Experimental Plot 7 / Hybrid Project Update

Hey flog!

I wanted to make a post detailing my experiment this summer with hybrid Echinacea plants at Hegg Lake. As a student, it was my goal to design, execute, and analyze an experiment with Team Echinacea this summer. Because I’m interested in genetics, I wanted to create something that would connect inheritance with population control among Echinacea. With the help of some seasoned Team Echinacea members (Riley T and Mia S), I was able to construct an experiment that would study the reproduction potential of hybrid Echinacea, crossed between E. angustifolia and E. pallida.

In the history of experimental plot 7, two Echinacea plants have flowered. Most recently, a hybrid Echinacea flowered this spring. This allowed us to cross the hybrid’s pollen with a variety of E. angustifolia and E. pallida in the Hegg Lake area. In order to assess reproduction potential, styles were painted, pollinated, and later observed to look for shriveling. Although styles may shrivel for a variety of reasons, shriveling usually indicates reproduction. In the winter, we will assess the seed-set of these individuals to determine reproductive fitness.

When new species from non-prairie remnants are introduced to new areas, the risk of hybridization among plants of the same genus arises. E. pallida, which has shown to out-compete E. angustifolia in our experimental plots, therefore has the ability to pass on its genes through hybrids. If hybrids are able to reproduce, and continue to pass on E. pallida genes, the risks of genetic swamping increase. Therefore, over time, hybridization could eventually exterminate E. angustifolia from its native prairie.

A picture of me painting bracts for our hybrid crosses. Photo credit to Mia S!

In order to assess reproduction, we hand-crossed a variety of sample pollen with E. angustifolia, E. pallida, and hybrid Echinacea. In this experiment, a shriveled style is a sign of successful reproduction. Because Echinacea plants are not self-compatible, the reasons for a style not to shrivel could vary. Reasons could be that the hybrid was not compatible with this type of Echinacea, or because the specific Echinacea plants were incompatible due to inheritance patterns.

An example of hand-crosses from Shona Sanford-Long, 2012

Our sample size was also effected because only one hybrid Echinacea flowered this summer. In the end, we cross-pollinated our hybrid plant with three E. angustifolia plants, and three E. pallida plants. If more hybrids flower in the future, we will be able to expand our sample size and cross variety. For this reason, we hope to continue this experiment in the following summers if hybrids continue to flower.

Overall, we saw that hybrids were more compatible with E. angustifolia rather than E. pallida. While hybrid reproduction passes on E. pallida genes, a greater chance of reproduction with E. angustifolia keeps native genes (and hopefully, native traits) in the prairie gene pool.

In the future, I will share more updates as we continue to analyze and reassess the data.

Thanks for joining me on this exciting, new experiment!

Anna (Meehan)

Back to business in the dry prairie

Hi again flog!

Friday morning was a delayed start so that the orchid trip team could try to catch up on sleep and get the visors synced and ready to go for the day. Erin and I had an even more delayed start after we locked ourselves out of the Hoff House while putting on sunscreen in the morning. Luckily, Erin had her phone, so we radioed the rest of the Hoffman House who had already left and Amy came to let us in. If Erin didn’t have her phone, it would have been a long walk to Hjelm with no shoes.

We spent the morning in the prairie remnants taking phenology. Many flowers are now reaching end flowering. John and Anna M. were gifted some broccoli during the morning, which we had for lunch.

Fresh broccoli for the team

In the afternoon, everyone scattered to do various projects. John and I headed to Staffanson to collect pollen for Amy. We visited about half the plants before we had to head back for a Zoom meeting.

John and I collecting pollen
An Echinacea head with a tiny pink inchworm

We heard from Anna M. and Devon about their projects for this year. Kristen, a former team member, also gave a presentation on the project she did while she was here in 2018.

Until next time!


Another year, another 300 orchids

Hey flog!

Yesterday the team took its biannual trip up to Pembina nature preserve and surveyed western fringed prairie orchid. There was many wildlife sightings including a few prairie chickens, a magpie, a deer and even a snipe!

The beautiful scenery of the wet prairie

After finding around 300 orchids we headed to Pelican Rapids to have dinner with our new friend Pelican Pete!

Darwin, Erin, Allie, and Emma posing with an orchid with 18 flowers!
The team with our new friend Pete

All in all it was a good day and we had a good day but Gretel was truly missed.

Bur bye


Erin showing off part of her new fashion line that will drop in the fall

Wacky Wednesday (feat. Alpha Mike and Romeo Tango)

Greetings, flog friends!

Today was a wild ride, to say the least. Our morning started off with an intense thunderstorm. Some Team Echinacea members reported strong thunder as early as 2 AM, which persisted into the early morning. Although it left the remnants wet and muddy, we were lucky to start at our usual time.

