2019 Update: Pollen addition and exclusion

Supplemental pollen — pollen that an Echinacea head might not otherwise receive—could increase a plant’s fitness. But does this extra pollination lead to a tradeoff in survival or flowering consistency? Since 2012, we have been manipulating the amount of pollen Echinacea plants receive – either no pollen, or lots of pollen – and recording how this affects their fitness and survival. In 2012 and 2013 we identified flowering E. angustifolia plants in experimental plot 1 and randomly assigned one of two treatments to each: pollen addition or pollen exclusion. The team bagged the heads of all plants and hand-pollinated the addition treatment, and did not manipulate the exclusion plants further. Plants receive the same treatment across years.

In summer 2018, 14 of the 26 plants alive in the pollen addition and exclusion experiment flowered, producing a total of 25 heads. This year none of those plants flowered. Of the original 38 plants in this experiment, 12 of the exclusion plants and 14 of the pollen addition plants are still alive. No plants died between 2018 and 2019. This year’s data were unique among the eight years of data collected, because not a single plant in the experiment produced even a single head. The dramatic decrease in flowering rates this year may help or hinder us in analyzing this data set and providing answers to this eight-year question.

Tris did not find significant demographic differences between plants which received pollen exclusion, addition or open pollination treatments.

Start year: 2012

Location: exPt1

Physical specimens: We harvested no specimens this year

Data collected: Plants survival and measurements were recorded as part of our annual surveys in P1 and can be found with the rest of the P1 data in the R package EchinaceaLab.

Michael presented a poster on the polLim experiment at MEEC 2019, which you can find here

Tris also presented a poster on polLim at MEEC 2019, which you can find here

You can find more information about the pollen addition and exclusion experiment and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for the experiment.

Moving out

Well flog, this will probably be my last post for a while. Today I am leaving Town Hall and heading back to New England to begin prep for my PhD research at University of Connecticut. My tenure as lab intern I believe officially ended on Friday, but in many more important I ways, I doubt it will really be over any time soon.

Or I could just let Erin figure out demap entirely on her own…

This is the third time in less than a month I’ve packed up and moved everything I own, and everything that I own (thankfully) is getting smaller each time I move. I’m going to be moving at least two more times in the next month so I’ve gotta keep it small!

Before I left, I presented Team Echinacea with a parade of very crummy presents, including some tea, popcorn, a couple of books, and some tasty, tasty Tide pods. See the happy looks on their faces?

Town Hall on a Sunday… looks a lot like Town Hall on a Saturday

Things with the team proceed as normal, we’ll make an expedition to Alexandria later to day to drop me off, and to pick up some much need supplies (dinner has been, how to put it, “scrapped together” the last couple of nights).

I’m very excited to keep reading the flog this summer and keep up with the adventures of Team Echinacea 2019. Go team! Finish that puzzle!


Julie finishes the sky on our prairie puzzle

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!


Demo… in June??

Another exciting field season kicks off with… demo? That’s right! We’re starting demo as soon as possible so that way Erin is an expert on it ASAP. So, logically, we started off at all environmentalists favorite hotspot – the golf course.

Now, the golf course, as you might know, is no longer operational. Additionally, there are some lovely prairie natives nearby including gallium, prairie rose, and, of course, echinacea.

The day was full of new things and surprises. This was Drake and Erin’s first go at demo, and they both crushed it. Additionally, we found a caterpillar on an echinacea leaf chewing away in a way that we have never seen before (see picture below).

Ultimately, the day was completely successful, as almost all plants were still alive, and three of them were flowering! Hopefully with new demo masters Erin and Drake, we will find all the flowering echinacea in our plots. Until next time flog!

A butterfly on Erin’s leg. Is it a Dakota Skipper (maybe, reach out if you know)
A caterpillar and his home. Look at all that frass! (that means, uhhh, scat)
Erin, Amy, and Drake crushing some PBORY

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


Michael LaScaleia

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology and Environmental Studies, Tufts 2018

Starting a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn in August 2019

Research Interests

My research interests are, like most researchers at this stage, all over the place, but in general I love anything that has to do with plants, insects, and landscapes. I’m a big fan of studying communities: not just one plant or insects, but all the plants or insects that are in a certain space. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t have research interests that also go into soil, leaf chemistry, birds, mammals, and hydrology. I guess I just like nature?


Hello again flog! I know I write here about 1-2 times a week, but I thought it necessary that I should write a new intro for a new summer field season. I’m wrapping up my year here as the Echinacea Project’s intern at the Botanic Garden with a return to the summer field crew. I’m very excited to get out and work with the plants again! In my spare time, I like to hike, run, read fantasy, and play video games (hey Riley, wanna Pokemon battle?)

