Journal for August 10, 2005

This was the week of the Prairie Enthusiasts tour of our farm. It was great fun – 10 people came, some people I knew from the River Falls area, and several we had never met from LaCrosse, Winona, Buffalo City, and Waumandee. It was so nice to have prairie folks to talk to about our prairies.

We took everyone for a long walk up 3 Finger Valley to the upper prairies, to Hidden Oaks Point, and then back down the Knife Edge. Then in the afternoon some of us walked through the West Center Valley Prairie to the wetland.

One of the neat things about walking with prairie enthusiasts is that we’re all curious about the same things – so when we found unusual plants or insects, everyone was interested.

We found a cicada which had just emerged from it’s old skin – it was quite calm, and walked around on people’s hands while we took pictures of it.

We found a wonderful caterpillar – I looked it up in my new caterpillar book and decided that it’s a moth called The Asteroid – Cucullia asteroids (or it may be a closely related species).

And we saw our first Giant Swallowtail of the year in Center Valley – Jeff spotted it first.

The next day Mike and I did a little work, although it was still pretty hot. Mike mowed several of the areas that we cleared last winter – Hidden Oaks Savanna, and Goldenrod Valley. We’re hoping that will discourage the Canada Goldenrod and give the savanna seeds that I planted a chance to grow.

The prairies are looking pretty good – I took photos of several for our records. Here’s East Center Valley by the bluebird houses.

And here’s West Center Valley taken from above.

The cup plant is in full bloom right now – there’s lots of it in 3 Finger Valley.

Tall Thistle is in bloom along Western Valley Road – it’s so tall that it’s difficult to get up high enough to get a picture of the flower.

Wild Clematis is in bloom.

Partridge Pea is blooming in the prairie next to the house. A few weeks ago it looked like it was a prairie of Black-eyed Susan. Now it doesn’t look like there’s anything there except Partridge Pea. The bees love it – we hear their constant buzzing around the flowers. I was trying to get a photo of a bee on a Partridge Pea flower, but couldn’t find one. I finally realized that the plants have tiny red nectaries – that’s really what attracts the bees. The flowers have a few bees and lots of Soldier Beetles.

But most of the bees walk along the top of the stalk, above the flowers, and sip from the nectaries. Here’s a close-up of the nectaries – you can even see a drop of nectar on one of them.

I wonder what evolutionary advantage the nectaries contribute.

The Hummingbird Clearwing Moths are still around – nectaring from the last remaining Monardas.

The False Foxglove (Agalinis tenuifolia) is just starting to bloom in the wetland. I found some in the areas I replanted after spraying Reed Canary Grass.

I found one new plant blooming in the Center Valley prairies that I hadn’t see before. It’s Allium stellatum – Prairie Onion.