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2020 Update: common garden experiments

Since 1996, members of Team Echinacea have walked, crawled, and ~sometimes~ run next to rows of Echinacea angustifolia planted in common garden experiments. Although protocol varies depending on the experimental plot, every year team members record flowering phenology data, measuring data, and harvest the heads of the thousands of plants we have in common garden experiments.

Note that these experiments are not really gardens. “Common garden” refers to the experimental design. Most of our experimental plots are prairie restorations, a few are abandoned ag fields that are manged as grassland habitat. Some plots have multiple experiments within. The Echinacea Project currently has 10 established experimental plots:

exPts01-10. To avoid repetitiveness of reports on yearly phenology, measuring, and harvesting, this project status report will include updates on all experimental plots 1, 2, 4, 5, and 8. Reports for the others will be elsewhere: Amy Dykstra’s plot (exPt03), the hybrid plots (exPt06, exPt07, exPt09), and the West Central Area common garden (exPt10).

exPt01: Experimental plot 1 was first planted in 1996 (cleverly termed the 1996 cohort), and has been planted with nine other experiments in subsequent years, with the most recent planting being Amy Waananen’s inter-remnant crosses. It is the largest of the experimental plots, with over 10,000 planted positions; experiments in the plot include testing fitness differences between remnants (1996, 1997, 1999), quantifying effects of inbreeding (inb1inb2), and assessing quantitative genetic variation (qgen1). There are also a number of smaller experiments in it, including fitness of Hesperostipa sparteaaphid addition and exclusion, and pollen addition and exclusion. In 2020, we visited 4,340 of the original 10,622 planted and found 3,258 alive. Only 484 plants were classified as “flowering” in exPt01 this year. This is a drastic increase from the nearly 70 plants that flowered in summer 2019 – perhaps it is a testament to the benefits of controlled burning (we burned in spring 2020 but not in 2019). In summer 2020, we harvested ~815 total Echinacea heads in exPt01 (I have not finished the reconciliation process). In the fall, we added 484 staples to positions where plants were gone for three straight years, however, we ran out of staples, so 130 of these positions have “flaples” which are bent pin flags.

exPt02: Heritability of flowering time is the name of the game in exPt02. Planted in 2006, exPt02 was planted to assess heritability of flowering start date and duration in Echinacea. In summer 2020, we visited 2,010 positions of the 3,961 positions originally planted. We measured 1,638 living plants, of which 444 were flowering. In the fall, we harvested ~626 heads from exPt02. We do not have an exact number of heads harvested from exPt02 yet, as we have not had time to complete head reconciliation. Location: Hegg Lake WMA

exPt04: Experimental plot 4 was planted to gauge whether Echinacea from small remnant populations could be genetically rescued via an outcross to larger, more genetically diverse populations. Caroline Ridley and other members planted this plot in 2008. We did not measure exPt04 this year. Location: Hegg Lake WMA

exPt05: The only experimental plot planted at Staffanson Prairie Preserve (SPP), exPt05, was planted to compare progeny of maternal plants from burned and unburned sections of SPP. There were 2800 plants planted originally, but high mortality made it impractical to visit the plot row-by-row. Now, we and treat the plot like demography. We use our survey-grade GPS to find plants in exPt05 that have previously flowered and add more plants to the stake file if new plants in the plot flower. In 2020 we found 11 living plants, two of which were flowering! There was only one head to collect, since one of the flowering plants exhibited only vertical development (no head). Location: Staffanson Prairie Preserve

exPt08: Team Echinacea established quantitative genetics experiments to quantify additive genetic variance of fitness in Echinacea, with the idea that we can estimate evolutionary potential of study populations. The maternal parents of qGen2 and qGen3 are plants in the 1996, 1997, and 1999 cohorts. These plants were crossed with pollen from plants in remnants to produce seed for qGen2 and qGen3, which now inhabit exPt08. Originally, 12,813 seeds were sown in the common garden. Seeds from the same cross (shared maternal and paternal plants) were sown in meter-long segments between nails. A total of 3,253 seedlings were originally found, but only 562 plants were found alive in 2020. There were 5 flowering plants in 2020, and 5 heads. Note that there were an additional 2 heads collected from transplant plot.

