red flag

Red flag warning for our study area and much of Minnesota. What does this portend for the prescribed burning season?

florets and the Fibonacci series

In the lab today we were talking about Fibonacci numbers. Somehow these numbers (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) relate to Echinacea flowerheads. The number of ray florets (aka “petals”) on ab Echinacea head are often Finbonacci numbers, like 13 & 21, but they are often not those numbers. This Wikipedia page describes the relationship between Fibonacci series and florets on flowerheads.

Here are some images of Echinacea heads from the summer (top views). Do you see any interesting patterns?

Top view of head of Echinacea angustifolia. How may ray florets? Click image to enlarge to see pattern of disk florets.
Head of Echinacea angustifolia with two bees
Head of Echinacea angustifolia with two bees
Two heads of Echinacea pallida
Two heads of Echinacea pallida. This species is not native to Minnesota, but it was planted by accident in a prairie restoration in our study area
beetle on head of Echinacea angustifolia
beetle on head of Echinacea angustifolia

Is Minnesota getting shorter?

as asserted in Munroe (2023)?

This is going to be the main agenda item for team Echinacea meeting until the snow melts.

  • Is Minnesota getting
    • thinner?
    • narrower?
    • skinnier?
    • shorter?
  • Will we need to gps every single Echinacea plant again?
    • do we need to do demo too?
    • Maybe instead of annually, we can re-map each plant once per decade
  • Do Echinacea plants feel the squeeze?
    • Does the squishiness make Echinacea happy?
  • Are ground-nesting bee nests getting deeper?
  • Why don’t we have any snow?

Io Harris

Echinacea Project 2023

Prospective biology/anthropology double major, Carleton College, 2026

Pronouns: she/her

Research Interests

I am an aspiring botanist.  I am specifically interested in ethnobotany/economic botany.


I am from Newton Grove, NC.  In my spare time I like to read, listen to sad music, cook, and try/make new hot sauces


During my Fall ’23 externship, I processed wmSP and wmS0 heads to be used for Wyatt Mosiman‘s thesis.  I used the resulting reproductive data from said heads with the corresponding plant measure data to assess the relationship between cumulative vegetative effort over 5 years (2018-2022) and reproductive effort and success in 2023.  The path to my materials is: ~/Dropbox/ccExterns2023/ioHarris

Conlan Ramirez

Echinacea Project 2023

Undeclared, Carleton College, 2026

Pronouns: He/him

Research Interests

I want to study biology and learn more about plant science.


I am from Houston, Texas.

In my spare time I like to play the trumpet and play games.

Echinacea Research Project


The goal of my externship was a research project about Echinacea where I asked two questions and then conducted a study. The first question is does having taller head height increase pollination rates by insects in Echinacea. My second question is does having more heads increase or decrease pollination by insects in Echinacea.


Echinacea is insect-pollinated mainly by bees and other studies I found have shown that in plants like C. behrii and V. thapsus taller heads are more likely to be pollinated because they are more visible to pollinators. Since we don’t know if head height plays a similar role in Echinacea I am conducting this study to see if there is any correlation between head height and pollination rates in Echinacea.

Another study I found saw more heads leading to greater pollination rates. However, Echinacea is self-incompatible, meaning it can not pollinate itself, unlike the plants in that study so its possible that if an insect stays at a single Echinacea plant with more heads instead of moving on to other plants it could actually hurt its pollination rate. This led me to my second research question to determine if there is a correlation between number of heads and pollination rates in echinacea.


I used data from a sample of about 229 heads that were put through a data collection process aimed at separated and analyzing the achenes in Echinacea heads. Achenes are the fruit that contain seeds in Echinacea heads so by analyzing if they contain seeds or not we can gather pollination data for this experiment. In the first step of the process we cleaned the heads for achenes. Then we rechecked our first count for accuracy and scanned the achenes into the computer for counting. Lastly, we randomized our achenes, separated them to be x-rayed, and classified them to see which achenes contained seeds giving us our pollination rates.

Question 1

After the data collection process the data was compiled into spreadsheets that were uploaded into R. I put the data on a scatterplot with head height vs pollination rate to create a regression line that had a positive correlation but was also very scattered. To see if that correlation was significant I conducted a linear regression analysis and found that it was significant so taller head height does seem to be related to higher pollination rates.

Question 2

I used boxplots to visualize this data with number of heads for an individual Echinacea plant vs average pollination rate and the pollination rate seems to go up as number of heads increase, the opposite of what I was expecting with self-incompatibility. I then conducted an ANOVA test and found that the difference in average pollination rate by number of heads was not significant so number of heads does not seem to have an effect on pollination rates.


My results gave a positive correlation between head height and pollination rate and no correlation between number of heads and average pollination rate. However, a big limitation to my study was the sample size, especially for question two. Only having one data point for the 5 and 7 heads categories could have a large effect on the data. Lastly, since this was an observational study we can only infer correlation not causation so someone conducting an actual experiment would be a good direction to go in the future.

