Journal for September 30, 2005

This week really felt like the end of summer – the hummingbirds are gone, we had 2 ½ inches of warm rain and the sumac leaves are turning red.

The most interesting creature we saw was a large spider on Western Valley Road. It was pretty dark, so I had to use the flash, and the picture didn’t come out very well. I think it might have been a Fishing Spider. Its body was at least an inch long. It came scuttling out from under some wet leaves on Western Valley Road.

I walked up to Big View and Corner View Prairies to see if I could find some orchid or gentian specimens for the Stevens Point herbarium. The Great Plains Ladies Tresses (Spiranthes magnicamporum) are blooming in Big View Prairie, but I couldn’t find any Autumn Coralroot (Coralorhiza odontorhiza) – usually I can find some in the woods between Big View and Corner View Prairies.

Great Plains Ladies Tresses

I’ve found both White Gentian (Gentiana alba) and Stiff Gentian (Gentianella quinquefolia) in the past on Corner View prairie. I couldn’t find White Gentian at all this year. But I did find Stiff Gentian – usually there are only a few spindly plants, struggling to survive in the shade of the birches and sumac. This time there were six or seven large sturdy plants. I’d like to clear out some of the woody vegetation there so the prairie plants have a better chance.

Stiff Gentian

The deer have been feasting on the soybeans in Cliff’s fields. The plants are only about half as high as they should be with lots of bare chewed stalks.

I decided to collect the seeds of two grasses we need for this year’s prairie planting – another harvest from our planted prairies. West Center Valley Prairie has lots of both – Indian Grass and Wild Rye. The Indian Grass gives the prairie such a beautiful, soft look, and when you look closer, you can see asters blooming between the grasses.

Indian Grass in Center Valley

Indian Grass and Asters

Here’s Buffalo Ridge Prairie – in its first year. This is the last time it will look so smooth. Next year we won’t mow as much, and the prairie plants should start to show up. If you look closely, you can see one little Fragrant Cudweed (Gnaphalium obtusifolium) blooming in the middle of all the weeds.

I walked the path around Pine Point Prairie. That prairie has had a difficult life – we had someone log the pines that were growing above it the winter after we planted it. The loggers drove their machines back and forth across the prairie, which dug up the soil, and they dropped logs and slash everywhere. We cleaned up the slash and reseeded, but it has never really recovered. This year it’s finally looking better. There’s still lots of Queen Anne’s Lace, but there are also plenty of prairie flowers and grasses.

In the wet area I found 3 gentians growing in a row – Fringed Gentian, Bottle Gentian, and White Gentian.

There are still a few butterflies around when the sun comes out – mostly Milbert’s Tortoiseshells nectaring on Frost Asters.