Plot management: To ensure that the common garden environment is as similar as possible to the prairie environment we must actively manage it. This management includes removing foreign species and supplementing with natives. One of our main management methods is through fire. We were unable to burn plots this fall however we hope to burn p8 and p1 this spring. We also collected seed to spread after burns including Schizachyrium scoparium, Bouteloua curtipendula, along with multiple species of Solidago and quite a few Asters.

Asclepias viridiflora in p1: In 2019, plugs of an uncommon prairie milkweed, Asclepias viridiflora, were planted in Experimental plot 1. The purpose of this experiment is to assess the survival and fitness of A. viridiflora. Assessing vitality will also provide a frame of reference for species conservation across modern prairies. In 2020 a protocol was developed to identify and measure A. viridiflora. These data are waiting to be entered and analyzed.

Hesperostipa demography:  In 2009 and 2010, porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea, a.k.a. “stipa”) was planted in experimental plot 1. In total, 4417 seeds were planted, 1 m apart from each other and all 10 cm north of Echinacea plants. Between 2010 and 2013, each position was checked, and the plant status recorded. Since 2014, we have searched for flowering plants. The data from this summer can be found here cgdata/summer2020/stipaSearch, these data have not been processed yet.

Inb1: The INB1 experiment investigates the relationship between inbreeding level and fitness in Echinacea angustifolia. Each plant in experiment INB1 originates from one of three cross types, depending on the relatedness of the parents: between maternal half siblings; between plants from the same remnant, but not sharing a maternal or paternal parent; and between individuals from different remnants. We continued to measure fitness and flowering phenology in these plants. In 2020, of the original 557 plants in INB1, 111 were still alive. Of the plants that were alive this year, 30 (27%) were flowering. This is up from the 4% that were flowering last year. All individuals were planted in 2001.

qgen: The qGen1 (quantitative genetics) experiment in p1 was designed to quantify the heritability of traits in Echinacea angustifolia. We are especially interested in Darwinian fitness. Could fitness be heritable? During the summer of 2002 we crossed plants from the 1996 & 1997 cohorts of exPt01. We harvested heads, dissected achenes, and germinated seeds over the winter. In the Spring of 2003 we planted the resulting 4468 seedlings (this great number gave rise to this experiment’s nickname “big batch”). In 2020 we assessed survival and fitness measures of the qGen1 plants. 1,642 plants in qGen1 were alive in 2020. Of those, 17% flowered in 2020. All were planted in 2003.

Stuart and John measure Echinacea plants in exPt02 under a gloomy sky

For more information on survival in common garden experiments, see this flog post about survival in common gardens.

Start year: Various, see individual listings above. First ever planting was 1996.

Location: Various, see above

Overlaps with: Pretty much everything we do.

Data/ materials collected: Measure data for all plots. All raw measure data available in cgData repository. Processed data should eventually be available in SQL database; ask GK for status of SQL database. GPS points were shot for the exPt09 flowering plant. Find the GPS jobs containing the exPt09 corners here: Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2020/convertedASVandCSV2020/EXPT9_20200917_DARW.asv The stake file to find exPt5 plants is here: Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2020/stakeFiles2020/exPt05stakeFile.csv Products: Many publications and independent projects.

Survival in common gardens

Last Friday, I was dispatched by Stuart to find the number of plants/ achenes planted in each experimental plot, along with the number alive as of a recent year (2017-2019, based on the plot). Although records of some plots were a bit harder to come across that others, I was able to compile data from each plot (besides p10 – planted 2019 – data coming soon). This would not have been possible without the help of Gretel, so thanks GK! I have attached a small datasheet with the survival data.

In the history of the Echinacea Project, the team has sown 31,888 Echinacea viable achenes in experimental plots. There were many more sown that likely did not have a seed. Team members found 3634 seedlings from these seeds, not including Amy D’s experimental plot 3 and remnant seedling refinds. The team has planted 18,869 Echinacea seedlings in experimental plots, not including p10 – planted at West Central Area HS in 2019. Finally, 7090 Echinacea are currently alive in the experimental plots!

2017 update: Ridley’s next generation rescue

geneticRescueSlideIn 2017 Stuart and Lea relocated and measured 19 individuals of the 381 seedlings originally found. These plants had 1-4 leaves; the longest leaf was 32 cm. It should be interesting to see which individuals are hanging on!

