Monday, June 07, 2010

Sometimes the prairie reminds me of a poem from my childhood:

There once was a girl who had a little curl
right in the middle of her forehead,
and when she was good, she was very, very good,
and when she was bad, she was horrid!

Yesterday the prairie was very, very good. Prairiewolf and I took advantage of a quiet morning to drive down to Medicine Lodge and take a micro-vacation looking at the wildflowers along the Scenic Drive southwest of the town. (Yes, I know that seems hypocritical, given my last post - but at least we did take the car that gets the best gas mileage.)

The Echinacea were just beginning to come into bloom and the false wild indigo (Baptisia spp.) were just finishing their bloom, so we probably could have hit a more spectacular color display, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Best of all, I found several species that were new to me, which is always fun and educational.

The first thing we noticed was that the catclaw sensitive briar (Mimosa nuttallii) was in full bloom. I love this little dainty plant, with its tiny, compound leaves that close up when touched and its bright floral pompoms of dayglo pink tipped with yellow pollen. I think we even found a pure white version of it...but I might have been mistaken in my identification - I'd want to go back and check again before calling it for sure.

Then there was this little plant that reminded me a lot of a miniature cleome (spiderflower). It's actually called clammy-weed or Polanisia dodecandra. (Isn't that an awful common name for such a graceful little plant?) This was one of the new plants I learned on this trip. I liked it, and the butterflies seemed to be really attracted to it too.

Brightening up the prairie were occasional clumps of St. John's Wort, Hypericum perforatum. Hypericum is the genus of all St. John's Worts, and it's a big group. "St. John's Wort" is the herb that's used medicinally to help fight depression, but I don't have a clue as to which species they extract from for the herbal supplement. Hypericum, in general, can apparently cause severe reactions in cattle when they consume it, so it wouldn't be a plant I'd encourage in a prairie that you were going to use for cattle grazing. When I tried taking it as an herbal supplement many years ago, I developed a severe sun allergy that, thankfully, resolved after several years.

Well, this post is long enough, so I'll continue on another at a later time. There was so much to see (and share) on our wildflower excursion!


~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Nice photos of those hidden treasures of the prairie.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks! I'm trying to start using my camera as more than a point and shoot, but having somewhat limited success with it. At least it lets me get closer to my subjects than my old camera did - that makes getting shots of insects a lot easier.