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2021 Update: Liatris fire and flowering

As a part of our research looking into the role fire plays on plant reproduction and population dynamics, we collected geospatial and flowering data on Liatris aspera at 22 prairie remnants in and near Solem Township, MN. Six of these remnants burned in spring of 2021. During the growing season, we collected data on the position, inflorescence count, and number of flowering heads for over 2400 individuals (exact number is unknown still because some individuals were shot twice with the GPS due to calibration errors).

We also randomly selected 234 Liatris as focal plants, which we harvested once they had gone to seed and brought back to the lab for cleaning. We hope to be able to use the inflorescences we collected to quantify seed set and compare density effects between burned and unburned remnants.

Over the summer, Team Echinacea spent 5955 minutes (99 person-hours) shooting Liatris GPS points and 2235 minutes (37 person-hours) harvesting the focal Liatris plants.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: 22 prairie remnant sites in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Liatris insects on flowering heads
  • Data collected: All data related to this experiment can be found at ~Dropbox/burnRems/remLiatris
  • Samples or specimens collected: We harvested inflorescences from 234 individuals to be cleaned in the lab.
  • Products: Stay tuned!

Liatris Classification Protocol

Below is the classification protocol for Liatris X-rays

Externship Day 5: lab meeting, seminars and cleaning liatris!

This Friday was day 5 of our externship and we had plenty of new experiences! We started the day by learning how to cleaning a different flowering prairie plant, liatris, or rough blazing star, with Wyatt. Compared to echinacea, achenes of liatris are much easier to be separated from the chaff and the receptacle. However, the fruits of the liatris are spread by wind. So the achenes all have fluffs attached to them which is a little challenging to separate sometimes.

Then we participated in the echinacea project’s weekly lab meeting. We read the draft of a paper Lea had been working on and listened to lab members discussing it. It was really fun and inspiring to see the process of scientific writing and experience the lab as such a collaborative space. I learned a lot about the behind the scene processes in doing science such as designing experiments, deciding on certain sets of data to use for a given topic and different ways to present data.

Right after the lab meeting, we listened to speed talks given by ecologists working in different departments of the Garden including aquatics, remnant forests and some other natural areas. I learned a lot about the history of the Garden as well as challenges and successes in managing different ecosystems within the Garden. I was really surprised when I learned how much work went into maintaining the lake area and the shores of lakes – planting, reinforcing, cleaning algae and other unwanted aquatic plants and so on. It was a great experience listening to talks by ecologists doing hands-on restoration and conservation work here in the Garden.

We also learned the ABT format of presenting a project and all three of us tried to come up with one for our projects here. We also decided on what we’ll be doing for projects. Cassie would be looking at density and seed set in liatris, Caitlin fire and seed set in echinacea, and I would be looking at number of flower heads and seed set in liatris. We planned to do some cleaning, rechecking, scanning, counting and X-raying to get part of the data we need and then do some data analysis. With this in mind, we were much more motivated to do some more cleaning and rechecking and dive into the second week of our externship!

The end of summer

As summer’s vibrant greens give way to fall’s golden glow, Team Echinacea remains hard at work in western MN. A skeleton crew is diligently wrapping up the field season. Our most important task is harvesting seed from study species so that we can quantify fire effects on plant reproduction in remnant prairies. Here is a brief update on progress for our focal species:

Echinacea angustifolia harvest: 383/383 plants harvested

Andropogon gerardii harvest: 370/370 plots measured and harvested

Liatris aspera harvest: 202/231 plants harvested

Lilium philadelphicum harvest: 79/80 plants harvested

Asclepias viridiflora: all plants harvested (~30, Jared forgot to check harvest data sheet…)

In addition to wrapping up the harvest, we are beginning to make preparations for fall burns and getting materials organized to implement a seed addition experiment designed to assess fire effects on seedling emergence and survival.

Liatris Legends

This was my first week with the Echinacea Project, and I feel like I have big shoes to fill after all the fantastic team members earlier this summer. It’s been an eventful week, and I think I’ve seen more Liatris plants than Echinacea so far.

This week, the team focused on completing the project to map the Liatris aspera plants at all the sites. We spent a lot of time at Koons Hill, which supposedly had only 200 plants, but we found over 600! For the first time all summer, the team had to contend with rain, but we finally finished rechecking Koons Hill today, and we revisited all the sites to pull the neon flags, which had formerly marked the Liatris plants.

We weren’t the only ones visiting the Liatris plants. This afternoon, we spotted numerous pollinators, including several bumblebees and a monarch, which were enjoying a sweet nectar treat.

At the end of the day, the wasps wanted to share our sweet cantaloupe as well, but fortunately, Wyatt devised a system involving a tupperware and some ice packs, which encouraged them to chill out.