Showing posts from 2008

Fight or Flight on the Shortgrass Prairie

In early September, I took a little trip to eastern Wyoming. It wasn't the best time of year to visit the Great Plains since late summer is predominantly crispy and brown on the Shortgrass Prairie. However, I was able to find some color here and there.

The area receives an average of 12 inches of precipitation annually. These arid conditions have resulted in a significant percentage of annuals in the flora. Cryptantha crassisepala (photo below) is a fine example. The hairs of the inflorescence are very stiff and are quite pleasing to the touch. With its numerous scorpioid cymes the plant is visually pleasing as well. In the very center of the photo is the final flower of what would have earlier been a much prettier display.

Here on the Great Plains, as with much of Earth's surface, anthropogenic disturbance has significantly altered the ecological integrity of the presettlement natural communities and dramatically changed the natural distribution of plants and animals. Exotic s…

The Love Affair of Gaura biennis and Schinia gaurae

I don't know if it was the cool temperatures, the abundant rainfall or some other stochastic influence, but Gaurabiennis was extremely flamboyant in the Ozarks this summer. Everywhere I went, large, diffuse inflorescences of white turning to shades of pink were found.

Admittedly, I have mostly ignored Gaurabiennis over the years; finding it gangly and somewhat weedy. But it really out-did itself this year and I took notice. Camera in hand, tripod in tow, I headed down my gravel driveway to a nice specimen for a quick photo. Knowing them to be nocturnal bloomers and having noticed that the flowers were at their peak in the morning when I left the house and mostly shriveled by my evening return, I got to them just after sunrise.

After taking some quick photos, the kind where you don't really see the subject for the equipment, while rushing to beat the light, wind or self-imposed time constraints, I began to study the flowers. In this conscious effort to slow-down and enjoy the mo…

The Flint Hills of Kansas

The Flint Hills of eastern Kansas harbor the largest remaining pieces of the Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion. They are one of the few remaining places where the human eye can encompass the great ocean of grass so frequently and eloquently described by early American travelers and settlers.

Here, the wind, the openness and the omnipresent sky all commingle and instantaneously transport you away from modernity to a timeless place where you feel, thankfully and willingly, abandoned. Dream-like, you sense the ghosts of bison and feel that subtle, tenderly ancestral, thrill of open country.

Formed by the shallow seas of the Permian (280-240mya), limestone, riddled with insoluble chert concretions, gives the hills their distinctive “plateau” shape. The residual chert gravel and stones have rendered the region unfit for row-crop agriculture. It is this feature that has spared the region from the ill fate of the plow. Secondarily, the regional climate is too dry for most exotic cool season grasses.…