Flog Post

Hello Flog-beasts! We’ve been busy here at the Echinacea project. This Tuesday we finished measuring P1, which was the final big hurdle in our quest to finish measuring. That’s right: we’ve now visited every position in our experimental plots at which we’ve found a plant in the last three years! Very exciting.

The other two big tasks we’re working on finishing is finding Liatris and harvesting Echinacea heads. We’re making great progress on both! Every few days we revisit Echinacea in our plots and in the remnants to see if they’re ready to harvest. Once we harvest the heads, we put them into an H-bag which goes into a G-bag which goes in the seed drier which goes in G-3. That reminds me of a certain song about a bog…

This summer there’s been an unprecedented amount of Liatris flowering, so it’s been a huge task to map it all. We’ve had to put in transects at certain plots because there’s just too many to surv!

Spiral staircase Liatrus!

One other thing we’ve been spending a lot of time doing is total demography. This is when we use the GPS to revisit every location where there’s been a flowering plant in the past. When we find flowering plants we also surv(ey) them. Geena, Daytona, and I had lots of fun at Hegg Lake today surving plants…and also serving looks!!

One thing we are all about at the Echinacea project is innovation. Which is why I am happy to share some cutting-edge creativity Geena demonstrated today by using a Capri Sun straw as a Visor stylus:

It works!

See you next time, flog-fanatics!

Mid-week Shenanigans Update

Hello all you flog-readers! We’ve had quite a fun week at the Echinacea Project, and it’s only Thursday!

This past Tuesday, we had the team social at Hjelm. The highlights of the dinner were fresh corn on the cob and S’mores- thanks, Stuart! We also finally got to see the fruits of our tree-hauling labor as we (Jared) ignited one of the bonfire piles (which we stacked less than 20 feet tall, as per regulation).

The team has spent a lot of time this week measuring P1, our nearest and dearest plot. We are definitely making progress! My favorite pastime during P1 measuring is catching grasshoppers and katydids, and unleashing them on other team members. We also got some help measuring today from Team Echinacea alum Riley and our favorite recurring guest star Ruth!

P1 resident biting me so bad.

One great interpersonal disagreement we must overcome at Team Echinacea is differences in opinions on field clothes. Some people are never seen outside without their wide-brimmed hat with sun flaps. A few prefer long sleeves and long pants for sun protection to avoid cuts from grass. Many enjoy t-shirts and long pants. Some even wear shorts (as I did, once, but was quickly deterred). However, I truly believe this may be a first for Team Echinacea: Geena braved P1 with no shoes! “Socks are just enough protection for me,” she told us.

Geena goes primal.

On a more bittersweet note, our beloved team member Kennedy had her second-to-last day of work today. This was Kennedy’s second summer with the team, and we loved hearing her talk about aphids, dust, goats, and her cow Ollie. Alex baked a delicious cake to commemorate Kennedy’s leaving. Thanks Kennedy for being such an awesome, sweet, kind, and funny person to work with this summer! We wish you the best of luck in South Dakota 🙂

The Asclepias Project

Here at the Echinacea Project, we have decided that we have more than enough data to answer all of our questions about Echinacea. Echinacea angustifolia is yesterday’s news. We have therefore decided to become the Asclepias project! 

Asclepias viridflora (green milkweed) is similar to angustifolia in that both are self-incompatible perennial forbs native to Minnesota’s tall-grass prairie. Not much is known about viridiflora, including how it reacts to fire. Does fire promote survival, population growth, and reproduction in Asclepias viridiflora, as it does in Echinacea? If it does, that would bolster our assumption that Echinacea is a good model organism for prairie research. It would also provide vital data on the effects of prescribed burns.

For these reasons, we are tracking green milkweed vitality in prairie remnants. Some of the sites we are looking at were burned in the fall or spring, while others have never burned. Last year, 71 green milkweeds were found across 8 remnants. This year we revisited the locations of those 71 plants, most of which were still there. The team also found 41 new plants. All together we’ve found over 80 live plants!! 

Milkweed has clusters of flowers called umbels. At this point in the summer, most green milkweed umbels have senesced and fallen off, and pods are forming. We will revisit and count these pods later in the season. The data we are collecting includes status (present or not); umbel, pod, and stem count; and leaf width. 

Nice big Milkweed pod.

As the only team member without a car, I’ve really appreciated rides from Daytona and Joey out to the remnants. I couldn’t ask for better partners to help me find and stake/survey milkweed.

Daytona ponders Asclepias (and life) at Hegg.
Joey bears the cross at Staffanson.

