Friday, August 12, 2011

August 11, 2011 - Prairie Wildflowers at Boot Lake

Boot Lake Nature Preserve, northwest of Elkhart, IN includes a reconstructed prairie. The web site documents this valuable reconstruction from a former sewage slag dump. Many native prairie plants are now in bloom.

From the parking lot I took the lane past the tree nursery to the prairie, continued on that wide mowed path through the prairie and looped right on "Prairie Pike", right again on "Purple Coneflower Pass"  and right a third time to return again to the nursery lane, where I turned left to return to the parking lot.

In late summer there are so many species of wildflowers in the "Sunflower" or "Aster" Family.  Even after studying Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (see book review), frequently I am uncertain of the species.  Please feel free to enter comments and questions regarding my identification.
Flowers of Cup-Plant, Silphium perfoliatum

Joined opposite leaves of Cup-Plant
Four species of the genus Silphium are blooming.  Species of this genus have similar flowers, but because each Silphium species has unique leaves, identification is easier than for many other plants in the Sunflower or Aster Family.  Note how the opposite Cup-Plant, Silphium perfoliatum, leaves join together to form a cup; during rains, water collects in the "cups".  Cup-Plants grow as high as 8-9 feet.

Prairie Rosinweed, Silphium integrifolium
Prairie Rosinweed leaves are opposite like Cup-Plant, but they are smaller and do not join to form a cup.  Rosinweeds are shorter than Cup-Plants.

Prairie Dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum
Prairie Dock's huge leaves form a whorl at the base of the plant.  A thin flower stalk bolts up to 10 feet.
Compass-Plant, Silphium laciniatum
Compass-Plant also has huge basal leaves, but  each leaf is deeply cut.  It too bolts a 10 foot flower stalk.
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Purple Coneflower is also a member of the Sunflower Family.  Extracts of Echinacea roots are used in herbal medicine.
Wild Quinine, Parthenium integrifolium
Wild Quinine is another member of the Sunflower Family that is used in herbal medicine.   You will have to walk off the path to find this plant at Boot Lake; there aren't many plants.
Flowering Spurge, Euphorbia corollata
Flowering Spurge is part of the Spurge Family, as is Poinsetta.  A milky sap exudes when a leaf breaks off the stem.
Whorled Milkweed, Asclepias verticillata
"Milk" also flows from broken milkweed parts, but Milkweeds are a separate family from Spurges.  Whorled Milkweed flowers, leaves and stems are all much smaller than the Common Milkweed, but the flower structures are the same, i.e., the five petals curled up and the five sepals curl down.  Double click on the photo to see the flowers more closely.
Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa
Wild Bergamot has a square stem, in cross section - an indicator that it belongs in the Mint Family.  It is a very common field and roadside plant.  Bee-Balm is also in the Monarda  genus.
Canada Tick-Trefoil, Desmodium canadense, Pea Family
Blue Vervain, Verbena hastata, Verbena Family
Other native plants now in flower at Boot Lake Prairie are -

Common Fleabane                     Erigeron philadelphicus                     
Gray-Headed Coneflower          Ratibida pinnata                                 
Jerusalem Artichoke                  Helianthus tuberosa                            
Field Thistle                               Cirsium discolor                                  
Lance-Leaved Goldenrod          Solidago graminifolia                         
Common Evening Primrose       Oenothera biennis                              
Narrow-Leaved Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum tenuifolium                

Introduced, i.e., not native, plants in flower are -

Spotted Knapweed                     Centaurea maculosa                           
Bouncing Bet                             Saponaria officinalis                           
Deptford Pink                            Dianthus armeria                                
Common Mullein                      Verbascum thapsus                               
Queen Anne's Lace                   Daucus carota                                      
Yellow Sweet Clover                Melilotus officinalis                              
White Sweet Clover                  Meliotus alba                                       
Red Clover                                Trifolium pratense                                
White Clover                             Trifolium repens                                   

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