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.

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.

Week #2

We began week #2 stalking Staffanson Prairie for Echinacea first in the rain and then if the pleasant breeze. We estimated about on 150 flowering plants on the East quadrant and will hopefully get to the West tomorrow morning. It’s simply amazing the variety of species found there and also the colors present. We then spent the afternoon visiting some remnant plots looking for flowering plants.

Prairie Smoke from Staffanson’s Prairie
Wood Lilly
Prairie Turnip – my new favorite this summer, replacing Monarda fistulosa

We then had an afternoon Zoom meeting wth Jarred Beck, Echinacea Project Alumni from 2014 discussing the history and benefits of burning praire. He also discussed upcoming research on burning some remnant prairies starting next spring.

First week wrap-up

We had a good first week at the Echinacea Project! It’s a good group of caring and dedicated people and I’m looking forward to spending the summer with them. On Friday we discussed our ideas for individual summer projects, which demonstrated the collaborative, supportive, and ecological science-fostering environment that this team cultivates. It was fun hearing about everyone’s projects, which ranged in topics from aphid-ant-plant interactions to the role of parasitic plants in prairies, to Echinacea pallida/angustifolia hybrids, to Echinacea seedling persistence in microhabitats, to planning prairie research projects for a high school class. It will be exciting to see how they develop!

In plant ID this week I’m jazzed to share that I figured out what the plant Amy and I were trying to identify at the Landfill site on Friday was! It was Amorpha nana, aka fragrant false indigo or dwarf false indigo. It’s a relative of Amorpha canescens (leadplant) and looks similar, but has distinctive red stems.

Next week I look forward to more monitoring of Echinacea phenology as its flowers develop, getting more practice with GPS data collection, and working on my project idea. I’m thankful for the patience of more experienced team members showing me how it’s done!

What I believe is Amorpha nana, seen at the Landfill prairie remnant. Surrounded by brome grass and litter–maybe this site would benefit from a burn!
A brilliant tiger beetle also seen at Landfill

Demo Flog- Anna Allen

Today was a demo day! Demo day is where you collect data from flowering Echinacea. During demo day I went to the Landfill site and found all the flowering plants. When I found the plants I collected how many heads there were, and tagged all of them. After I collected data I changed out the color of the flags so others would know I was there.

Here is a picture of an Echinacea plant that is flowering!

In this picture Emma is holding a turtle that was crossing the road and she decided to help it out. But when she was moving it, the turtle started peeing all over. Luckily it wasn’t on her.