Rain All Day

Today, the weather was not in favor of getting field work done. We spent the morning working on getting things ready for some of the Echinacea Project’s biggest tasks like Demography and Measuring. We also spent time working on our independent projects and learning to code in R.

At lunch, Jennifer gave a practice version of her upcoming talk at the Botany meeting in Rochester, MN. We learned about the maintenance of pollen color in Bellflowers.

After lunch, there was a brief ‘break’ in the rain so we headed out to Tower Road to remove some bird’s foot trefoil. We have been removing this invasive for several years and I think that our progress is easily seen! Evan and I found one monster plant that took the two of us to remove (see picture). It was a bummer to miss a day of field work but it was nice to have some time to catch up on inside tasks.

Evan and I showing of our trophy

Wednesday, July

A rarely seen mammal in MN, dead or alive. This badger was along the roadside but didn’t appear to be hit by a vehicle.

Today was a busy day with groups going different directions. Phenology on P1, Bee photography at P2, insect pan traps, moving insect tents and a lesson on demography with a practicum test. Ryley getting accustomed to running the lycor which measures the photosynthetic rates and has the label micromole CO2/meter squared per second. How cool is that? The Echin Project seems to be flowing like a well oiled machine and the plants too. Tomorrow looks like it may rain so plans were made for Thursday to begin looking at some of the data/specimens we’ve collected over the weeks. Personally, i’m looking forward to Big Event 6: Contact 3-2-1. (I’m thinking of a word beginning with the letter B)

Are plants sentient?

Good evening floggers. Today was an exciting day for Team Echinacea. Big Event 4: Revenge of the Bees occurred this morning out at p2. I unfortunately was unable to attend because I had to stake and move emergence traps. The weather was nice today so I imagine it was a fun time!

What p2 looked like from where I was this morning.

Today was my first day at a new site for the bee emergence tents. Yesterday I collected traps at Hegg Far West. Sadly, there were no bees yesterday. Today I staked and moved tents to Hegg North East with hopes of catching a bee in the traps tomorrow.

Tonight we had our weekly Journal Club. Mia picked an interesting paper titled “Experience teaches plants to learn faster and forget slower in environments where it matters” by Gagliano et al. 2014. Using the sensitive plant they showed that plants are able to show an elementary form of learning. We had a tantalizing discussion about the sentience and value of plants along with a discussion of the methods.

See you tomorrow flog!

New interns back at the CBG lab

Hi, I am Selena a fourth year undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz! GO BANANA SLUGS!!!! I am here at CBG doing a summer internship in the Echinacea lab! I am looking at intraspecific competition between two California Asteraceae species Layia platyglossa and Lasthenia californica! 

I also have a mentee, his name is Steve…

I go to Little Village Lawndale high school in the South Side of Chicago. I am entering my Senior year of high school. I am also studying two California species and testing intraspecific competition with varying water treatments. I am helping Selena collect data, so I am here to help!


The Big Event 2: Electric Boogaloo

Today was the historic Big Event 2: Electric Boogaloo and while the rain may have tried to thwart our attempts to quantify how different pollinator taxa affect male fitness, Team Echinacea overcame and we had a great time watching pollinators in experimental plot 2 once the rain cleared. We saw lots of bees visiting Echinacea and spent lots of time running between plants to shoo away bees. We also played some fun games during downtime (in between the rushes of bee visits). Andy taught us Contact, which is a fun game where you try and guess the word the other person is thinking of.

The Team watching and shooing bees in P2


After we finished with TBE2EB (The Big Event 2: Electric Boogaloo) We had just a little bit of time to work on miscellaneous tasks. I worked on preparing some information to assist with planning for the big demography project and others visited Hegg Lake to decapitate any traitorous Echinacea pallida that might be lurking around.

We are looking forward to a hot day tomorrow, stay tuned for updates on The Big Event 3: Return of the Bees (Although my vote for naming #3 was The Big Event 2: Electric Boogaloo 2: Electric Boogaloo, much more systematic in my opinion).

Have a great night Flog!



A post about posts

Today, Team Echinacea took a significant detour from our normal routine. Not only did we leave Solem Township on an adventure to Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, but we didn’t even study Echinacea while we were there. No, instead we studied a member of the orchid family, the endangered western prairie fringed orchid.

