Sunday, June 9, 2013

Prairie view

Standard "prairie view," June 9

I liked the idea of choosing a view to go back to and see how everything changes over time, but I'm not sure this view worked out as the best way to see it.  Really, as far as pretty flowering plants go, I should have stood up by the road on the right and viewed everything looking south (this view looks northwest).  This view at the fence on the eastern edge of the property puts some pretty boring action in the foreground.  This area has really struggled with weeds, though now it is looking much better, but it isn't likely to be covered with flowers for years yet.  The mowing is to take care of annual grasses, and this is the third pass this Spring (I think I could have waited until now, but I wanted to get the grass as it headed up so that it didn't make viable seed).  There was some medusahead in this area, just a bit, but there are many other species of annual grass that need to make room for the fescue and other perennials.  Anyway, you can see some large-leaved lupines coming up, maybe some phacelia and cinquefoil (these things are out there in this view, but it isn't that easy to see them), and there are asters, lomatium, and yarrow that I mowed (since they are perennials, it is OK to mow them--they'll be back next year).  In the middle, not visible through the thick fescue, is a baby Ponderosa pine, planted over Gracie's grave (the border collie you can see in previous posts--she died last November).

In this closeup of her grave, you can see the native plants that we planted:  the little Ponderosa pine and a prairie smoke (on the left side of the dirt area).  We chose a spot where not much was growing except some grass that needed to be dug up.  What surprised us were all the other plants that showed up here this Spring.  The tall flowering plant in the foreground is phacelia, to the left of the pine is a cinquefoil, just above that is a baby large-leaved lupine, and to the right of the pine is a baby Wyeth buckwheat.  I didn't plant them, so we figure that was Gracie's contribution.  I will add some gravel in the foreground and plant Lomatium gormanii (one of my favorites because it is the first native to bloom, usually in early March), and some of the delphinium and blue-eyed mary I collected over the last week (see below).  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Success and a new villain

Over the last week or so, I have been collecting Blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora, at the top in the bowl) and Larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum, the box on the bottom) on my walks to Idaho.  This is an awesome haul, especially the larkspur, which is about five times the amount I've ever been able to collect in one season.  Larkspur seems to dump most of its seed over a 3-4 day period, and I think I must be competing with some animal that finds these seeds very tasty, but this year I was walking every day and caught the plants right as they started dumping their seeds, and came back a couple of days later to catch the end of the ripening seeds.   These are the seed pods that you can see here; the actual seeds are tiny.    

Here is the new villain.  Medusahead grass (Taeniatherum caput-medusae) is an invasive species that is spreading through the Western US, and is a real problem for cattle ranching, since it is inedible to cattle and it aggressively crowds out native plants and desirable grass species.  When the team from the Palouse Conservation District came to check out my prairie earlier this Spring, they found seed heads from medusahead in a few spots, and encouraged me to go after it when it came up.  Just the other day I saw that it had come up in a few places, and so today I mowed every spot where it has shown up.  This ought to work because the seeds have not yet formed and it's an annual grass.  We shall see.