Acknowledgements and Bibliography


  • Dickson, C.R., Petit, S. Effect of individual height and labellum colour on the pollination of Caladenia (syn. Arachnorchis) behrii (Orchidaceae) in the northern Adelaide region, South Australia. Plant Syst. Evol. 262, 65–74 (2006).
  • LORTIE, Christopher J., and Lonnie W. AARSSEN. “The Advantage of Being Tall: Higher Flowers Receive More Pollen in Verbascum Thapsus L. (Scrophulariaceae).” Écoscience 6, no. 1 (1999): 68–71.
  • Ohashi K, Yahara T. Effects of variation in flower number on pollinator visits in Cirsium purpuratum (Asteraceae). Am J Bot. 1998 Feb;85(2):219. PMID: 21684905.
  • Wagenius S, Lyon SP. Reproduction of Echinacea angustjfolia in fragmented prairie is pollen-limited but not pollinator-limited. Ecology. 2010 Mar;91(3):733-42. doi: 10.1890/08-1375.1. PMID: 20426332.

Thanks to Wyatt and Abby for helping me with data collection, Stuart for helping me develop ABTs and to the National Science Foundation for providing funding.

Materials that were used for my project can be found in the filepath: ~/Dropbox/ccExterns2023/conlanRamirez


Tis’ the season for “project updates”

For many, the end of the year brings thoughts of final exams, final reports, and final projects. Here at the Echinacea Project, we don’t believe in final anything, but we do believe in updates! Last week, two of our Lake Forest College interns, Sophia and Olivia, shared project updates with the lab: a culmination of their semester in the lab.

Olivia shared results from her study on plant and reproductive health indicators (more here)

Olivia and Sophia present research updates at lab meeting!

Sophia shared a poster with the lab and also with attendees of a Lake Forest College research symposium! Sophia’s research focuses on the effects of pollen limitation on life history fitness in Echinacea. (More info to come!)

Sophia Presents a poster at Lake Forest College’s Glassman Symposium.

Back to Douglas Co

Members of team Echinacea went back to Minnesota to do some final field work and winterization of our field station. We had fantastic weather for field work but northerly winds brought chilly temps by the end of the week and reminded us that winter is near . Here are some updates from all we got done these past few days!

Seed Add

 We added seeds to 84 experimental transects at 36 sites for our seed addition experiment, which measures the effects of prescribed fire on seedling germination and emergence in Echinacea. We made quick work and were able to get this done in just 1 day plus an extra morning!

Here is Wyatt sprinkling E. angustifolia achenes along our seed addition transects.

Prescribed Burning and Broadcasting Seed

We got two solid days of good burn weather– more than any of us predicted! Over this window we burned six units, including the production plot, a few oak litter areas, Jean’s prairie garden, and the southeast hill. After all this burning, we broadcasted native seed collected by the team this summer. We’re excited to see what happens in these units next year!

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Jean’s prairie garden burned in ~5 minutes
Jared gets our 1st burn started
Wyatt broadcasts seed into this freshly burned unit

Return Achenes to Remnants

Every summer we harvest a subset of Echinacea heads from remnant sites to assess fitness. In order to ensure that we are not disrupting these populations, we later return the achenes to their maternal plants in a way that mimics natural dispersal. On this trip, we visited many small sites, where this process is essential as well as a few bigger ones.

Woody Encroachment Pilot

I tested out methods for my research project looking at the effects of Sumac encroachment on Echinacea fitness and mortality. I collected height and spatial location information on Sumac plants in order to quantify encroachment. In an encroached site like Tower, this process was no walk in the park…

Here I am staking to one of my random points

Post- Summer Sleuthing

When mistakes during summer data collection happen, it takes some investigating to figure out where we went wrong. On this trip, we revisited plants with issues from demographic data collection AND we found a P02 plant that was never harvested during the summer!

Abby & Wyatt solve mysteries in the field!

P01-nat project update!

This week I worked on scanning, randomizing and counting for P01-nat. The batch is now entirely scanned, and the images are up on the ACE website for counting! The other volunteers and I have completed 26.2% of counting as of the end of the day today. We are half done with the randomizing for the batch, and I am hoping to have that step of the process completed by the end of next week. Today I was also trained in how to prepare sheets for x-ray (end result of that process pictured below in Image 1), and I should be completing that process with P01-nat within the next couple of weeks! I have also included a picture of the end result of the rechecking process, which I detailed in my post last week (Image 2).

Image 1. Informative achenes ready for scanning.
Image 2. Labeled envelopes and bags after rechecking is completed.

carbon in the prairie

There are many reasons we don’t want to lose prairie remnants to woody encroachment or conversion to agriculture. One of them is because we don’t want the Carbon in the soil to go to the atmosphere. Here’s a nice visual derived from IPCC data, 2022.

Compare temperate grasslands to temperate forests and croplands. How does a buckthorn thicket compare to any of these?


The pollinator team has gone through the majority of vials collected from emergence traps this summer, and we have exciting news! We had about a 14% occurrence of bees (# of vials with bees/# vials total), which is much higher than expected, and we still have more vials to go! Below is the current counts of vials as of September 27, 2023.

# Vials Done: ~850

# Vials with Bees: ~122

# Bees: ~290