Our trip north started early in the morning, with us leaving the comforts of Alexandria at 6:00 AM, in order to arrive at the site by 9:00 AM. Of course, a much-needed donut stop was had along the way. Once we arrived in the first of the two experimental sites, we got to work finding the prairie orchids.

Gretel teaching the team how to count flowers on an orchid

We do a full census of the prairie orchids that are on the experimental plots, which means we need to find every orchid that is within the boundaries of the study. And therein lies the challenge. The plants themselves aren’t necessarily too hard to find: big ostentations flowers, often with 5+ flowers on a plant. No, what is challenging is figuring out where one is within the experimental plots. The corner of every 10 meter by 10-meter plot is marked with a short wooden post, which, in tall grass and ankle height waters, at times, can be quite difficult to find. Of course, we learned to use our extreme geometry skills to locate the locations of where posts should be (as some posts simply weren’t there).

Little can one tell there are many plot marking posts within this picture

The ankle-deep water was much nicer that the occasion knee-deep water that criss-crossed the plots

All things considered, Team Echinacea had a very successful day as Team Orchid (or Team Platanthera, if you prefer). we found 584 plants within the experimental plots and got to see many new plants and birds that are not present in our Echinacea plots, like the showy milkweed and the upland sandpiper.

Get ready for tomorrow to hear all about the Big Event!



July 4th

The day began with 2 rain delays before work began.  Kristin moved her insect tents and Jennifer, Zeke, Mia, Evan and John finished the phenology at P2 and cut randomly selected Echin heads.  It was a very short work day followed by the annual Independence Day picnic moved from Elk Lake to the farmhouse with members of Stuart’s family and Team Echinacea.  Since the workday was short, here’s a little diddy:


A Day in the Life of Team Echin

(disclaimer – some words and names may have been spelled incorrectly but intentionally)


I’m leaving for work wife says “wow you smell purdy”

I say “thank you dear its sunscreen, SPF 30”


The Hjelm House, P8 and P2 and P1,

The Farmhouse, G3 and G2 and G1


Ticks, Chiggers, and mosquitoes

and Jalapeno Cheddar Cheetos


Evan, Anna, Brigid, Kristin and Morgan,

Citrus lanatus we love Stuart’s watermelon


Hydrate with water, put on your sunscreen and boots

What’s for supper tonight and who’s cooking at the roost


Visors, toothpicks, Twist Ties and Flags,

Proposals, projects, task forces and flogs


Wagenius, Reed, Dykstra and Shaw

Angustifolia, Purpea and Pallidaw


College of Wooster in Ohio with Zeke

Groupme, Dropbox, Twitter and Tweeks


Hegg Lake, Staffanson, Stevens and Landfill

PB and mustard sandwiches at lunch with Michaill


Team norms, teamwork, go team and efficiency,

Before you go please sync the visors Ryley


Jennifer, Amy, Evan, Andy, John VK and Mia

You see now Stuart “its not about Echina Cia”

There Once Was a Limerick Flog…

This flog will be written in verse;

I hope you won’t think it’s the worst.

Rather than prose

In limericks I compose,

The daily events from the Roost.


On Friday the 29th of June,

We celebrated Kristen’s birthday at noon,

By eating some cake,

And later, listening to Drake,

After eating some Mexican food.

Kristen & Cake


On Saturday day we relaxed;

But adventure our night didn’t lack.

To a concert we went;

It was quite an event;

The custodian from my school played the sax.


Evan, Zeke, and Mia making hats for Echinacea flowers


^Mike Kreitzer: custodian at Saint John’s University by day, rockstar by night.

Kristen, Evan, Mia, Zeke, Brigid (looks way too excited) at the Melrose Riverfest Concert


After a week of skeeters and ticks and horse flies,

Being outside seemed unwise.

But after a day,

Of bugs being away,

Now we miss those we all once despised.


What’s your sign? A guide to the stars for prairie plants

Hi floggers! It’s me, Kristen, your resident prairie plant astrologist. The alignment of the stars and planets has captivated humans for centuries. In times of confusion humans have looked to the sky for answers. Many think that how these celestial bodies move throughout the sky determine the course of our lives. Do you struggle with finding the thread of greater meaning among the events of your life? Do you suffer from a constant internal battle between the head and the heart? Astrology may have answers to some of these questions for you, human. But did you know that just like people, prairie plants ALSO have their own horoscopes?

