The weather this afternoon was almost tropical, 91 degrees, sunny and steamy. However, the south wind and no mosquitoes or ticks made it bearable for eight visitors, six of them regulars.
The focus of our tour was to see what was blooming on Greene Prairie. As always during my walks, I discuss the Arboretum’s history, restoration and management attempts, and invasive plant species.
We had ample rain this season but the last two weeks were hot, dry and windy. Prairie plants were wilting but they will not die. They have special adaptations to cope with drought and wind. Some of these include thick or deep roots, and leaves that are narrow, dissected, lobed, shiny, silvery, or hairy.
We saw 32 different kinds of prairie flowers, June and needle grasses, and several sedge species in bloom. Only a few of each kind were flowering. Why no big showy displays? Perhaps too much competition from native trees and shrubs due to lack of fire? Or, did the above-average rainfall last year and earlier this year favor the growth of woody plants? Of course, some species have finished blooming and others will bloom later. For example, very soon hundreds of lead-plants (Amorpha canescens) near Z-6 will explode with beautiful bright violet flowers dotted with orange anthers.
Before heading down to Greene Prairie, we followed the trail through the West Grady Knoll (U3-Y2-Y3-Y4). Plants in bloom included a few of each of the following: spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis), flowering spurge (Euphorbia corollata), Northern ragwort (Packera paupercula), tall cinqfoil (Potentilla arguta), sand cress (Arabis lyrata), common rock-rose (Helianthemum canadense), yarrow (Achillea millefolium), puccoon (Lithospermum canescens and L. caroliniense), slender penstemon (Penstemon gracilis), inland New Jersey tea (Ceanothus herbaceus), bladder or white campion (Silene latifolia), one prairie larkspur (Delphinium carolinianum), one last lupine (Lupinus perennis) and June grass (Koeleria macrantha) and needle or porcupine grass (Stipa spartea).
We finally approached Greene Prairie and saw a landscape covered with woody and shrubby native dogwood, willow, and aspen. But as we followed the trail from Z1-Z6-Z5, we found lovely flowers sprinkled here and there among the green grasses, sedges, and woody plants. The following were in bloom: white wild indigo (Baptisia alba), cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata), prairie parsley (Polytaenia nuttallii), yellow star-grass (Hypoxis hirsuta), prairie blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium campestre), pale-spike lobelllia (Lobellia spicata), alumroot (Heuchera richardsonii), swamp saxifrage (Saxifraga pensylvanica), prairie phlox (Phlox glaberrima), Northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), blunt-leaved bedstraw (Galium obtusum), butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa), two-flowered Cynthia (Krigia biflora), Robin’s fleabane (Erigeron pulchellus), daisy fleabane (Erigeron strigosus) and annual fleabane (Erigeron annuus). Near the east end, we were delighted to find a large area of Southern blue flag iris (Iris virginica) in bloom. Also in that area, there are hundreds of native gray dogwood shrubs (Cornus racemosa) in bloom.
Birds heard: Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow
Butterflies seen: American Lady and Spring Azure
Visit each week and enjoy several different kinds of prairie flowers in bloom.