2019 Update: West Central Area Environmental Learning Center

In the fall of 2018, the Echinacea Project scientists came to West Central Area Schools (WCA) and mapped out twelve plots to transplant E. angustifolia into the following summer. The WCA Environmental Learning Center has 35 acres of restored prairie, making it a perfect place to plant experimental plot 10. During the summer of 2019, Team Echinacea planted over 1400 E. angustifolia seedlings into the 12 subplots. Three plantings were performed: the first was a planting organized by Michael and had offspring from exPt1, the second consisted of plants from Amy W’s gene flow experiment, and the third planting had offspring from the Big Event. All plants originate from Grant or Douglas County, MN. To test how different fire regimes affect fitness in Echinacea, folks from West Central Area will apply a fall burn treatment to four plots, a spring burn treatment to four other plots, and the remaining four plots will not be burned. 

The team after planting the original cohort of Echinacea in experimental plot 10. It was a long day!

During science classes with John VanKempen, WCA high school students will assess the effects of differential burning regimes on the fitness of E. angustifolia. For the first time this fall, juniors in VanKempen’s classes used data they collected on plants to answer their own scientific inquiries. Students developed hypotheses, then measured various morphological traits on surviving Echinacea in the 12 plots. The students used the data they collected to create graphs based on their data. VanKempen plans to continually integrate these Echinacea experimental plots into his classroom lessons and hopes other teachers at WCA will utilize the experimental plots for student science projects.

Start year: 2018

Location: West Central Area High School’s Environmental Learning Center, Barrett, MN.

Overlaps with: Pollinators and Echinacea male fitness, Gene flow in remnants

Data collected: Planting and survival data for seedlings planted in summer 2019. GPS points taken for plots. Planting data is available in the Echinacea Project ~Dropbox/CGData/195_plant/. Contact John VanKempen for survival data taken by his students. GPS points are available here: ~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\planting2019\nailStakeWCA.csv

Products: High School Posters. Contact John VanKempen for info.

Full report on the 2019 planting at West Central Area

Hi all! If your looking for a report on planting at WCA (and you have access to the dropbox), here’s where you can find all the necessary files:




Additionally, you can read the full report here: \Dropbox\CGData\195_plant\plant2019\plantingReport.docx

Have fun!


Seedlings, ready to plant!

Hello flog!

If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll remember that we planted some seedlings here (at Echinacea Team “West” I guess) about a month and a half ago. Now, those seedlings are growing some big ol’ true leaves, and are almost ready to go in the ground!

Happy, watered seedlings!

We have ~1400 seedlings to plant in Minnesota, and more will be coming for College of Wooster. I’m currently working on putting together the master plan for putting these all in the ground. Watch out for a flog about that, because its going to be one busy, dirty day digging in the prairie


Plug Planting – Day 2

Welcome back to the next installment on this series of planting seeds for our new experimental plot. If you remember from the last post, I posed the question – do you think that this second planting would have more or fewer seeds than the last one?

More. It was more.

While we planted 800 seeds on Wednesday, on Friday we planted a good 1400 seeds. As you can imagine, this took considerably more time. But luckily, we had even more help! Anne and Priti both came to help with planting. Anne even came up with an ingenious way to use toothpicks to track which head each seed in a plug came from. Now, we have 2200 planted seeds! Seeing as our original goal was 1200 – I’d say that’s not to shabby.

Cotyledons are starting to burst through in our farthest ahead seedling and they are all chugging along at a steady pace. Personally, I love watching these little guys grow and get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that they will grow up to flower some day and be used in experiments for many years to come. That being said, it’s really going to be a monumentous effort to plant all of these guys. Hopefully team echinacea 2019 will be up to the task.

Oh yeah, be on the lookout for bios from Team Echinacea 2019 coming soon!

Anne grabbing a germinated seedling with tweezers

Priti selecting seeds to be planted

Plug Planting

Welcome to germination part two! Here, I’ve got an update to what’s been happening with our seeds! Since the seeds in the petri dishes germinated so well, they have been moved in to plugs. Now, I’ve said “moved into plugs” as if it was a simple scoop and dump of seeds into soil. Wrong!

