2022 Update: Pollen addition and exclusion

Reproduction in plants can be limited by access to pollen and resources. We previously found that Echinacea plants in the remnants are pollen limited, meaning that if they had access to more pollen, they would produce more seeds. However, the long-term effects of pollen limitation are unknown. Do plants that are super pollen saturated and have high amounts of pollen have a higher lifetime fitness than plants that are pollen limited? Also, we know that the plants in the remnants are pollen limited, but are the plants in the common garden environment also pollen limited? To answer these questions and more, 10 years ago Gretel randomly selected 38 plants from experimental plot 1; half of these plants were randomly assigned to the pollen addition group, and the others were assigned to pollen exclusion. Every year, plants in the pollen exclusion have their heads bagged and they are not pollinated, while we hand cross every style in the pollen addition group (See photos for reference).

In the summer of 2022, 24 of the original 38 plants were found to be living. 6 plants of the addition group were flowering with a total of 17 heads. They received hand pollination throughout their flowering time. 6 plants of the exclusion group were flowering and they received pollinator exclusion bags to remain un-pollinated during their flowering time.

  • Start year: 2012
  • Location: exPt 1
  • Specimens collected: 64 heads were harvested from the addition, exclusion and control group in the 2022 field season.
  • Data collected: Plant survival and measurements were recorded as part of our annual surveys in P1 and eventually will be found in the R package EchinaceaLab. Data sheets were scanned and entered and can be found here: “~/Dropbox/CGData/115_pollenLimitation/pollenLimitation2022”

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.

Navigating the Alexandria Farmers Market

Geena, Mia and I visited the Alexandria farmers market this Saturday. They operate 3 days a week, Saturday & Tuesdays morning, and Thursday evening. There were many produce stands and some arts and crafts stands as well. I walked past a pottery booth and was drawn to this little trinket (photo 1). I have been searching for some minnesotan merch since I’ve arrived, now I found the perfect memento. We got yummy donuts at the farmers market and devoured half a dozen instantly. Our last stop was the food truck with strawberries. Mia bought 3 whole quarts of strawberries! I wonder what she will be making with them 😋 

After the farmers market we stopped by goodwill and got some unexpected finds. Here is a pic of our thrift haul, Mia found the one true pair of overalls, Geena found a pair of perfect fitting cameo pants (unfortunately not pictured) and I found a set of old lady formal wear.

A Feature: Mad Aphids

Did you know that Echinacea angustifolia has a unique specialist aphid called Aphis echinaceae? These aphids are tiny green insects that suck carbohydrates out of the stems and leaves of echinacea. If you are lucky, you can spot them congregating on the underside of leaves, stem, or under the heads of echinacea plants. Pay more attention and you will see busy ants running up and down the plants. We have observed that ants farm and tend to these aphids in order to consume their sugary secretions. Ants and aphids maintain a symbiotic relationship. However, the range of effects that aphid habitation has on echinacea is uncertain.

Recently, I’ve noticed many echinacea plants with Aphis echinaceae at a field site with sandy soil. I wondered if aphids are more present on those particular echinacea plants because sandy soil might be more favorable for ants. I hypothesize that aphid presence on E. angustifolia increases when E. angustifolia grows in favorable conditions for ants. Could echinacea plants in sandy soil provide aphids closer access to be farmed by ants? Many intreiguting questions on the interactions between echinacea, aphids and ants have yet to been uncovered. Stay tuned for our aphid exclusion project this summer, investigating the effects of aphids on echinacea. 

Ultimate Pictionary

Andes Crew decided to stay in after a wild night of street dancing on K-Town Friday night. Mia and Lindsey representing Elk Lake house competed in the pictionary tournament against the Andes Crew, Sophia, Geena and Johanna. Andes won, however the competition was neck and neck. Check out some of our fan favorite and winning art pieces includes, canary, buffalo, foul line, Marx brothers, paper back, parade. See if you can guess from the pictures! Stay tuned and join the next pictionary tournament hosted by yours truly, Andes Ski Hill and Friends. 

Sophia Chen

Echinacea Project 2022

Biology and Environmental Studies, Lake Forest College 2023

Research Interests

I am interested in learning whatever grabs my curiosity! This includes, biology(from molecular biology to conservation ecology), neuroscience, philosophy, statistics… I live to understand how the world around us works and hope to discover its secrets.


I come from the Chicagoland area and have mostly lived in big cities. I am excited to experience summer in rural Minnesota. My goals for the summer are to identify native plants, forage for food and be vegan!

Lastly, here is a photo of me in a forest preserve in Peoria IL.