It’s -5 F in this picture


Recap of past year & summer 2018 field season

It’s time to recap everything that’s been going on with the Echinacea Project for the last 12(ish) months – and trust me, it’s a lot! We report all of this info annually to our two major grant providers, CBG & UMN. This includes all of our lab and field activity.

Last spring the lab was busy as always. Led by Tracie, volunteer citizen scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden finished cleaning heads harvested in summer 2016 and began cleaning heads harvested in 2017. These volunteers clean heads to remove all the achenes, which are then counted to give us an accurate metric of echinacea plant fitness. There were a lot of heads from 2017, and volunteers continued to clean them through the summer

A bunch of undergraduate students have worked on projects in the lab this past year, including Emily, Emma, Leah, Julie (joining Team Echinacea 2019!), Tris, Sarah, and Evan. It’s always great to have undergrads in the lab – they learn a lot from us, and we learn a lot from them! Of course, graduate students were hard at work as well. Lea not only analyzed her data regarding seed set in Liatris and Solidago, but also set up a whole new experimental plot in California. Kristen, along with volunteer Mike Humphrey, is making a collection from the hundreds of bees she caught this summer in her yellow pan traps and emergence tents.

[STUART – add something here about papers that have been written/ are currently being reviewed by journals?]

Now on to the big part of this report – our super-productive 2018 field season! The 2018 summer team (pictured) included three undergraduate students from Minnesota Colleges (Andy, Brigid, and Riley),  three undergraduates in the Ison Lab at the College of Wooster (Evan, Mia, and Zeke), two high-school students (Anna and Morgan), one high-school teacher (John), one graduate student (Kristen), two recent college grads (Michael and Will), and, of course, Stuart. Gretel and Amy also came to the field intermittently throughout the summer.

We summarized the progress we made on many summer projects this past year and made flog posts about the ones where considerable new progress was made. You’ll notice this part may look remarkably similar to previous years – we’ve been conducting many of these experiments for many years!

As always, we measured survival, growth, phenology, and flowering effort of our model plant, Echinacea angustifolia, in several experimental plots. The earliest was established in 1996 and the most recent in 2015. For many of these experiments it was business as usual, and if you’re interested in learning more about them we’ve linked to their background pages below. We spent quite a bit of time measuring plants in the qGen2 & qGen3 plot (exPt 8), and while many of the plants are doing well, we had almost 50% mortality from 2017 to now. In Amy Dykstra’s experiments, we continued to monitor plant survival and growth. While mortality is low, there are still no flowering plants!

Otherwise, here are new 2018 update flog posts about new data in the experiments that take place in our common garden experiments. Michael is currently working on a manuscript about the effects of pollen limitation in echinacea:

In addition to out common gardens, we make observations of Echinacea plants in natural prairie remnants in our study area. These observations include flowering phenology, survival, reproduction, and incidence of disease. Amy is currently investigating remnant flowering phenology for her PhD.

Echinacea angustifolia interacts with and shares space with many plant and insect species. Here are updates and flog posts about projects on species that are echinacea-adjacent. Kristen is using the data collected about pollinators on roadsides and ground nesting bees for her Master’s thesis.  Andy found this year that aphids have virtually no effect on the fitness of echinacea plants. While no one this year is specifically looking at Hesperostipa, its worth noting that we did go out and check! We found only a few seeds, but collected them anyway.

Also, we have some new projects that don’t necessarily fit into any of the above categories. Here are updates of their projects.

And finally, we are worried about non-native Echinacea plants that are used in restorations and how they impact populations of the native Echinacea angustifolia. We have several ongoing experiments that investigate a population of Echinacea pallida introduced within our study area. Riley used the plants in P7 to gather data for his senior thesis at Gustavus Adolphus College.

Team Echinacea 2018 at exPt2. From left to right: Gretel, Amy, Will, Evan, Morgan, Zeke, Mia, John, Anna, Kristen, Andy, Brigid, Riley, Michael (Stuart took the photo)


There’s a few general facts that we state when orienting people to the anatomy of an Echinacea. To list a few:

1.) An echinacea head is not a flower, but in fact a composite of many florets, each of which have the full anatomy of a miniature “flower”

2.) Each floret produces an achene, regardless of whether or not it is pollinated.

3.) Each achene may be empty, or may contain exactly one seed.

Now, the medically inclined or Latin-speaking flog readers may see where I’m going with this based off of the title. What if I told you that, as of today, we know that one of these three facts is no longer absolute?

For the first time ever, we have found an achene that contains two seeds.


Normally, we xray achenes to see whether or not the have seeds in them. In this xray, all achenes pictured have seeds in them except the one in the bottom right which has, well, two! This exciting new discovery will shake the world of plant science.

