St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans

Two weekends ago, Alex and I ventured into the heart of downtown to witness the annual dyeing of the Chicago River! I knew of this tradition prior to being in Chicago, so I was excited to witness the event in person!

The origin of the dyeing began in 1955 when Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley took office and began efforts to clean up sewage leaks in the river. A green dye was implemented to determine the source of the waste. Later, Daley proposed using the same dye to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; however, the ambitious mayor wanted to try and dye parts of Lake Michigan green instead of the river! Eventually, Daley was persuaded by friend and business manager of the Chicago Plumbers Union to stick to the river for the holiday festivities. In 1962, Chicago city workers added almost 100 pounds of an oil-based dye to the river, beginning an annual tradition.

With festivities beginning at 10 am, Alex and I arrived early in the city and grabbed some breakfast. We made our way to the river around 9 am, and all the surrounding was packed! Luckily, we found a clear view tucked behind an Apple amphitheater where a presentation about the latest Apple technology was being given prior to the dyeing.

Every year, members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 change the river to a bright, emerald green. These days, the dye used is a top-secret vegetable-based formula supposedly safe for the environment. We were surprised that the dye is actually a bright orangeish red powder! One boat releases the dye while a few other boats navigate the river and mix the dye.

Following the river dyeing is the annual St. Patricks’ Day parade. We saw many kilts, bagpipes, and even a marching band from Minnesota!

After a tiring day of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we stopped to get some deep dish pizza.

The emerald green color only lasts in its brightest state for a few hours. However, I returned to the river this past weekend and hints of green still lingered!

2022 Update: Echinacea hybrids (exPt 6,7,9) and Echinacea pallida flowering phenology

Johanna and Emma decapitating E. pallida (Geena’s photo).

Echinacea pallida flowering: 

Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: 2011. Echinacea pallida is a species of Echinacea that is not native to Minnesota. It was mistakenly introduced to our study area during a restoration of Hegg Lake WMA. Since 2011, Team Echinacea has visited the pallida restoration, taken flowering phenology, and collected demography on the non-native plant. We have decapitated all flowering E. pallida each year to avoid cross-pollination with the local Echinacea angustifolia. Each year, we record the number of heads on each plant and the number of rosettes, collect precise GPS points for each individual, and cut off all the heads before they produce fruits. This year, we cut E. pallida heads off on June 28th. Overall, we found and shot 224 flowering E. pallida plants, and 824 heads in total, averaging 3.7 heads per plant. These non-native plants were hearty with an average rosette count of 8 rosettes and an individual with a maximum of 65 rosettes! We did not take phenology data on E. pallida this year.

You can find more information about E. pallida flowering phenology and previous flog posts on the background page for the experiment.


Location: near exPt8. Start year: Crossing in 2011, planting in 2012Experimental plot 6 was the first E. angustifolia x E. pallida hybrid plot planted by Team Echinacea. A total of 66 Echinacea hybrids were originally planted. All individuals have E. angustifolia dams and E. pallida sires. In 2022, we visited exPt06 on June 27th visited 28 positions and found 18 living plants. No plants have flowered in this plot yet. 

You can find more information about experimental plot 6 and previous flog posts about it on the background page for the experiment.


Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: Crossing in 2012, planting in 2013. Experimental plot 7 is the second E. pallida E. angustifolia plot. It contains conspecific crosses of each species as well as reciprocal hybrids, totaling 294 individuals. This summer, we visited 215 positions, and of these plants, only 119 plants were still alive. When measuring, we put pollen exclusion bags over every flowering head. There were 28 flowering plants this year, which is the most flowering plants in this plot to-date. From these 28 flowering plants, we harvested 28 heads. We have not yet used the pedigree data to see what number of these plants are hybrids or not.

You can find more information about experimental plot 7 and previous flog posts about it on the background page for the experiment.


Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: 2014. Experimental plot 9 is a hybrid plot, but, unlike the other two hybrid plots, we do not have a perfect pedigree of the plants. That is because the E. angustifolia and E. pallida maternal plants used to generate seedlings for exPt9 were open-pollinated. We need to do paternity analysis to find the true hybrid nature of these crosses (assuming there are any hybrids). There were originally 745 seedlings planted in exPt9. We searched at 361 positions and found 247 living plants in 2022. When measuring, we placed pollen exclusion bags over every flowering head. Of these individuals, 49 were flowering. We harvested 109 heads from this plot!

You can find out more information about experimental plot 9 and flog posts mentioning the experiment on the background page for the experiment.

