florets and the Fibonacci series

In the lab today we were talking about Fibonacci numbers. Somehow these numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) relate to Echinacea flowerheads. The number of ray florets (aka “petals”) on ab Echinacea head are often Finbonacci numbers, like 13 & 21, but they are often not those numbers. This Wikipedia page describes the relationship between Fibonacci series and florets on flowerheads.

Here are some images of Echinacea heads from the summer (top views). Do you see any interesting patterns?

Top view of head of Echinacea angustifolia. How may ray florets? Click image to enlarge to see pattern of disk florets.
Head of Echinacea angustifolia with two bees
Head of Echinacea angustifolia with two bees
Two heads of Echinacea pallida
Two heads of Echinacea pallida. This species is not native to Minnesota, but it was planted by accident in a prairie restoration in our study area
beetle on head of Echinacea angustifolia
beetle on head of Echinacea angustifolia

Is Minnesota getting shorter?

as asserted in Munroe (2023)?

This is going to be the main agenda item for team Echinacea meeting until the snow melts.

  • Is Minnesota getting
    • thinner?
    • narrower?
    • skinnier?
    • shorter?
  • Will we need to gps every single Echinacea plant again?
    • do we need to do demo too?
    • Maybe instead of annually, we can re-map each plant once per decade
  • Do Echinacea plants feel the squeeze?
    • Does the squishiness make Echinacea happy?
  • Are ground-nesting bee nests getting deeper?
  • Why don’t we have any snow?

Tis’ the season for “project updates”

For many, the end of the year brings thoughts of final exams, final reports, and final projects. Here at the Echinacea Project, we don’t believe in final anything, but we do believe in updates! Last week, two of our Lake Forest College interns, Sophia and Olivia, shared project updates with the lab: a culmination of their semester in the lab.

Olivia shared results from her study on plant and reproductive health indicators (more here)

Olivia and Sophia present research updates at lab meeting!

Sophia shared a poster with the lab and also with attendees of a Lake Forest College research symposium! Sophia’s research focuses on the effects of pollen limitation on life history fitness in Echinacea. (More info to come!)

Sophia Presents a poster at Lake Forest College’s Glassman Symposium.

Back to Douglas Co

Members of team Echinacea went back to Minnesota to do some final field work and winterization of our field station. We had fantastic weather for field work but northerly winds brought chilly temps by the end of the week and reminded us that winter is near . Here are some updates from all we got done these past few days!

Seed Add

 We added seeds to 84 experimental transects at 36 sites for our seed addition experiment, which measures the effects of prescribed fire on seedling germination and emergence in Echinacea. We made quick work and were able to get this done in just 1 day plus an extra morning!

Here is Wyatt sprinkling E. angustifolia achenes along our seed addition transects.

Prescribed Burning and Broadcasting Seed

We got two solid days of good burn weather– more than any of us predicted! Over this window we burned six units, including the production plot, a few oak litter areas, Jean’s prairie garden, and the southeast hill. After all this burning, we broadcasted native seed collected by the team this summer. We’re excited to see what happens in these units next year!

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Jean’s prairie garden burned in ~5 minutes
Jared gets our 1st burn started
Wyatt broadcasts seed into this freshly burned unit

Return Achenes to Remnants

Every summer we harvest a subset of Echinacea heads from remnant sites to assess fitness. In order to ensure that we are not disrupting these populations, we later return the achenes to their maternal plants in a way that mimics natural dispersal. On this trip, we visited many small sites, where this process is essential as well as a few bigger ones.

Woody Encroachment Pilot

I tested out methods for my research project looking at the effects of Sumac encroachment on Echinacea fitness and mortality. I collected height and spatial location information on Sumac plants in order to quantify encroachment. In an encroached site like Tower, this process was no walk in the park…

Here I am staking to one of my random points

Post- Summer Sleuthing

When mistakes during summer data collection happen, it takes some investigating to figure out where we went wrong. On this trip, we revisited plants with issues from demographic data collection AND we found a P02 plant that was never harvested during the summer!

Abby & Wyatt solve mysteries in the field!

P01-nat project update!

This week I worked on scanning, randomizing and counting for P01-nat. The batch is now entirely scanned, and the images are up on the ACE website for counting! The other volunteers and I have completed 26.2% of counting as of the end of the day today. We are half done with the randomizing for the batch, and I am hoping to have that step of the process completed by the end of next week. Today I was also trained in how to prepare sheets for x-ray (end result of that process pictured below in Image 1), and I should be completing that process with P01-nat within the next couple of weeks! I have also included a picture of the end result of the rechecking process, which I detailed in my post last week (Image 2).

Image 1. Informative achenes ready for scanning.
Image 2. Labeled envelopes and bags after rechecking is completed.

carbon in the prairie

There are many reasons we don’t want to lose prairie remnants to woody encroachment or conversion to agriculture. One of them is because we don’t want the Carbon in the soil to go to the atmosphere. Here’s a nice visual derived from IPCC data, 2022.

Compare temperate grasslands to temperate forests and croplands. How does a buckthorn thicket compare to any of these?


The pollinator team has gone through the majority of vials collected from emergence traps this summer, and we have exciting news! We had about a 14% occurrence of bees (# of vials with bees/# vials total), which is much higher than expected, and we still have more vials to go! Below is the current counts of vials as of September 27, 2023.

# Vials Done: ~850

# Vials with Bees: ~122

# Bees: ~290

Chupy 2: The Demopup

On this sweltering day, Lindsey and I worked on developing a system for keeping track of demopup, the process of mopping up any mistakes, mishaps, and general instances of misses. We collected a list of every site and made a poster to keep a close eye on the process, and have some fun. Chupy the chupacabra/badger/puppy has made a reappearance.

Lindsey deep in the creative process

We will revisit every site to search, demo, and survey flowering echinacea one more time. Team members will keep track of how many plants they find that aren’t all the way through the process, and once they get back to Hjelm they get to put a corresponding number of their own special sticker next to the site in question. Sticker options to come!

Poster finished. Lindsey’s art degree pending.

Done By Yours Truly

While working with the Echinacea Project since spring, I have surprisingly only ever cleaned one or two Echinacea heads. I have done a lot of cleaning and randomizing with Liatris aspera as well as rechecking, scanning, and randomizing for Echinacea angustifolia. But here is one of those rare heads cleaned by me! It has been cleaned, rechecked, and now scanned by yours truly. Sadly there were no achenes found in this one.

Rainy Garden Days

It’s rainy season! The past few days we have been getting a good amount of rain. Walking into the garden, it felt like I had woken up at the crack of dawn or was getting in late in the afternoon. While the rain makes me a little drowsy, it makes all the plants very happy. Here are some of those happy plants!