Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring on the Tallgrass

(Fringed Puccoon at Prairie Hill Farm)

This is truly spring on the Tallgrass Prairie here at Prairie Hill Farm Studio. It may be not "typical" because it's been a very undecisive spring here so far. Some rain, but not much. Some warm weather, but not much. Up and down certainly, but still nice to get out and , if only momentarily, away from the inside work I've been plugging away at the past 4-5 weeks.

Since I haven't had the time to get back to the easel, I thought it'd be a nice distraction to see what's in bloom on our prairie remnant here at the present time. In the last blog, Golden Alexander was in bloom...it still is, even more so. But now we're in the midst of Fringed Puccoon, Blue-eyed and White-eyed Grass, and Prairie Violets.

The Fringed Puccoon is a native plant with butter yellow colored flowers. It, like most early prairie natives, is a shorter statured plant of maybe 8-10 inches or so with multiple blossoms. This plants can really move around and make headway on a prairie site. We started with only 3-4 surviving plants on our remnant but now have upwards of 50 and they're moving around quite well. I think the ants have a hand in spreading the seeds, as they do the Prairie Violets.

Prairie Violet being visited by an ant

The Prairie Violet is a special early prairie flower here...we have less than a half dozen plants. I look deftly for it each spring, and some springs it cannot be found. I suspect it suffered (as all the forbs on our prairie remnant) over the years from spraying and over grazing here before we arrived. I found them again this year after not seeing any since 2006 so I'm hopeful they'll gain a few more progeny this season! Prairie Violets are different in appearance from the more common violet by their leaves. Common violets have a familiar rounded leaf whereas this small prairie native has a rosette of basal leaves that are deeply lobed in a palmate structure...you can see this in the image below.

Prairie Violet - note the palmate leaf structure

One native Prairie flower we see each year here and along the road side is Blue-eyed Grass. (below)

Blue-eyed Grass at Prairie Hill Farm

This "very" small wild flower is from the iris family (Iridaceae)...the seeds from this plant are about half the size of a typical pin head! The flower itself is usually around about a half inch in size, maybe slightly smaller. There are two flowers of the same genus one is this Blue-eyed Grass - the other is the White-eyed Grass. I believe the Blue-eyed Grass here on the Prairie Hill Farm remnant is the "Sisyrinchium campestre" but there are many variants of this small flower...most on our remnant are paler blue to white, however those on the road nearby are blue, so I'm not positive of the variant causes.

I look for this little plant each May around the 15th...it showed up in time as usual but is now about in it's last week of flower here...they're easy to overlook as they close later in the day or during cloudy cool weather (as we're having now), and are only around 5-6 inches tall here...they look just like grass after the flowers are finished which may be why they have occassionally escaped being sprayed by unsuspecting farmers here.

If I'm going to be stuck inside working this spring, I'll take any opportunity I can to escape for a little walk through our prairie to get some fresh air and recharge. Take some of the same for yourtself if you can! Spring will be over soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Golden Alexander

Here at Prairie Hill Farm the prairie is slow to awaken. We've already had plenty of the spring woodland wildflowers in our grove come and go and others coming into their peak, but our first flush of spring on the prairie pasture here is now underway and the honor goes to a member of the carrot family: the Golden Alexander. This native perennial with compound umbels of small yellow flowers is not largely impressive by itself but in large groups can be a great sight for early spring.

The things I like about this forb is all the pollinators that it brings in, and it's a sign of more to come! I wait all winter for the prairie to wake back up and although it's not the first forb to bloom in the tallgrass (that goes to the Pasque Flower), it is the first one here...may the blooming continue!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Great Stage

The best place around here to watch amazing things unfurl is right here at Prairie Hill Farm. This gives me so much fodder for images...whether they be as photographs or painting ideas.

Late this afternoon we had two storm systems sandwich us...we were fortunate they both missed as the one pictured here had a tornado embedded in it. The tornado was about 7-8 miles east of us so we couldn't see it on the other side of the storm that spawned it.

This is an amazing time of the year, but a time to respect and watch in awe as that great stage is opened for all to see!

Here's to spring on the Tallgrass!