In times of confusion, like loss of habitat, lack of essential nutrients, threats from pollution and other anthropogenic forces – our astrological bodies can provide plant communities with guidance towards higher survival and reproductive success. Many weeks ago on my Instagram story (@kristenmanion) I did a similar reading of the signs as prairie plants.  This time I have used plants exclusively found in Echinacea Project field sites.Below I provide characteristics for the signs in the form of prairie plants based on my interpretation of their alignment with the stars. For simplicity, I have decided only to use Sun signs in this analysis.

Below from left to right:

Capricorn. Heliopsis helianthoides. – Wow False sunflower. You work hard to attract those pollinators. Remember that hard work can take you far, but it’s important to remember your roots and appreciate the pollen donors and stigma receptors who got you there.

Aquarius. Capsella pursa-pastoris. – Shephard’s purse you intellectual! Don’t forget that sometimes matters of the heart are important along with the head.  Life’s emotions can be complex, consider your roots.

Pisces.  Convolvulis arvensis. – Classic field bindweed producing a gorgeous and showy white flower. Your creative side is your strength but can also be your weakness. Consider that inspiration can come from unlikely places!

Taurus. Asclepias viridifloris. – Spider milkweed, you’re almost ready to attract those butterflies! As a Taurus you never seem to forget to relax and kick back. It’s okay to work hard sometimes – more milky latex the better!

Gemini. Echinacea angustifolia. – Oh, my dear Echinacea! Why of course you would be a Gemini. Your beauty illicits feelings of great joy, yet why do you also seem to provide us with our greatest challenges? Perhaps it is because there are two sides to you. We love to see you blooming, yet we don’t want to harvest 1800 heads in P2!

Cancer. Pediomelum argophyllum. – Just like you Cancer, silver leaf scurf pea is soft around the edges. Remember that just because you might be a little sensitive you are still important. Fixing nitrogen is so important to the prairie! You’re value is never underrated.

Leo. Anemone canadensis. – I know you Leos like to be proud, and boy are anemones a proud bunch. Don’t forget that just because you like to show off doesn’t mean you can’t step out of the limelight for a less popular floral neighbor. It’s okay to be okay with not always performing!

Virgo. Zizea aurea – The prim and proper golden alexander knows that order is key to a productive life. Sometimes though, you may find yourself overwhelmed by your blooms. Take a step back and reevaluate when things get tough.

Libra. Lithospermum canescens. – Just like you, hoary puccoon, is an interesting plant! We know that you like to be balanced Libra but that you also don’t like to move away from your comfort zone. Consider thinking outside the box. It may reward you!

Scorpio. Tradescantia occidentalis. – Spiderworts are very mysterious, just like sun sign Scorpio. We know you have a meaning behind the madness but don’t forget that transparency is okay too. The team wants to know what you’re thinking inside your head!

Aries. Symphoricarpos albus. – You can be tough sometimes (especially given your woody habit)! Consider other points of view. You thrive when other people help you out, don’t forget that you can be someone to lean on too.

Sagittarius. Lotus corniculatus. – The only non-native in this list, but you don’t care, Birdsfoot trefoil, because you love to travel. Sometimes it’s okay to not spread so much. When there’s too much of you, it can force others to feel like they can’t shine.

This has been the first edition of “The Signs as Prairie Plants.” Consider ways in which the stars can guide your life and remember sage advice from plants in the prairie: always remember your roots!

As we learn from our struggles of today (whether it be setting up emergence tents at EELR, checking twist ties at p2, or learning how to be an efficient team member there is always something to be learned about oneself. Sometimes the struggle is worth it! Consider this as we lean into this next few weeks.

Love Your Prairie Plant Astrologer,


Kristen setting up emergence tents for the first time.

The team after surviving the onslaught of mosquitoes at p2.

Rain + No Wind = Itchy Night

Hello Echinacea Project!  Yesterday was a very productive day. It had rained the night before, so we all brought our laptops and started on our project proposals!  We were very concentrated and hard workers 🙂

Team being very productive

During lunch, Jennifer gave a very informative presentation about bees and plant flowering times.

After lunch, we split up into task forces. Some people worked with the bees, some people did plant data at the P2 experimental plot, and some people went out to P1 to start the aphids and spittlebug projects. The unfortunate part about the afternoon was there was no wind, therefore every member of Team Echinacea was very itchy that evening from all the mosquito bites we got.

Andy bundled up to avoid mosquitos while taking spittlebug data