2016 Update: Echinacea Hybrids — exPt 7

To the trained eye, Echinacea pallida is easily distinguished from E. angustifolia by its white pollen, large heads, and long, droopy ray florets.

Echinacea pallida observed at Hegg Lake.

This summer, we remeasured plants in experimental plot 7 at Hegg Lake. These plants are hybrids of Echinacea angustifolia (native) and Echinacea pallida (non-native, but planted at a nearby restoration). Shona Sanford-Long performed these crosses in 2012, Jill Pastick germinated the seeds that winter, and Stuart planted the seedlings the following spring. It is not yet known how the introduction of this non-native species will affect local Echinacea angustifolia populations. The survival rates and reproductive fitness of these plants can tell us how well the hybrids can compete with the native species. We have returned to the plot each of the last three years and measured the plants found there.

198 of the original 294 planted seedlings (67.3%) were found this year. The table below shows the fate of each cross-type in 2016 — the first name in the cross type is the maternal species, and the second name is the paternal species (e.g., ‘ang_pal’ is angustifolia mother and pallida father). These plants were measured on August 3rd and rechecked on September 2nd. No plants flowered this year, meaning that we must wait longer to assess seed set and reproductive fitness.

Cross Type

Found16 ang_ang ang_pal pal_ang pal_pal

no      34      10      20      32

yes      37      21      65      75


Start year: Crossing in 2012, Planting in 2013

Location: Hegg Lake Wildlife Management Area – Experimental Plot 7

Overlaps with: Echinacea hybrids: ex Pt 6; Echinacea hybrids: ex Pt 9

Data collected: Rosette number, length of all leaves, herbivory for each plant collected electronically and exported to CGData. Recheck information for plants not found was also collected electronically and stored in CGData.

Products: Taylor Harris’s 2015 poster demonstrating fitness benefits of pallida parenthood.

You can find more information and links to previous flog entries involving experimental plot 7 on the background page for the experiment.

Project status update: Echinacea hybrids-exPt 7

A hybrid at Hegg Lake

A hybrid at Hegg Lake

In 2015, we continued an experiment that quantifies fitness of Echinacea angustifolia x pallida hybrids and pure-strain plants. Out of the the original 522 plants, 323 were still alive in 2015, which is a survival rate of 62%. The mean leaf length of these plants was roughly 11.7 cm. Stuart planted the 522 seedlings at Hegg Lake WMA in spring 2013. The seedlings result from hand reciprocal crosses conducted by Shona Sanford-Long during the summer of 2012.

Read more posts about this experiment here.

Start year: 2013

Location: Hegg Lake Wildlife Management Area – Experimental plot 7

Taylor’s presentation at TLSAMP on Echinacea hybrids

Taylor presented a poster of her summer research on fitness of native, non-native, and hybrid Echinacea plants at the Tennessee Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Conference. The meeting was held February 25-26, 2016 at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Taylor was awarded 3rd place in Science Poster Presentation category. Yay, Taylor!

Taylor’s poster

Invasive Potential of E. pallida in Western Minnesota:



Cam Shorb’s Project Proposal: Aphids on hybrid Echinacea

Here is the latest draft of my proposal to investigate the survival rates of Aphis echinaceae on Echinacea hybrids and the impact they have on host fitness:


I’m excited to get started. In addition to my main project, I will be conducting and coordinating a variety of side projects related to aphids and Echinacea hybrids:

1. Katherine Muller and Lydia English’s aphid addition/exclusion experiment in P1.
2. Assessing fitness of the two Echinacea species and their hybrids in P6 (Josh’s Garden) and P7 (at Hegg Lake).
3. Recording flowering phenology of Echinacea pallida at Hegg Lake, where they were planted in a prairie restoration.

Dataset: Hybrid Measurements

Hi flog readers,
I have finished collecting my final data for my independent project. Included in this post is the data sheet containing measurements on all one year-old plants in the Hegg plot and their parents.

(updated file)

Marie’s Research Proposal

Hello all,

This is the first draft of my research proposal regarding fitness and heritability in the offspring from Shona’s crosses last summer. I still have a bit more research to complete – in particular, brushing up on quantitative genetics. Nevertheless, I have enough information to go forward, and hope to get a good chunk of my measurements done by next week.



