2021 Update: Liatris arthropods on heads

For Wesley’s individual project, we made pollinator visitation observations and noted the presence or absence of other arthropods on Liatris aspera heads. Using the focal plants from the Liatris fire and flowering study, we were able to perform 95 5-minute observation periods on 84 individual plants. Most visitor identifications were made by eye in the field; however, we captured one bumblebee (released upon identification) and one fly (captured and frozen for future identification). We also recorded presence/absence data for Pennsylvania leatherwings, ants, ambush bugs, spiders, and other beetles.

All focal plants from the Liatris fire and flowering study were brought back to the lab, where the arthropod experiment is continuing via the quantification of seed predation. We have also encountered living larvae throughout the Liatris cleaning process which we hope to identify, possibly through rearing.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: 22 prairie remnant sites in and around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: Liatris fire and flowering
  • Data collected: Scanned datasheets and their typed versions can be found in ~Dropbox/remLiatris/liatrisObservations
  • Samples or specimens collected: 1 fly was captured for identification. Additionally, 234 focal plants were harvested. These plants are currently being cleaned and processed in the lab.
  • Products: Wesley’s REU was based on this project, which may at some point result in a paper or poster. Stay tuned!

Liatris Classification Protocol

Below is the classification protocol for Liatris X-rays

Externship Day 5: lab meeting, seminars and cleaning liatris!

This Friday was day 5 of our externship and we had plenty of new experiences! We started the day by learning how to cleaning a different flowering prairie plant, liatris, or rough blazing star, with Wyatt. Compared to echinacea, achenes of liatris are much easier to be separated from the chaff and the receptacle. However, the fruits of the liatris are spread by wind. So the achenes all have fluffs attached to them which is a little challenging to separate sometimes.

Then we participated in the echinacea project’s weekly lab meeting. We read the draft of a paper Lea had been working on and listened to lab members discussing it. It was really fun and inspiring to see the process of scientific writing and experience the lab as such a collaborative space. I learned a lot about the behind the scene processes in doing science such as designing experiments, deciding on certain sets of data to use for a given topic and different ways to present data.

Right after the lab meeting, we listened to speed talks given by ecologists working in different departments of the Garden including aquatics, remnant forests and some other natural areas. I learned a lot about the history of the Garden as well as challenges and successes in managing different ecosystems within the Garden. I was really surprised when I learned how much work went into maintaining the lake area and the shores of lakes – planting, reinforcing, cleaning algae and other unwanted aquatic plants and so on. It was a great experience listening to talks by ecologists doing hands-on restoration and conservation work here in the Garden.

We also learned the ABT format of presenting a project and all three of us tried to come up with one for our projects here. We also decided on what we’ll be doing for projects. Cassie would be looking at density and seed set in liatris, Caitlin fire and seed set in echinacea, and I would be looking at number of flower heads and seed set in liatris. We planned to do some cleaning, rechecking, scanning, counting and X-raying to get part of the data we need and then do some data analysis. With this in mind, we were much more motivated to do some more cleaning and rechecking and dive into the second week of our externship!

Liatris Legends

This was my first week with the Echinacea Project, and I feel like I have big shoes to fill after all the fantastic team members earlier this summer. It’s been an eventful week, and I think I’ve seen more Liatris plants than Echinacea so far.

This week, the team focused on completing the project to map the Liatris aspera plants at all the sites. We spent a lot of time at Koons Hill, which supposedly had only 200 plants, but we found over 600! For the first time all summer, the team had to contend with rain, but we finally finished rechecking Koons Hill today, and we revisited all the sites to pull the neon flags, which had formerly marked the Liatris plants.

We weren’t the only ones visiting the Liatris plants. This afternoon, we spotted numerous pollinators, including several bumblebees and a monarch, which were enjoying a sweet nectar treat.

At the end of the day, the wasps wanted to share our sweet cantaloupe as well, but fortunately, Wesley devised a system involving a tupperware and some ice packs, which encouraged them to chill out.