I spent the majority of the day working with Riley T. as we conquered the phenology route we affectionately call “Choo-Choo Corner.” This path inculdes remnants such as Loefflers’ Corner and Railroad Crossing. Thankfully, Stuart was there to take care of Yellow Orchid Hill and North Railroad Crossing.

Some happy Echinacea are thriving in their flowering state at Loeffler’s Corner West!

While at Loeffler’s Corner, Riley had a strange encounter with a baby deer. The surprise was well justified, as the fawn was alone and near a highway. Unfortunately, the deer left before Riley could take a picture, but he reports the experience as “shocking” and “unusual”.

We ended the morning with some flowers in our on-site experimental plot, “P8.” After a much needed lunch, we returned to the site to conduct measuring. If you’re a seasoned flog-reader, you’ll know that measuring is the process we use to assess the Echinacea planted in our experimental plots. By measuring, we’re able to keep track of plants that survived, were lost, and their physical fitness over time. P8, one of our largest plots, is notorious for its heat and humidity. However, we persisted, and made great progress!

Half-way through our P8 excursion, Riley and I had another wacky experience. One of the rows we were assigned to measure had a constant rate of lost plants and toothpicks, our universal seed-identifying material. During burns and harsh winters, toothpicks (and often plants) tend to go missing. However, row 169 was unusually bare. This is when we realized we had made a dire mistake.

To our demise, we discovered that the unusual row was mislabeled. Because of this, we had compared visor records to a completely irrelevant row. Although it was somewhat disappointing, we were glad to know that our mortality rate was much lower than we thought. It was also a good experience that taught me it’s okay to make mistakes, and that we must learn in order to improve. Even with our minor setback, it was an extremely successful day for the team, and a great kick-off to our P8 studies!

We concluded the afternoon with some Wednesday Watermelon, and a rhine-throwing contest. Watermelon is a team-favorite treat on hot days!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our “Wacky Wednesday” as much as we did. It’s always great to have a little excitement at work, and a bit of “phun” with phenology!

Until next time,

Anna (Meehan)

Submitting FNC, phenology, crosses, and aphids

Today I only heard about what the team was up to from Mia after her epic day that started at 7:15 and ended around 6:30. Sounds like a lot happened in the field today! I heard about phenology, and how their were a few critical visor malfunctions, although it seems we were still able to get the data we need!

I also heard that people started adding and excluding aphids from Echinacea plants in p1, and that some hand crosses happened with hybrid Echinacea in p7!

All in all it seemed like a good day for the team. Back home at Alpha Tango Hotel, I worked on getting the FNC manuscript ready to resubmit. Over the weekend many Team Echinacea members current and past read the draft and gave me valuable feedback. Today I polished everything up and clicked “Submit”! The study examines how heterospecific co-flowering plants and isolation from conspecific mates affects pollination. Specifically, we quantify how these aspects of the floral neighborhood influence four stages of the pollination process: 1) probability of pollinator visitation, 2) pollen on pollinators that visit Echinacea, 3) pollen on Echinacea styles, and 4) style persistence (pollination success). We are excited to submit this manuscript and are hoping for favorable reviews this second time around!

Holiday Weekend!

On Saturday we celebrated the 4th of July! This weekend was filled with fireworks, food, family and the lake. The team got together on Saturday and had a big slip and slide, bonfire and ate lots of food. My family was in town this weekend so I couldn’t participate in the teams get together. But my weekend was still fun!

For my individual project I chose the aphid exclusion project. I will be studying how aphids effect echinacea plants and I’ll measure that by comparing leaf color and leaf length from non aphid echinacea and echinacea that have aphids.

Slipping and sliding into Independence Day

I think it is pretty safe to say that 2020 has not been the best year. During these relatively unfortunate times, it is important that we go out of our way to create positive experiences for ourselves and those around us. Of course, members of Team Echinacea are lucky to get to do field work every week day, and we also are blessed to be able to work with each other. However, when July 4th presented itself as an opportunity to have some fun with the team, no one was going to pass that up. Thus, we had a “first-time” experience with Team Echinacea yesterday… a July 4th slip ‘n slide!

Generally speaking, the team goes to a lake on the 4th and cooks out with the Wagenius family. Due to the current global situation, we decided to stay away from the general public. Stuart was a great host for the team on his home turf. He supplied us with root beer floats, snack packs, and popsicles while we read the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, we discussed how the Declaration is holding up in current nationwide affairs. It was a very healthy discussion, and I think we will consider the words in the Declaration when we discuss fostering diversity with Team Echinacea in the future.