In our first session, we planted exactly 800 seeds into individual pots in a tray. These are called plugs. I stressed that there were exactly 800 because of two facts that line up perfectly:

  1. We planted every single seed that we found that had germinated, so if 801 had germinated, we would have planted 801 plugs
  2. plugs come in trays of 200

So hopefully you can now see why that was so great. No need to start that last pesky tray!

Obviously this was a huge job, and while I certainly planted a lot of the seeds (being on my feet for 5 hours was actually a bit of a relief – I much prefer it to sitting), I also had some help! Kathryn planted about 200 of the seeds in the morning, which was a big help.

We plant again in two days. Will we have more or fewer seeds to plant on that day? Stay tuned in!

A planted tray


Germination – Success!

So it’s been a while since there’s been an update from inside the lab, but that certainly doesn’t mean that nothing’s been happening! Over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve been germinating seeds for the West Central Area Secondary School’s new Environmental Learning Center experimental echinacea plot. And I happy to say that we have many, many seedlings to plant!

Radicals galore!

I wont spoil quite yet what ends up happening to all these lovely emerged seedlings – you’ll have to wait for a future flog post to see that. What I will say is that once these little guys get going, they can really grow! Look for more flog posts in the future tracking these guys all the way out into the field.

I have to add that after spending many months working with number regarding echinacea plants, it’s very exciting to be working with the plants themselves. Especially new baby plants! If all goes according to plan, many of the seeds you see here have a very long (and very well recorded) life ahead of them. You get to say that you’ve seen them on the day they were born (are plant’s born? That’s a question for another day)

Achenes… to seedlings!

Spring is here! The birds have returned and some plants are finally starting to poke up after a (seemingly) very long winter. Of course, you know what that means! It’s time to get planting!

While many people will take this opportunity to begin growing their garden, here at the Echinacea Project we’re taking the opportunity to… well, grow more echinacea!

We’ve taken this opportunity to do a small experiment on the shelf life of echinacea achenes. We’re germinating 54 heads total, exactly half of which are from 2016, and half from 2017. If their germination rates differ, we’ll being to get an understanding of how long these seeds are viable for. If they don’t differ, well then I guess echinacea achenes last a pretty long time.

For right now, the achenes are going to spend two weeks in the refrigerator in low light to simulate their “winter.” I’m sure many people would also enjoy a 2-week, 40 degree winter.

Expect updates on the growth of these seeds in about two weeks when we pull them out of the fridge and they begin to sprout! It will very exciting!

Suzanne giving some water (and a bit plant hormones) to the seeds

Stayed tuned in to the flog this week for some exciting plugs for this weeks Unearth Festival!


2018 Update: West Central Area Experimental Plots

West Central Area School District and grounds are located in west central Minnesota. The high school is located in Barrett, MN which encompasses five small communities (Barrett, Hoffman, Kensington, Elbow Lake, and Wendell) that have united to make one high school. The school was built in 1994 and we are still in the process of restoring our 35 acres of land (Environmental Learning Center – ELC) into native prairie plant species. The ELC has several trails, an observation deck, and a pier that reaches into a small pond. The area has recently begun to be more and more incorporated into several classroom activities. One of the science classes used the ELC in 2018 to sample types of Bombus (bumblebee) species and populations, the agricultural instructor has been using the ELC for soil sampling and classification along with looking at soil profiles. Even the art teacher has had drawing sessions from the observation deck and the English teacher used it for writing exercises. The plan is to utilize the ELC more and more in upcoming years and we have received outstanding support from the school administration, school board, and local businesses in promoting this part of our school. Plans for 2019 are to have 12 plots that 8m x 12m in which four are burned in the spring, 4 are burned in the fall and 4 are not burned at all. As years progress, we plan to have classes engaged in monitoring the progression and health of some native species in these plots, especially Echinacea angustifolia, which will be hand planted in the plots in May of 2019.

Start year: 2019

Location: West Central Area High School

Overlaps with: Nothing… yet!

GPS points shot: 96 points delineating the future plot locations

The location of the field site, near the high school