these plants were less than six inches high, growing along a dry roadside.

And these pictures, blurry and distracting as they may be, are the best shots I have...

I look forward to returning to Grasslands National Park in this or a future summer to try again with a better set up and lens.

Tangle of Scarlet Gaura 
Scarlet Gaura stalks among other plants
Prairie Wildflower: Scarlet Gaura or Butterflyweed (Gaura coccinea) 
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 28 and 29, 2011. 


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gumweed: Grindelia squarrosa

Single gumweed flower 
Bright yellow flowers with sticky buds and bracts — that's Gumweed, aka Curlycup Gumweed, aka Grindelia squarrosa.

Gumweed grows well on the dry prairie, and in late July, these prairie wildflowers were abundant in Grasslands National Park.

What caught my interest were the large bracts below the petals; these — and their gummy tops — are perhaps most obvious while the flowers are still in bud.

Apparently there have been past medicinal uses for this plant, but they sound neither safe nor appealing to me!

Bracts on Gumweed buds and flowers 
Sprawling gumweed plant, with many buds 

Prairie Wildflower: Gumweed, or curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)
Location: Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: July 28, 2011. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Early Yellow Field Locoweed

I haven't seen prairie wildflowers since the first burst of growth with the prairie crocus, moss phlox and leafy musineon, and so I was happy to discover clusters of fresh Early Yellow Locoweed along a rocky road.

This looks like what Jennings calls Field Locoweed, or Oxytropis campestris, with its pale yellow, pea-like flowers on leafless stalks, called locoweed because it's poisonous to many animals and causes blind staggers.


Prairie Wildflower: Early Yellow (Field) Locoweed.  
Location: North of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: May 12, 2012. 


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Wild Parsley: Leafy Musineon

As someone who loves words, I sometimes wonder if my interest in prairie wildflowers may not be partly because of their names.

Wild parsey... I can see where that name comes from. The feathered stalks of this plant remind me of its oh-so-different namesake in the garden. But Leafy Musineon? Is there an unleafy one? What does it all mean?
The genus name, Musineon, is the Greek name for some members of the Carrot Family in the Old World. The species name, divaricatum, probably refers to the divergent rays of the flower clusters. — Jennings, Prairie Beauty
Ah, thanks!
Leafy Musineon, aka wild parsley © SB 

Prairie Wildflower: Leafy Musineon (Wild Parsley) 
Location: Valley near Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: April 14, 2012. 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Moss Phlox: Spring Prairie Snow

Many early prairie wildflowers are tiny. Perhaps their ability to hide from creatures and the elements helps them to survive, but still, their modesty surprises me.

Moss Phlox grew on the hillside near the Prairie Crocus, its white flowers almost invisible (to me...), like unmelting snowflakes, deep in the dry grasses.

Moss Phlox, north of Regina   © SB  
Prairie Wildflower: Moss Phlox  
Location: Valley near Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: April 14, 2012. 


Friday, May 11, 2012

Prairie Crocus: First blooms of spring

Can you see the Prairie Crocus?
Hint: One third of the way up,
then slightly right of centre.  © SB
First, snow left the hillsides. And the Prairie Crocus bloomed.

And then, the snow returned, burning the fragile lilac petals of this prairie wildflower before it melted away.

Many of the Prairie Crocuses we found on the hillside this spring bore the mark of that cold burn, petal tips withered, but the full flowers still abundantly beautiful.

What's not to love about this dusty, furry life that bursts (almost hidden) from dull straw?

We walked this valley and this hill, looking for Prairie Crocus and at first saw none — and then we saw them everywhere around us.

I love these flowers for their rich violet tinge and open yellow glow. I love them for their furry stalks and the way they nestle, hide in straw.

I dislike them for the ticks I sometimes find inside them, or that jump on me from the grass if I kneel or lie down for closer angles. (So I don't...) Our ticks are mostly harmless, but... yuck! I do not like them, do not want to be bitten!

Prairie Crocus, I like — first harbinger of spring.

Open blooms of Prairie Crocus  © SB  
The newer blooms are a richer violet;close-up, hairy stalks © SB   
A cluster of Prairie Crocus,
tips slightly burnt
© SB   

Prairie Wildflower: Prairie Crocus 
Location: Valley near Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Photo Date: April 14, 2012. 


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