Sprouts

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Woolly Plantain (Plantago patagonica) sprouting form a pocket gopher mound.

Watching plants resprout has been really interesting for me this spring. Spending time with my supervisor, Chris Helzer, has made me appreciate the small details of prairies, particularly how many plant species there are and where they’re located. I’ve learned to read a prairie’s history of management and disturbance even in early spring…and appreciate the minute aesthetics! On March 21 I was taking a sunset walk (looking down rather than at the sky) when I noticed several attractive sprouts growing on the sandy mounds created by pocket gophers as they dig tunnels. I remembered reading how burrowing animals play an important role in plant germination. By providing patches of bare soil, these rodents give seeds an open place to spread their roots and leaves. It was neat to witness that happening for myself!

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On that walk I also found my first flower of the year! Carpeting just a small segment of our trail as it runs through the sandhills were dozens of tiny Sun Sedges (Carex heliophilis) already in bloom. If you weren’t looking for them, you might not even realize what they were. Their flowers were quite small, but in March their waving yellow petals were like thousands of little victory flags. Two nights later, a sudden snowstorm roared through Nebraska. I was eager to see if the delicate flowers had survived, so the next morning I was trekking back to them before sunrise. To my delight, the flowers were still there, poking through the snow. I got on my belly and started photographing. I wanted an image that represented spring’s triumph over winter. As the sun crested the hill it bathed the sedges’ petals in gold. Like dozens of tiny torches, the sedges proclaimed that spring had indeed won.

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Sun Sedge (Carex heliophilis) blossoming in snow.

1 thought on “Sprouts

  1. Daniel Thompson April 6, 2016 — 5:15 pm

    Very nice post, Evan. You took photographs of unusual sightings. Way too few of us go out early in spring or even before sunrise to see what’s coming up, let alone take very nice pics. I especially liked that you told us that observations of prairies by some experienced people can reveal much about how that prairie was managed. I’ll sure try to improve my prairie management so that future examination will indicate I’ve done good. -Daniel

    Like

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