Overlaps with: demographic census in remnants

Data collected for exp679: For all three plots, we collected flowering status, rosette count, leaf length, head count and head height. All measuring data can be found in the cgdata repository (~/cgdata/summer2022/measureGood). Measuring data should be uploaded to SQL database eventually, but it is not currently there for 2022. For experimental plots 7 and 9, we also took phenology data periodically through the summer starting on June 24th and ending on August 5th, which can be found in the cgdata repository (~cgdata/summer2022/p79phenology).

Data collected for E. pallida demography: Demography data, head counts, rosette counts, GPS points shot for each E. pallida. Find demo and surv records aiisummer2022 repository. GPS coordinates can be found in demap.

Allen’s Investiture

Hear ye, hear ye! On December 14th of 2022, members of Achene County celebrated volunteer Allen Wagner for his service. In 2022 alone, Allen has worked over 683 hours and counted over 52,653 achenes thus far. However, Allen has been an essential member of Team Echinacea for many years and has been a volunteer at the Chicago Botanic Gardens for 17 years! The celebration began with an official proclamation from Stuart, our town crier. Allen was given the honorific of “The Count of Achene County”.

No noble is complete without their regal garb. Along with the title of “The Count”, Allen received his black and purple royal mantle and an all-powerful Echinacea scepter. Now everyone in the county will recognize our royal member.

There was quite the crowd for this special coronation! All great celebrations involve some sweet treat, so Alex made a delicious chocolate cake for the occasion. The cake was frosted so when you cut it into slices, the slices looked like achenes!

Allen is just one of the many volunteers who keep this village running. We are so thankful for all their hard work and dedication!

2022 Update: Smoke experiment

Prescribed burns increase the flowering rates of Echinacea angustifolia, but what aspect of fire induces flowering? Researchers have proposed many factors, including light, heat, nutrients, decreased competition, and smoke. Applications of liquid smoke increase germination rates in many plant species, but very few studies have tested the impacts of smoke on flowering. Our smoke experiment investigates whether liquid smoke will increase flowering rates of E. angustifolia. Many members of Team Echinacea have proposed this experiment in previous years, most recently Amy and Scott in 2019. However, this is the first year of installing the experiment in the field.

Applying the smoke treatments to a flowering Echinacea!

On July 29th, Alex and I visited the Hutchings property and recorded demographic data on 100 Echinacea plants that Scott and Amy had mapped in 2019. After further discussing methods and sample size with Jared and Stuart, we revisited the Hutching’s property to find additional plants. On September 20th and 22nd, Alex, Manogya, and I mapped and recorded demographic data for 205 more plants using the GPS.

We applied the first half of the smoke treatments on October 27th and 28th, and you can read more about that trip here. We applied liquid smoke to 110 plants, exactly half basal plants and half flowering plants for a balanced experiment. We used 11 different concentrations of smoke in our applications. We plan on conducting the second half of the experiment with an additional 110 plants in the spring.

  • Start year: 2022
  • Location: Hutchings’ property north of Landfill
  • Overlaps with: Fire and seedling fitness in remnants
  • Data collected: Methods, datasheets, and treatment groups can be found in Dropbox at ~/dropbox/burnRems/smokeExPt1. All smoke demographic data collected in summer of 2022 can be found in the aiisummer2022 repo at ~/aiisummer2022/smokeExpt/smokeExpt2022DemoData.csv. This includes coordinates, flowering status, rosette count, and head count for 305 plants. Demographic data will be collected on the plants once they flower in the summer of 2023. The stake file for smoke plants can be found in Dropbox at ~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2022\stakeFiles2022\stakeSmokePlants.csv
  • Samples or specimens collected: None at the moment
  • Products: None…yet!

Click here to read more about the smoke experiment!

2022 Update: Common garden experiments

Every year since 1996, Team Echinacea members record flowering phenology, taking measuring data and harvest heads of thousands of Echinacea angustifolia plants in common garden experiments. These experimental plots are prairie restorations and abandoned agriculture fields that are managed as grassland habitat. Some plots have multiple ongoing experiments within. Currently, the Echinacea Project currently has 10 established experimental plots.

This project status report will contain updates on experimental plots experimental plots 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8. Reports for the remaining experimental plots can be found on separate posts including Amy Dykstra’s plot (exPt03), the hybrid plots (exPt06, exPt07, exPt09), and the West Central Area common garden (exPt10).

Jo, Emma, Kennedy and Sophia measuring in the picturesque views of exPt02.