(Also, to put this in consumer terms, imagine breaking open a sunflower seed shell, and two seeds pop out!)

Hopefully we’ll have more earth-shattering discoveries to share soon! For future reference: this is letno DT-6858 from 2013



2018 update: Phenology in the remnants

In 2018, we collected data on the timing of flowering in 333 individual plants growing in our naturally occurring prairie remnants: 119 plants at Staffanson Preserve and 214 at others remnants. Flowering began on June 20th – four days earlier than last year. The last date of flowering was on August 9th – the latest bloomer was a roadside plant that had been mowed early in the season but put up another stem later in the season. Peak flowering for the remnants we observed in 2018 was on July 9th, which again was 4 days earlier than 2017. That day there were 257 individuals flowering. The figure below was generated with R package mateable, which was was developed by Team Echinacea to visualize and analyze phenology data.

From 2014-2016, determining flowering phenology was a major focus of the summer fieldwork, with Team Echinacea tracking phenology in all plants in all of our remnant populations. Stuart began studying phenology in remnant populations in 1996, but he didn’t know that keeping track of the dates was called “phenology.” In following years, several students & interns also studied phenology in certain populations. The motivation behind this study is to understand how timing of flowering affects the reproductive opportunities and fitness of individuals in natural populations.

Start year: 1996

Location: roadsides, railroad rights of way, and nature preserves in and near Solem Township, MN

Overlaps with: Phenology in experimental plots, demography in the remnants, reproductive fitness in remnants

Physical specimens:

  • Amy Waananen harvested some heads in fall 2018 and is germinating seeds right now at the U of MN. She is keeping track of which plant (mom) each seedling came from. She aims to use DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify the pollen donor (dad) of each seedling to get a sense of how far pollen moves in fragmented prairie habitat.

Data collected: We identify each plant with a numbered tag affixed to the base and give each head a colored twist tie, so that each head has a unique tag/twist-tie combination, or “head ID”, under which we store all phenology data. We monitor the flowering status of all flowering plants in the remnants, visiting at least once every three days (usually every two days) until all heads were done flowering to obtain start and end dates of flowering. We managed the data in the R project ‘aiisummer2018′ and will add it to the database of previous years’ remnant phenology records. Ask Amy Waananen for more specific data regarding phenology in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

GPS points shot: We shot GPS points at all of the plants we monitored. The locations of plants this year will be aligned with previously recorded locations, and each will be given a unique identifier (‘AKA’). We will link this year’s phenology and survey records via the headID to AKA table. Ask Amy Waananen for more specific data regarding phenology in the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

You can find more information about phenology in the remnants and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for the experiment.

2018 update: Echinacea pallida flowering phenology

A pallida head. Notice the white pollen, which is the only 100% sure way you can be sure a head is pallida and not angustifolia

Echinacea pallida is an Echinacea species that is not native to Minnesota, but instead ranges East of the range of E angustifolia (and SE of our research site). In the summer of 2018, we identified 96 flowering E. pallida plants with over 200 heads that were planted in a restoration at Hegg Lake WMA. Every year for the past several years, we have visited the E. pallida plants, taken phenology data, and chopped off their heads. We do this to prevent E. pallida from being a bad pollen source or sink for native E. angustifolia populations. We were able to do this early this year, as E. pallida flowers significantly earlier than E. angustifolia.

We went back to check if we missed any heads on in September and found 3. They were done flowering, but hadn’t dropped seeds. We collected those heads, and they are currently stored at CBG. We hope that we might be able to germinate them for tissue. We want to analyze the ploidy of pallida compared to angustifolia. We have sneaking suspicions that pallida may be tetraploid where angustifolia is diploid.

Start year: 2011

Location: Hegg Lake Wildlife Management Area restoration

Overlaps with: Echinacea hybrids (exPt6, exPt7, exPt9),  flowering phenology in remnants

Physical specimens: 200+ heads were cut from E. pallida plants and removed then composted. We brought three heads back with us to Chicago Botanic Garden.

Data collected: All pallida data is in demap

GPS points shot: We shot points for all flowering E. pallida plants.

Products: In Fall 2013, Aaron and Grace, externs from Carleton College, investigated hybridization potential by analyzing the phenology and seed set of Echinacea pallida and neighboring Echinacea angustifolia that Dayvis collected in summer 2013. They wrote a report of their study. Pallida counts are being somewhat incorporated into demap.

Previous team members who have worked on this project include: Nicholas Goldsmith (2011), Shona Sanford-Long (2012), Dayvis Blasini (2013), and Cam Shorb (2014)

You can find more information about Echinacea pallida flowering phenology and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for the experiment.