2020 Update: ExPt 10 and Gene Flow in the Remnants

During the summer of 2019, Team Echinacea planted over 1400 E. angustifolia seedlings into 12 plots in a prairie restoration at West Central Area High School in Barrett, MN. We planted seedlings from three sources: (1) offspring from exPt1, (2) plants from my gene flow experiment, and (3) offspring from the Big Event. To test how different fire regimes affect fitness in Echinacea, folks from West Central Area plan to apply regular fall burn treatments to four plots, regular spring burn treatments to four other plots, and the remaining four plots will not be burned. I’m not sure if they were able to perform these burns as planned in Fall 2020 given COVID restrictions this spring and fall, but John Van Kempen would be the man to ask about that. I believe they were able to do the burns in the spring.

This summer, the team measured the 1-year old seedlings from my gene flow study in exPt10, as well as a few seedlings from the other plantings within the plot. The seedlings from my gene flow experiment are the offspring of open-pollinated Echinacea in 9 populations in the study area. I am assessing the paternity of these seedlings to understand contemporary pollen movement patterns within and among the remnants. In summer 2018, I mapped and collected leaf tissue from all Echinacea individuals within 800m of the study areas and harvested seedheads from a sample of these individuals (see Reproductive Fitness in Remnants). In spring 2019, I germinated and grew up a sample of the seeds that I harvested to obtain leaf tissue for genotyping.

Then, with the team’s help, I planted these seedlings in exPt10 in June 2019. I also collected seeds and leaf tissue in summer 2019 to repeat this process, but I did not germinate the achenes in the following spring because I was not able to assess seed set due to the broken x-ray machine at the CBG and then COVID-related restrictions. I hope to germinate those this spring and plant in summer 2021. I am working on extracting the DNA from the leaf tissue samples I have, which I will use to match up the genotypes of the offspring (i.e., the seeds) with their most likely father (i.e., the pollen source).

Here are some fun facts about the seedlings we found in exPt 10:

  • The longest leaf we saw was 19 cm! Most were much smaller (see below).
A histogram of seedling leaf lengths, ranging from 1 to 19 cm
  • The leafiest plant we saw had 4 leaves (though one had been munched)
A histogram of leaf counts per plant, which ranged from 1 to 4
  • Overall we found 424 seedlings alive of the 598 that we searched for, or 71%. The ones we didn’t find are probably dead, but we’ll look for them again next year to make sure we didn’t just miss them.

I’m looking forward to seeing these friends again next year.

Allie gives a thumbs after successfully finding a baby Echinacea plant in p10!

Start year: 2018

Location: West Central Area High School’s Environmental Learning Center, Barrett, MN, Remnant prairies in Solem Township, Minnesota

Overlaps with: Reproductive Fitness in RemnantsPhenology in the Remnants

Products: Survival data for seedlings planted in summer 2019 from Amy W’s gene flow experiment, located in the cgdata bitbucket repository.

Team members who worked on this project include: Amy Waananen, John Van Kempen

2017 Update: Fire & fitness of EA

In 2017, we searched in 7 recruitment plots for flowering Echinacea angustifolia plants. For each flowering plant, we took demographic data- counting the number of rosettes, counting the number of flowering heads, and shooting a GPS point of the exact location of the plant. Four plots had no flowering plants, but three of the plots had a total of 43 flowering Echinacea plants. Of the plots with flowering plants, two plots (with 35 of the flowering plants) are located at Hegg Lake, a site managed by the Minnesota DNR, and one plots (with 8 flowering plants) is located at Eng Lake.

This recruitment experiment was originally established in 2000 to quantify seedling emergence and juvenile survival of Echinacea angustifolia during its reintroduction to sites with varying land-use history and burn schedules. Before 2014, detailed data was collected on each plant in the plots. Since 2014, we’ve censused each plot yearly to collect demographic data for every flowering plant.

Echinacea at Hegg Lake, photo by Wes Braker 

Year started: Plantings in 2000-2002

Location: Ten study plots on state land with different land use histories: old-field and restored grassland.

Overlaps with: Demographic census in remnants

Data collected: Status, rosette count, flowering head count, GPS point for each flowering plant in each recruitment plot

Products:A paper (Wagenius et al. 2012) published in Restoration Ecology.

You can find more information about the effects of fire on seedling recruitment of Echinacea angustifolia on the background page for the experiment.

Project status update: Fire and recruitment of Echinacea angustifolia


Description: The Echinacea Project’s recruitment experiment examines the germination and survival of Echinacea angustifolia seedlings in oldfields and restored grasslands under different fire regimes. In 2014, Team Echinacea searched for and measured Echinacea plants in 60 study plots spread across 10 experimental blocks. After data collection was complete, we mapped all newly flowering plants. The goal of this study is to identify the environmental factors that influence the recruitment of seedlings and the long-term fitness of Echinacea plants.

Start year: 2001

Location: 10 experimental blocks located in oldfields and restored grasslands

Products: Raw data taken on paper were entered into database and verified. Flowering plants with new tags were mapped and the spatial data is located in the 2014 SURV files. Flowering plants with old tags were not mapped in 2014.

Seedlings in Q2, recruitment experiment, and my first tag!

We started out the day doing what we do best: searching for seedlings in Experimental Plot 8 (a.k.a. Q2). Having braved formidable winds to plant them late last October, Stuart, Gretel, and Ruth were visibly relieved to see them pop up this spring. Since last week Team Echinacea has been diligently tracking down each seedling and “naming” them with colored toothpicks and row location coordinates, accurate to one centimeter.