Field trip to MN (22 – 26 May)

I drove from the Chicago Botanic Garden to our field site in western Minnesota hoping for a window of appropriate burning weather on Thursday afternoon or Friday afternoon. I also brought 297 Echinacea seedlings to plant as part of an experiment that investigates hybridization between native and non-native Echinacea. Several gallons of side-oats grama grass seed were waiting to be hand broadcast at two sites after the burn.

Why burn?
We want to burn our large Echinacea “common garden experiment.” In this abandoned field we have planted about 14000 individual Echinacea plants, starting in 1996, and measured their growth and flowering every year. We have burned this ~6 acre plot every other spring from 1998 to 2008. The weather didn’t cooperate in 2010, so we burned in 2011. We are trying to burn this year! Burning in the spring really increases the chance that an Echinacea plant will flower. We are planning a big crossing experiment this summer, so we want as many plants to flower as possible. Also, burning sets back the weeds–and that is a good thing.

Here’s the quick recap of major activities.
1. Packing
2. Driving to MN
3. Preparing to burn
4. The burn
5. Seeding after the burn
6. Preparing to plant
7. Planting
8. Seeding the phenology plot
9. Driving to IL


Dwight makes sure the fire stays where it belongs

Read the gory details…

1. Packing
I loaded the truck with lots of field equipment to use during the summer. The seedlings in the hybridization experiment fit in three trays. I had two trays of “extra” seedlings that were still hanging on from Jill’s agar/blotter seed germination experiment. For the burn, I brought three backpack sprayers, the DNR burn permit, and batteries for radios. I forgot to bring a back-up drip torch.

2. Driving to MN
The drive to Minneapolis was generally uneventful, which is just what one wants when driving an 18-year old truck. Very early on Thursday I drove to the site. Shortly before arriving, I saw two Sandhill Cranes landing in a wet field near Holmes City. I think that’s the first time I’ve seen cranes on the ground in Douglas County–auspicious! I should mention that I also saw a Common Loon and Pelicans, which are common every summer in Douglas County. Seeing them makes for an auspicious day too.

3. Preparing to burn
Thursday morning the ground was wet and the wet grass duff (fuel) didn’t look very promising for burning. The erosion in the surrounding corn fields indicated it had rained a lot. Our rain gauge confirmed that showing 3.65 inches (93 mm) of precipitation in the previous week. Light winds and cool temps weren’t helping dry it out, but the sun and low humidity offered a glimmer of hope. It’s rather stressful trying to predict burn weather and decide whether to rally folks to make a long trip to help burn.


The plot before the burn

Dwight and I began preparations for the burn. Just after noon, it looked like the fuel might dry out enough to burn and the weather forecast looked great, so I let folks know that we were going to attempt to burn in late afternoon. I should add that the fire forecast for Friday was getting worse, so that a burn was going to happen on Thursday or never (well, June or 2014).

Here’s our pre-burn to do list:
Prepare burn break (mower, weed whip, chain saw)
Fill water tank on truck (70 – 80 gallons)
Put six buckets in tractor trailer
Set up hoses [I forgot to set up hoses this year, thus this list]
Fill backpack sprayers
Fill drip torch(es)
Get matches
Activate burn permit
Call sheriff
Call neighbors
Walk burn break with crew & place buckets
Check radios

What to wear during a burn:
100% cotton long-sleeved shirt and long pants
Leather boots (over ankle, if you have them)
Leather work gloves

4. The burn
Amy, Brad, Dwight, Jean, and I conducted the burn and it went smoothly. Amy made a nice post with photos. The burn was slow and thorough. Ignition initiated at 5:20 and we were done at 8:20. Winds were light ESE ~ 8 mph. We had a great dinner afterward.


Amy keeps the fire from jumping the road


Brad and Amy through the smoke


A slow and thorough burn

Post burn to do list:
Call sheriff
Put everything away–dry out tanks
Broadcast seed


Some grass is still green right after the fire

5. Seeding after the burn
On Friday I hand broadcast about 2 gallons (8 liters) of native grass seed. More warm season grasses will provide fuel for future fires! The Soras chattering in the neighboring wetland kept me company. Here’s the seed sources–keeping it local!
grocery bag: Bouteloua curtipendula from cg1 10 Aug 2012
grocery bag: Bouteloua curtipendula from Krus 14 Aug 2012
#1 bag: Bouteloua curtipendula (& some Elymus canadensis) from Backhill 19 Aug 2012
#2 bag: Bouteloua curtipendula from Backhill 19 Aug 2012
#2 bag: Bouteloua curtipendula from cg1 22 Aug 2012


Much of the grass that was green right after the fire is now brown


I found this Sharpie while broadcasting side-oats grama

6. Preparing to plant

Next job was getting those seedlings in the ground! The forecast was for lots of rain during the upcoming week, which is great for seedlings, and for lots of rain in the afternoon, which is not so great for a person planting seedlings. I had to hurry.

