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!




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