In the afternoon we located and counted Echinacea in the recruitment experiment, a continuation of the project described in this paper. The procedure is really fun: we find the boundaries of the plots with metal detectors, triangulate points, then search within an area exactly the size of a regulation 175-gram Disc-craft Ultra Star disc (a.k.a. frisbee). Go CUT!

The best part of the day was tagging my first Echinacea. Maybe it just lost its old tag, but I like to think this is the first time this plant has ever born the silver badge. Sometime 10-12 years ago, this seed was planted. Now that it is finally about to flower, it has the honor of going down in history in the databases of the Echinacea Project, living out the rest of its life in the service of science. This 23rd of June, 3.65 m from the southwest corner and 0.79 m from the southeast corner of the northeast plot in Recruit 9, I named a flowerstalk “19061.” Isn’t it beautiful?


Doesn’t the flower head look ripe? Stuart says we may start to see flowering as early as the end of this week!


Eventually the time came to leave my new friend and join the rest of the team. This is where they were:


(Can you spot the team?)

A nice day is Douglas County is a very nice day.

Recruitment thingamajiggies

So, a while back when GPS-ing the recruitment plots, there were a number of places where no nail was found in our initial survey. Here’s the list of those point numbers in the GPS:

These were supposed to have nails, but we were unable to find them.

Monday June 25

Last week was a busy and fun one for Team Echinacea 2012; no two days were the same. We wrapped up some of the first summer projects and started to transition into the second phase of the summer. We completed evaluating the recruitment plots, began to record their GPS locations, conducted demography and phenology observations in the common garden, and perhaps most notably, completed round one of seeding searches with the west (and recently burned) section of Staffanson prairie with help from Amy Dykstra, who came to visit on Friday. In addition to all the progress made on the long-term projects, we also spent multiple rainy mornings working on our individual research projects, the proposals for which have been recently, or will soon be posted here on the flog. IMG_1746.jpg Stuart Instructs us on the proper field techniques for cross-pollination, pollinator exclusion, and painting flowers so we can keep track of what we’ve just done.

After a short weekend, we started up working again this Monday with a morning dedicated to our independent projects, time which we all used to get out in the field and get our hands dirty. Ruth stopped by today and lent a hand and some very welcome advise, and joined the crew in the afternoon to do some weeding in the common garden. We clipped, pulled, and trimmed Buckthorn, Ash saplings, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sweet Clover, and Sumac.

Fire and patience help when establishing Echinacea in a prairie restoration

In a paper just published in Restoration Ecology, Echinacea Project researchers report that establishing Echinacea angustifolia in existing prairie restorations and abandoned agricultural fields requires more than 20 seeds for each plant that germinates and survives to flowering. Plants start flowering about 10 years after sowing. Also, burning the prairie before broadcasting seeds helps emergence and survival.

Wagenius, S., A. B. Dykstra, C. E. Ridley, and R. G. Shaw. 2012. Seedling recruitment in the long-lived perennial, Echinacea angustifolia: a 10-year experiment. Restoration Ecology 20: 352-359. Available here:

Recruitment Protocol

I wrote this up last week, but neglected to post it on the flog. Here is a detailed protocol for the 2011 recruitment searches. See Wagenius et al. 2011* for a description of the seedling recruitment study.


*Wagenius, S., A.B. Dykstra, C.E. Ridley, and R.G. Shaw. 2011. Seedling recruitment in the long-lived perennial, Echinacea angustifolia: A 10-year experiment. Restoration Ecology.

Seedlings found doing Recruitment

Exciting news! Amy and Hillary found some seedlings at a Hegg Lake plot, the one thats on a hill (the hill with all the phlox on the side) near that blind corner. Anyway, there were nearby flowering plants so its great their reproducing! There were also a couple seedlings found outside the frisbee sized circle area.

here are the pics:

staffanson and recruitment (44).JPG

This one is a close up of the shriveled cots (with an achene next to it), can you see it!?!
staffansen and recruitment (45).JPG

The seedling finders, working hard!
staffansen and recruitment (47).JPG

This was in the morning, getting ready for work:
staffansen and recruitment (4).JPG

This is just a prairie lilly (Lilium philadelphicum) that I spotted at Staffenson. First time ever seeing one and I think their beautiful!
staffansen and recruitment (22).JPG

Lastly, this is a reminder for me to show Stuart my preliminary data collection sheet:
data table for project.pdf


pollen viability and identifying distinct plants in the recruitment expt (I)

I was glad to participate in assessing floral phenology Wed morning and, with Amy, checking to resolve uncertainties remaining from this year’s monitoring of the first recruitment experiment (not to mention a very fun lunch with the team!). We sampled tissue from closely neighboring rosettes, where it isn’t clear whether they are the same or different plants, for eventual molecular analysis in Chicago by Jennifer and her team. Resolution of those plant identities should certainly help reduce the problem of counts of survivors *increasing* between censuses. But, in retrospect, I wondered whether the info we recorded was crystal-clear in terms of how this year’s counts should be adjusted, depending on the outcome of the IDing, particularly for the zones where many seedlings were recorded. When the remaining double-checking is done, it would be good to keep this in mind…

Of the many, many other terrific things that I’m excited are being accomplished, I’ll just comment that I’m happy to see Megan’s post that she has sampled pollen and stored it in different conditions to check its long-term viability. Finding a way to keep pollen viable for a month to a year would pave the way for experiments I thought up while observing pollinators out at LF on July 7. I see that Megan noted the amount of pollen available for that sample wasn’t large, so it would be great if another set of samples could be taken, also so other plants are represented.