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 (the latter two experiments were continued the summer of 2022 and will have separate update posts). In 2022, we visited 7,273 of the original 10,673 positions planted and found 2,985 alive. Only 1,111 plants were classified as “flowering” in exPt01 this year. This is a drastic increase from the mere 79 plants that flowered in summer 2021 – coincidentally, the plot was burned in the spring prior to summer 2022 and not prior to summer 2021. In summer 2022, we harvested 1,588 total Echinacea heads in exPt01. No additional staples were added to the experimental plot this year.

Some numbers for experiments within exPt01

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. All individuals were planted in 2001.We continued to measure fitness and flowering phenology in these plants. In 2022, of the original 557 plants in INB1, 92 were still alive. Of the plants that were alive this year, 40 of them were flowering; this is a drastic difference from summer of 2021 where only one of the plants was flowering.

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”). 1,467 plants in qGen1 were alive in 2022. Of those plants, 592 flowered this summer.

Other plots:

exPt02: To examine the role flowering phenology plays in the reproduction of Echinacea angustifolia, Jennifer Ison planted this plot in 2006 with 3,961 individuals selected for extreme (early or late) flowering timing, or phenology. Using this phenological data, we explore how flowering phenology influences reproductive fitness and estimate the heritability of flowering time in E. angustifolia. In the summer of 2022, we visited 1,856 positions of the 3,961 positions originally planted. We measured 1,438 living plants, of which 651 were flowering, with a total of 1,168 flowering heads. In the fall, we harvested 558 heads from exPt02. We began harvesting on August 10th and completed harvesting on September 12th. The large difference between the number of heads and the number harvested has to do with high levels of seed predation, mainly by ground squirrels. This year, Will, Jennifer, and other members of Team Echinacea published a paper in the American Journal of Botany using data from exPt02 – check it out here! 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 visit 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 2022 we found 11 living plants, four of which were flowering! There were two heads that should’ve been harvested, but Alex and I forgot to harvest them (oops). 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 363 plants were found alive in 2022. There were 14 flowering plants in 2022, and 15 heads. On a side note, 3 additional flowering plants were found in t-plot, but the heads were eaten before we could harvest any of them. Location: Wagenius property

  • Start year: Differs between experiment, see above. First ever experimental plot was in 1996.
  • Location: Differs between experiment, see above.
  • Overlaps with: …everything!
  • Data collected: Raw measuring data can be found in cgData repository. Processed data will be eventually uploaded to SQL database. Currently, SQL database has measuring data up until 2021.
  • Samples or specimens collected: See above for total harvested heads in each plot.
  • Products: Many publications and independent projects.

Smoke Experiment Updates

Last Thursday, a group of us returned to Kensington with the hopes of a successful prescribed burn. While we were up there, Alex and I also implemented the beginning of the smoke experiment. I believe this is the first flog entry solely about the smoke experiment this year, so I will give you a little rundown of what it entails!

We know that Echinacea flowering rates increase after fire, and we also know that smoke can stimulate plant germination. Smoke has been found to increase flowering rates in a few select species (Cyrtanthus ventricosus and Watsonia fourcadei). But, we don’t know if smoke increases flowering rates for Echinacea! We also are unsure what mechanism of fire (increased light, added nutrients, chemicals in smoke) increases flowering in Echinacea. Therefore, we are applying liquid smoke treatments to both basal and flowering Echinacea plants during the fall of 2022 and measuring their reproductive output during the summer of 2023.

Our smoke operation began this summer, by mapping out ~ 300 plants on the Hutchings’ property just north of the landfill. We recorded if the plant was flowering, number of heads and number of rosettes and marked the plant with a flag and a unique three-digit identifier. Throughout the summer, there were many deliberations about the methods and for this pilot study. Before leaving for Minnesota, Alex and I cleared the shelves of distilled water containers from the local Woodman’s, gathered measuring equipment from two other fellow CBG labs (thank you!) and packed up the back of the Silverado. Finally, we were ready to smoke.

We had two roles during our smoke implementation, one being a “mixer”. This person would measure an accurate ratio of smoke to water to reach our desired concentrations. We have 11 smoke concentrations in our experiment: 40%, 20%, 10%, 5%, 2.5%, 1.25%, 0.625%, 0.31%, 0.16%, 0.078% and no smoke. For each plant, we are applying approximately 1 liter of liquid. This became tricky in the field, as the back of our truck was not always level surface and the wind kept trying to steal our graduated cylinders!

