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23 June, Head Hunters

We took advantage of this sunny and beautiful Tuesday by visiting some more of the remnant prairie sites! In the morning we visited “On 27” an aptly named site bordering highway 27 that is a haven for Echinacea. We were able to practice tagging plants with heads to note the ones we can expect to flower this summer. This task was especially exciting because it allows for a preview of what the rest of the summer will look like. We will be frequent visitors to the plants that flower this summer in order to study flowering phenology. To characterize this trait, we will note the time that pollen is present for the first and the last times on the head. “On 27” had many heads scattered atop the hill, and down either side to the cornfields which surrounded the remnant prairie. We visited several other sites before lunch, tuning our “Echinacea eyes” and discerning between different stages of flower development. After lunch, we split into three groups to visit more sites. It appears that “Riley” site will be a popular destination this summer, there were many heads with emerging rays that were 1cm or longer! To the layperson (ie: me before I was a member of Team Echinacea) the rays are what you might call a petal— they are the pale purple florets that elegantly drape from Echinacea’s spiny center. Seeing longer rays is a sign that we will visit soon so as not to miss the first pollen. Among the sites that I visited in the afternoon, were the two sites that Matt and I explored last week for our “first impressions” outing! Returning to these sites serves as a reminder of how much I have come to understand about the beautiful purple coneflower in only a week.

Small ray florets at Riley

Small ray florets at Riley

Longer Florets at Riley

Longer Florets at Riley

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