Lilium Project Update

         The lilium project is almost wrapping up as I am approaching the end of my semester long internship. I am almost finished with processing my seed data. All the scans and x-rays of lilium ovules have been done. The only steps left are to finish counting and classifying the ovules. Counting is done to quantify the total number of ovules in the each lilium pod. Classifying is using the x-ray image to determine the number of fertilized ovules in each pod. Once I have the data for the total and full counts of each lilium pod, I will be able to obtain the seed set for each individual lilium philadelphicum. Then, I will analyze the relationship between variation in seed set and proximity in nearest neighboring plants. Jared showed me the FNN package in R which, like its name, will find the nearest neighbor between x and y coordinates. The knn.dist function is a handy tool that allows you to compare distances of a point and its nth neighbors. In order to further analyze the data, my first step is to conduct data management and organize the different variables into a data frame. This process is very useful for researchers that use R for data analysis and data visualization. Next week, I will have a data frame that includes the information necessary for the analysis and visualization of the lilium data. 

Orchids Untamed:

Here is a recap of the Orchid Show if you missed it this year! The annual orchid show at the Chicago Botanic Garden displays a wide collection of orchids. This event celebrates the beginning of spring with the unique and vibrant colors that orchids have to offer. After hearing great reviews from friends that visited the exhibition, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to be mesmerized by orchids myself. Roaming through rooms filled with orchids was a magical experience. Your environment is transformed into a tropical paradise of thousands of blooming orchids. Some of them hang from the ceiling and others grow from patches of moss positioned on a man made tree. Every turn of the corner and you will see a unique combination of colors. The variation amongst different species is incredible. One of my favorites reminded me of a sunset, she had the perfect gradient of yellow, peach and pink. I was surprised to find an orchid that happen to match my hair color, which is an aqua mint green. The beauty of orchids will truly take your breath away. The orchids had my undivided attention and I enjoyed spending time to appreciate their beauty. Sometimes we all need an afternoon to look at nothing but pretty flowers 😉 If you missed the orchid show this time, be sure to come back next year for a mesmerizing experience!

Week 7: X-ray Time

This week I continued to make progress on cleaning and scanning for the lilium project (Figure 2). All the pods have been cleaned and we have established a scanning protocol for lilium pods. These protocols allow for others to replicate our methods in future projects with lilies.

Jared and I conducted a couple trials with x-raying the lilium seeds. We will experiment with adjusting the settings on the x-ray and after effects for the images. Further experimentation is necessary to generate high quality x-ray scans in order to classify the seeds. In the x-ray images, the seeds that contain fertilized embryos will appear bright white (Figure 1). We use this to classify which seeds contain fertilized embryos and which ones are empty. The contrast of appearance in the x-ray is due to the increase in density of the fertilized embryos.

Week 6: Scanning Wood Lily

This week I was able to clearly define the research question for the L. philadelphicum project. My research question is focused on investigating pollination and reproduction success in wood lily. Specifically, does seed set increase with the proximity of neighboring flowers. If lilies have closer proximity to neighboring flowers, then the proportion of fertilized seeds will increase as well. We will be able to test our hypothesis with the collected seed data and recorded GPS location of each individual plant. Additionally, I made progress on cleaning lilium seeds and started writing the scanning protocol. We found that using an ionizing bar will help prevent static which causes the seeds to be difficult to handle (See Fig 1). 

Furthermore, I was able to create a graph representing the progress of the lilium project with the help of Alex (Fig 3). Similarly, to echinacea, the lilium project will also go through the main steps of cleaning, scanning, counting and x-raying. This graph allows us to visualize the progress being made in the ACE protocol for L. philadelphicum. Stay tuned for next week while we experiment with methods in counting and x-raying lilium seeds!

Week 3: All About Wood Lily

This week, I have decided on my independent project for the rest of my internship! I will be working with Lilium philadelphicum, wood lily and investigating questions surrounding its pollination and reproduction. I felt more informed on the past research by the Echinacea Project after hearing presentations from Stuart and Jared. Jared further taught me the benefits of fire on prairie ecosystems. Prairie plants are fire dependent and thrive after burns. This is due to the natural landscape and indigenous traditions. It was very interesting to learn about the natural history of our region and how plants grew before impacts of modernization. Results from past research in the lab has shown benefits from prescribed burns on the reproduction of echinacea. This applied conservation method could potentially benefit other fire dependent prairie plants as well! I hope to observe patterns and variation of pollination success in L. philadelphicum. I am currently developing a hypothesis for this project. Later on I will analyze the data set collected by Jared over the summer. 

We have already completed inventory of the data set and started on the cleaning process of L. philadelphicum. The fruits of L. philadelphicum can be seen in the picture below. It contains many seeds, some of which are large and dark, others small and lighter in color. We hope to find interesting information through the variation of these seeds. Stay tuned for next week, as I will be working on developing the protocol for cleaning, scanning and counting these seeds.