The second role was being the “pourer.” Gretel and Jared came out to help us pour, which was greatly appreciated! The pourer would locate the plant that received the desired treatment and pour the liter of liquid on and around the plant within a half meter diameter.

During our trip, we were able to apply smoke treatments to 110 Echinacea plants! We hope to return to Minnesota once more this year to apply another 110 treatments, this time with improved methods and efficiency. On our first day back in Illinois, Alex and I pre-filled ~60 jugs with our desired concentrations, so we are ready to pour once we return. The next question is, how long will our hands smell like Wright’s Hickory?

Stay tuned for more smoke-related updates in the future!

CG Harvest 2022 Summary

Harvesting Echinacea heads in the common garden experiments this fall was quite the adventure! During the last week in June, the crew got a taste of harvesting when decapitating non-native Echinacea pallida at Hegg before they could produce seeds. Lobbing off Echinacea heads with wild abandon was quite the thrill after spending a month conscientiously navigating the common gardens and measuring plants with care. In total, we cut approximately 824 heads off of 224 flowering pallida plants.

The field crew started harvesting heads to be cleaned in exPt02 on August 10th. Our final day of harvesting in exPt02 was September 12th, and during that month we harvested exactly 480 Echinacea heads. Our bountiful harvest in exPt02 was thwarted by the local population of thirteen-lined ground squirrels. Many of this summer’s field team recounts witnessing these rodents ruthlessly rip the head off an Echinacea, look them straight in the eye, and run away. In the end, our 480 heads accounted for only 41% of the heads we planned on harvesting prior to the squirrel shenanigans.

We also harvested heads in some sites with fewer flowering Echinacea. In exPt08, we harvested 8 heads, and there were three flowering plants in t-plot that may have succumbed to the ground squirrels before we could harvest them. In exPt07 and exPt09, we harvested a combined total of 130 heads. The mysterious exPt05, which required a GPS to be found at Staffanson Prairie, had 4 flowering plants with 2 heads that should’ve been harvested, but didn’t (oops!).

The harvest of our largest experimental plot, exPt01, began on Aug 30th. The exPt01 madness did not end until our final four heads were harvested on October 10th by Gretel and Stuart, which is the latest harvest recorded in Echinacea Project history! The grand total for number of heads harvested in exPt01 was a whopping 1,494 heads.

Between all of our common garden experiments, we harvested a total of 2,112 heads!

2022 Measuring P1 Updates!

Last Friday (June 15th), the crew began measuring Echinacea in our largest experimental plot, P1! This plot has 10,673 positions that we visit during the summer, so it is no small task. We had 4 teams measuring for about 3.5 hours and visited about 1,471 positions (13.7% of the entire plot!). Above is a map indicating our progress, with purple representing the segments completed.

Landfill: Our Story (Johanna, Sophia and Lindsey)

First day of the field season! Today we visited Landfill East and West for the first day directed observation! Our first obstacle was entering the landfill gate and attempting to pass a truck leaving the site. Once we were inside the gates, we soon realized why the sites were named Landfill when we were met with a putrid smell. To get to the prairie remnants, we walked (with big strides) through tall grass filled with damselflies along the tree line.

First, we worked on using our visors (tiny personal computers from the 90s) to document our observations.

Next, we drew out a basic map of the site! We included the two sites, the fence line, the tree line, the many rocks, and more. We also noted examples of cool-season grasses (like brome and poa), legumes (like leadplant), and forbs (like milkweed). We also tried to look for some warm-season grasses, but found it difficult at this point in the season.

We compared both sites and noted the differences between Landfill East and West. One notable difference is that Landfill West was recently burned! Johanna also demonstrated proper walking technique through the prairie.

On our way out, we stopped to say hi to some cow friends! Then, we returned to the Hjelm house to write our flog post to conclude our first day on Team Echinacea. Woo!

Lindsey Paulson

Echinacea Project 2022

Biology and Geography with GIS Major, Gustavus Adolphus College Class of 2022

Research Interests

My interests are broadly within conservation, plant ecology and entomology, but I am most fascinated with questions about pollination and plant-insect interactions! I am excited to learn more about the impacts of fire on different plant species and to spend time out in the prairie this summer!


I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota though I’ve spent the last four years in the small town of St. Peter, Minnesota. In my spare time I like to run long distances, read, paint (mostly watercolors!), bake cookies, spend time with friends, and do just about any activity outdoors!

Here’s a photo of me with a nasty sunburn in front of the blooming crab apple trees on graduation day!