After our discussion, we transitioned to the great slip ‘n slide! It was a ton of fun! Drake donated his hoop-house plastic to slide down, and the Wageniuses supplied us with well water, hoses, sprinklers, and dish soap. It was a ton of fun! There were a variety of methods folks used to get down the slide, and it seemed like a constant struggle to find the optimal method. If anyone is looking for a video of themself going down the slide, please feel free to contact me for it!

Once the slide was over after a couple of hours, folks went home. Late in the night, though, the Andes people came over to the Hoffman House for a quick bonfire. It was a lot of fun, and really capped off the day with some great bonding!

People setting up the slip ‘n slide! It took a while to figure out how best set it up!
It eventually looked like this (very good)!

Flying through phenology

Today we were back at it again in the remnants, well-equipped with knowledge of both the phenology protocol and the phonetic alphabet for our radio chatter. John and Mia cruised to Wiley in the Bombusmobile, the New A Team of Anna, Anna and Amy stomped Around the Block, Emma and Riley teamed up in the Big East and Stuart, Allie and I chugged through Choo-Choo Corner. We were all back around 11:30, setting a land-speed record for 2020 rem phen!

chugga chugga buzz buzz

On Wednesday I wrapped up the first round of surv this season, so now every site has a map of flowering plants that the team can use during phenology. Though we’ll keep shooting through the season as we find more plants, the major surv push is over! Now I have time on my hands to help with phenology, so Allie gave me a brief tutorial and then it was off to the races this morning.

I started on Yellow Orchid Hill West, which threw just about every possible problem at me. I had new plants, old plants without phen records, mutant heads and two-small-plants-or-one-big-plant? questions to ponder.

The pollinators were out and about this morning, with a bold augochlorella coming in for a landing on an echinacea I was examining for style persistence. Maybe I should have checked back in a bit to get a more accurate assessment of shriveling! While doing phenology I also interrupted mating beetles and accidentally knocked a goldenrod crab spider off its hiding place on a flowering head, so today I guess I was bugging arthropods instead of the other way around.

In observance of July 3rd, that fateful day preceding the day when soon-to-be ex-British-colonists signed the Declaration of Independence, we ended work at noon. Lunch proceeded with a reduced crew and a lively discussion of all the different kinds of fruit preserves we could think of. It turns out that the good folks at Wikipedia have already made a list which seems to be a lot more comprehensive than ours (did anyone come up with fruit butters or curd? I sure didn’t.)

I’ve kept myself busy this week making memes. Emma and I are cooking up some hot new lingo that we’re excited to unveil to the rest of the team in the next few days, but until then enjoy this biting commentary on the West Central Minnesota Arsonist (still at large?)

Happy 3rd of July, y’all!

Big week—start of measuring

Greetings flog!

Today we kept up the steam that we’ve had going all week, this time with measuring Echinacea in P7 and P9, two experimental plots out by Hegg Lake. This involved working in teams of two to find all the Echinacea plants present in each of these experiments and measuring aspects of their fitness including number of rosettes, number of leaves, and length of the longest leaf. Lots of working methodically down rows and searching for itty-bitty, seven-centimeter-tall, one-leaved Echinacea plants among the grass and litter! Good thing everyone’s “Ech vision,” and work ethic, is strong at this point.

In the afternoon Mia gave an interesting presentation that she’s preparing to record for the Botany conference this year about pollination and genetic structure in naturally fragmented populations of a desert plant, Erythrina flabelliformis (coral bean). It was really cool to hear what she’s been working on!

In non-Echinacea news, I saw my first flowering Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) yesterday, along with my first Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) of the season, both in P2!

Stay cool,


An interesting bee pollinating a flower observed during phenology yesterday. ID, anyone?

Phenologists Going Strong

The Echinaceas Team has been hitting the phenology of the Echinacea angustifolia on the remnant prairie plots in western Douglas Country. This morning, the team split up, divided and conquered each remnant’s flower’s status . (Latin phrase: Veni, Vidi, Vici – which tranlates to we came, we saw, we conquered). We have been assessing each flower that has been uniquely identified with a number tag and a colored twist tie so that we can be as certain as we can of each of the flowers. The Echinacea Team has been gathering data for 25 years which makes us the world’s foremost authority on Echinacea angustifolia (according to me).

Riley T puts the “f’ in phenology on a site we call on27.

There’s much variation in the flowers, not only in there stages of flowering, but in their differences in color, age and height.

Nearly white petals
Brown petals

The afernoons have been filled getting caught up on Stipa searches in P1, flagging P8 and planning out the execution of our individual projects.

Amy and Allie diligently working on the porch.

Happy 4th of July to everyone.