Friday, July 17, 2015

Prairie Hill Farm's Prairie Plant of the Week!

Something I've begun posting on Face Book is "Prairie Plant of the Week" - plants from our prairie pasture, below the studio here.  I'm playing catch-up so will post two different plants this time.  This week we have Monarda fistulosa - know by some folks as Bee Balm or Horse Mint. Most prairie folk know it as Wild Bergamot. Its a member of the mint family and is a common native over most of the North American prairie region. This is one plant that pollinators love - "Bee Balm" aptly describes how much bees like it...Bumble Bees in particular! 

One thing I notice about Wild Bergamot is the heat of the summer matures the flowers very quickly and they just do not last long enough for me - if I don't get out there when they "peak", its too late for good pictures!  We've had a couple days (today is one) with temps in the mid nineties and a heat index into the 105 and higher range...that's moving these flowers right along!  I made a point of getting out the the past couple days and this morning to catch them before they wane.

The plant from last week was Echinacea.  Most people recognize purple coneflowers, well this one is native to our county and some surrounding counties in NW Iowa - this one is Echinacea angustifolia - Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower - not to be mistaken as Pale Purple Coneflower or Echinacea pallida (which we also have here). Your common garden variety - Echinacea purpurea is not native here - don't plant it in native settings, keep it in your yard.

Most sources do attribute the Echinacea pallida to being native in NW Iowa, so there's sometimes a question as to what you are seeing.  The easiest visible difference is the longer/narrow "rays" (some folks think of them as petals) on the E. pallida...these rays also droop much more.  Also the E. pallida is much taller - I've seen it regularly at 3-4 feet or slightly taller, whereas the E. angustifolia is much shorter (2-2.5 feet) with short rays.

Curiously, I have never seen
E. pallida on a native prairie here in NW Iowa - just on reconstructed prairie or roadside plantings.  The native pasture here had E. angustifolia originally as did the native prairies in the county's SE corner.

I actually think that our Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower would make a great garden plant too!

Thanks for stopping by the studio blog - stay cool out there!

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