I was quite efficient, except that I paused to watch a pair of Trumpeter Swans at Hegg Lake WMA–another first for me in Douglas County. I got a very nice look at the birds up close and saw the shape and color of their bills–straight and all black. I didn’t hear them, so I’m not 100% positive they were trumpeters. Tundra swans apparently look similar, but I haven’t seen them up close for years.

I chose a uniform location in an area that was planted with warm season grasses in 2000 for this experimental plot. I was considering mowing the area, or at least the rows to facilitate making straight rows and putting the plugs in, but I decided against it.
I laid out 300 planting locations (10 m x 30 m) with meter tapes and pin flags. A 9m x 29m grid would be sufficient for 300 locations, but I don’t like to plant at 0m on a tape and I planned to leave a few flags at locations with no plants.


Setting up planting locations

7. Planting

These seedlings all originate from plants that flowered at Hegg Lake last summer. Shona conducted the summer experiment and prepared the seeds for germination. Read about Shona’s project. Jill germinated the seeds this spring and measured the seedlings multiple times. Read about Jill’s project.

I ended up planting one tray (~100 seedlings) on Friday before getting rained out. Planting in the light rain worked for a while, but it was slow. When it really started coming down, I bagged it.


tools of the trade

On Saturday morning I saw the pair of Trumpeters at the flooded field SW of MN27 & CR1. The nearby Canada Geese were much smaller. A black tern flew overhead. When I arrived at Hegg, I saw fresh truck tracks and what looked like a can of beer and a pair of underwear right in the middle of the parking area. They were not there the day before! Upon closer inspection I realized that it was a can of Nos energy drink, not beer.

Saturday proved to be cold but not too cold. It was 54 degrees F and very windy. I wore nitrile gloves and that kept my hands warm. I planted almost twice as fast as I did when it was raining. The Bobolinks kept me entertained all morning with their bubbling songs.

8. Seeding the phenology plot Saturday 1:11 – 1:42 pm
Right after finishing planting I went to the phenology plot and broadcast some native seeds that we collected last fall. I broadcast the seed fast and it dispersed well in the strong and gusty wind. There is a new fox den with a big pile of dirt in the middle of the plot. The only plants I saw flowering were Sambucus, Dandelion, and Antennaria. I’m sure others have been flowering, but it was overcast and cold and I was moving fast. As I left Hegg Lake a wild Turkey walked out in the road in front of my truck. So nice to see.

I planted ~ 2.5 gallons of seed from three collections:
1. Bouteloua curtipendula from Hegg Lake WMA 13 Aug 2012 (#4 bag). 2. Bouteloua curtipendula from NE corner of Hegg Lake WMA 27 Aug 2012 (grocery bag). 3. Schizachyrium scoparium (& some Bouteloua curtipendula) from along CR 15 at Hegg Lake WMA 16 Sept 2012 (grocery bag).

9. Driving to IL
I left around 5:45 AM on Sunday. As I climbed in the truck I heard a Great-crested flycatcher–first of the season–so, I suspected it would be an auspicious trip. It was a boring drive, just the way I like it. I talked to myself about mating isolation and asynchrony to help prepare for writing a proposal to NSF on this topic.

I didn’t have time to plant a few of Maria’s left-over Dichanthelium plants. Jean said she would be glad to plant them in her prairie garden. photo(7)May2013.JPG

Maria’s Dichanthelium plants. Some have been exposed to cold temperatures for the past month or so.

More work with E. angustifolia x E. pallida crosses

This January Stuart and Gretel kindly hosted me in Chicago and gave me the opportunity to spend a few weeks working in the Echinacea Project lab continuing my research from the summer. Here is my final paper with some interesting results.


E. angustifolia and E. pallida crossing data- Shona Sanford-Long

Here’s all of my data from my crossing experiment and the R script that I used to analyze it! I’ll put up a metadata sheet soon.

final crossing script.txt