Caroline Ridley established this experiment to compare fitness (recruitment and survival) of seeds originating from individuals with parents from three different backgrounds: 1. both from a large remnant population, 2. both from a small remnant population (not rescued), and 3. one from a large population and one from a small population (genetically rescued). Caroline sowed achenes in an experimental plot at Hegg Lake WMA and marked seedlings with colored toothpicks in May 2009.

Start year: 2008

Site: exPt 4 at Hegg Lake WMA

Overlaps with: crossing experiments qGen1, qGen2, qGen3 & recruitment experiment; INB1

You can find more information about Ridley’s next generation rescue and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for this experiment.

Project status update: Ridley’s next generation rescue

geneticRescueSlide Caroline Ridley established this experiment to compare fitness (recruitment and survival) of seeds originating from individuals with parents from three different backgrounds: 1. both from a large remnant population, 2. both from a small remnant population (not rescued), and 3. one from a large population and one from a small population (genetically rescued). Caroline sowed achenes in an experimental plot at Hegg Lake WMA and marked seedlings with colored toothpicks in May 2009.

We annually assess survival and fitness of these plants. In 2015 we relocated and measured 42 individuals of the 381 seedlings originally found. These plants had 1-3 leaves; the longest leaf was 21 cm. The dense non-native brome grass dominating this plot may be shading out these small plants. It should be interesting to see which individuals are hanging on!

Read more about this experiment.

Start year: 2008

Site: exPt 4 at Hegg Lake WMA

Overlaps with: crossing experiments qGen1, qGen2, qGen3 & recruitment experiment; INB1

Next Gen Rescue experiment census

Here’s a document that outlines a proposed visor form for the census of Caroline’s Next Generation Rescue experiment.
Proposed protocol for Next Gen Rescue census 2010.docx

Searching Caroline’s Hegg Lake Plot

We searched for seedlings in Caroline’s Hegg Lake plot today. Old and new seedlings were found. Here are the data:
Nextgenresc-19 Aug 09data.xls

Files for Gretel to make visor forms AND a reminder for Stuart

Here are two spreadsheets with information to be made into visor forms.
The first is a list of Echinacea positions we will measure from, in order to plant Stipa seeds. The relevant worksheet is the first one. In the visor form, I would like to be able to see row, position, Echinacea plant status and a column for notes. Breaking this list into multiple forms would be fine.

Complete list of Stipa positions81409.xls

The second is information for the “Next generation rescue” August seedling refind. I would like block, row, position and number of seedlings in May visible and would like number toothpicks, number toothpicks with no seedling, number new seedlings, longest leaf lengths and notes as editable fields.

Nextgenresc-For Aug 09 visor form.xlsx

And finally, Stuart, could you check out some Stipa bunches in Staffenson and decide how close we could comfortably plant seeds next to the Echinacea in the garden?

Seedling searches at Hegg Lake

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The classic seedling search position.

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Young Echinacea seedling–cotyledons only.

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Larger seedling with a true leaf.

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We marked seedlings with colored toothpicks, so we can re-find them in August, and again next summer. I hope to be able to learn about initial seedling establishment as well as seedling survival through the first two seasons.

Seedling search at Hegg Lake

Amy and I have been out at Hegg Lake since Tuesday afternoon, searching low and lower for Echinacea seedlings in my small “next generation genetic rescue” experiment and Amy’s crossing and local adaptation experiments. We’re finding quite a few seedlings- they’re mostly just cotyledons (some amazingly with their little seed coats still attached) and about a quarter have put out their first true, very fuzzy leaf. Without the true leaves, the seedlings can be tricky to tell apart from the seedlings of one or two other species, but we’ve developed a fairly good search image and are making notes of questionable identifications.
Mode number of seedlings for each “position,” that is a batch of 5-40 achenes sown: 0
Maximum seedlings found in a position in my experiment: 12
Maximum seedlings found in a position in Amy’s experiment: 10
I’ll also brag and mention that today I found the seedling with the longest true leaf so far at 42 mm. Looked to me like the plucky guy was flipping the bird. Ah, Amy and I certainly do succeed at keeping ourselves and each other entertained.
We completed searches for my experiment on Tuesday, made it through the crossing experiment Wednesday and today and plan to finish up with the local adaptation experiment tomorrow. Photos are forthcoming.