Daytona, Joey, and I (Johanna) have also been taking turns naming all the new milkweed plants we’ve come across. Here is a comprehensive list: 

Tedward “Teddy”

Mary Jane


Spronkle Axil


Mark Watney

Björn Ironsight


Barbra Lou

Turtle “Turty”


Sammy Simmons

Ilina Anna

Lightning McQueen from Cars 1, 2, and 3

Masterchief from Fortnite

Markiplier “Marky Moo”

Mathilda Ulrike “Math-u”


Dr. Bared Jeck

Chairman Mao

Archie from Riverdale

Brigham Young

Italian Car from “Cars”

Sam Winchester

Henry Kissingmen

Ted Krazinsky (Unabomber)


Tony Hawk, Pro Sk8er


Neutral Radiator Beach House


Not to play favorites, but…Tedward is my favorite.

Stay tuned for more Asclepias updates later this summer!

Fenology Phriday

TGIF! You all know what Friday means: Phenology! The team headed out this morning to check the progress of our flowering remnant plants. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in East Landfill seeing all the funky diseased heads, although it does make counting rows of anthers and styles difficult when they are all scrambled. After mutant heads, my second favorite thing about Landfill is the robber flies, although I’ve been warned many times not to anger them.

In the second half of the day, most of the team headed to our experimental plot 8 to find and measure plants. This plot is just down the road from our headquarters at Hjelm house. The plants in this plot are starting from seed instead of seedlings, so it was a different process to find them. We had to search in the duff for nails each meter, then measure to find different-colored toothpicks or cocktail swords.

We finished the day with watermelon. What a good end to the week! All of us at Team Echinacea hope you have a better weekend than this horse fly being eaten by a crab spider does:



Thursday: Guests and Projects

Today we had visitors from University of Minnesota Morris! They heard some of our ABT’s and went on a field trip to see Team Echinacea’s experimental plots. They also befriended the goats and fed them apple cores. We had a lot of fun meeting them!

Remember to drink lots of water~

In the morning, we continued demo and surv. New plants keep appearing in the remnants! Where are they coming from??

In the afternoon we had project time, where we worked on our proposals. Everyone is looking forward to starting their projects soon.

Lindsey hard at work on her proposal.

Since we weren’t very active in the afternoon, Geena had a lot of pent up energy once we got home. We had take her outside to play so she would stop jumping in place while we were cooking.

Geena and Joey playing frisbee.

Looking forward to phenology tomorrow!

Magical Monday: cool sightings and fun measuring

Happy Monday! We found out this morning that some of our echinacea plants in the remnants had a great weekend: they started flowering! This means they have developed male styles and started to produce pollen.

Today the team continued demo and surv in the morning. We are making steady progress and are continuing to check off completed sites on our list. Several sites have flowers that flowered today or yesterday. Emma and I saw one echinacea that was the designated party spot: 6 stink bugs were hanging on to the head!

The party bus.

In the afternoon, most of the team headed to P7 and P9 to measure. This was lots of fun because the plants there are much larger than any we have measured before!

Mia showing us how to measure a flowering plant.

There were a lot of cool things to see at these plots. We saw a bobolink (in his backwards tuxedo) on a date with his bobolink girlfriend (fun fact: bobolinks are polygamous-multiple wives- and polyandrous- multiple husbands) We also saw a couple of mutant flower heads:

Sideways head…where is he looking?

And lots of cool bugs:

Red Milkweed Beetle mid-flight.
Small White Grass-veneer: a moth with a snout.

Johanna Steensma

Me and an American Toad

Echinacea Project 2022

Environmental Science major, Skidmore ’24

Research Interests

I am interested in studying Echinacea angustifolia (that’s why I’m here!). I also love insects and pollinators and plant-insect relationships. I am especially fond of milkweed. I want to learn more about doing science and also GIS.


I was born in Rochester, MN, but currently reside part time in Lincoln, Massachusetts and attend college in Saratoga Springs, NY. In my free time I like to catch frogs, toads, and snakes. I like to go swimming but I’m afraid of sea monsters. I also like to read, especially comic books, but occasionally real books.

Morning Float

Andes crew (Johanna, Geena, and Sophia) and Elk Lake house (Lindsey and Mia) headed out at 9am this Sunday morning to beat the heat by tubing down Long Prairie River. A balmy 99 degree Fahrenheit was the high for the day, but we kept it cool in the water. Our 2 mile lazy-river ride clocked in at an average speed of 1.7 mph, and on the way we saw red-winged blackbirds, dragonflies, fish (both dead and alive), dogs, and sea monsters.