Just chillin’

A new ice cream store just opened in Morris! Understandably, Mia, Lindsey, and I had to check out its grand opening. Just Chillin’ serves Bridgeman’s ice cream, and we tried the Wolf Tracks, Carmelicious, and Banana Buttercup. The first two flavors passed our rigorous ice cream evaluations, but Mia described the Banana Buttercup as “interesting” in true Minnesotan fashion, which means it wasn’t very good.

Since Lindsey had never been to Morris, I had to give a full tour of town. We checked out the creepy, derelict florist shop and drove through the University of Minnesota-Morris campus. We did not spot any horses on campus, unfortunately.

Next, we visited the West Central Research and Outreach Center. We wandered through the horticulture garden and found some suspicious ornamental orange Echinacea, which Mia identified as Echinacea purpurea. We also discovered a porch swing and a croquet game. The most challenging obstacle required us to hit the ball up an incline and through a hollow log. Lindsey was a pro croquet player, but Mia and I struggled, and it took us more tries than we would like to admit. If anyone challenges us to a croquet tournament, I’m placing my bets on Lindsey.

Mia Stevens

Echinacea Project 2022

Research Interests

My research interests are in how plants interact with their surrounding organisms and environment. And in this pollination biology perfectly is nesseled quite nicely. I am particularly interested in studying how disturbance affects plant pollinator interactions. I have enjoyed using molecular work to follow where pollen is moving in populations of plants. 


I have been working as a research intern with the Echinacea Project since the summer of 2020! Wow how time flies when you are having fun! I will only be on the team for part of the summer this year as I am moving on to a new position at Michigan State! I am very excited to be around for the next month, planning on getting into some good trouble! In my spare time I like to knit, embroider, bake and practice yoga.

Jared, Alex, Lindsey, and I have now been in Douglas county, MN, for around a week give or take getting things ready for the start of the field season tomorrow. This includes a big supply run. Today Alex and I had some fun visiting five different stores in Alexandria (hereafter Alec (I know it is spelled Alex but that gets confusing once Alex (the person) is involved)). The least fruitful of these stops based on items crossed of lists was Fleet Farm. Fleet Farm was the most fruitful in fun! We had some good fun with their “big hat” selection. Lindsey is the only one in the Elk Lake house who didn’t have a “big hat” so Alex and I picked one up for her. But we wouldn’t dare choose for her so I modeled the different “big hats” and Alex sent photos to Lindsey and she chose which of the big hats she wanted. Now all members of the Elk Lake House have big hats and we all can be protected from the sun in style.

THEN when we were leaving in the parking lot we ran into Sophia! (not literally everyone is ok) What a funny coincidence I guess Alec isn’t that big but still hilarious!

Moral of the story: let your big hat be a personality trait, and post silly things on the Flog

What’s blooming at Staffanson?

The west unit of Staffanson burned this spring, so we expect a multitude of flowers this year. When Jared, Lindsey, and I visited Staffanson to stake random points on Wednesday, we noted which plants were flowering after the burn. Here’s what we found, from A to Z:

  • Anemone patens (pasqueflower)
  • Astragalus crassicarpus (ground plum)
  • Comandra umbellata (bastard toadflax)
  • Fragaria virginiana (wild strawberry)
  • Geum triflorum (prairie smoke)
  • Hypoxis hirsuta (yellow star-grass)
  • Lathyrus venosus (veiny pea)
  • Lithospermum canescens (hoary puccoon)
  • Maianthemum stellatum (starry false Solomon’s seal)
  • Nothocalais cuspidata (prairie false dandelion)
  • Oxalis violacea (violet wood sorrel)
  • Pedicularis canadensis (wood betony)
  • Ranunculus rhomboideus (prairie buttercup)
  • Sisyrinchium campestre (prairie blue-eyed grass)
  • Viola pedatifida (prairie violet)
  • Zizia aptera (heart-leaved Alexander)

Honorable mention goes to several plants that weren’t blooming yet. We’ll check on them later in the summer:

  • Amorpha canescens (lead plant)
  • Anemonastrum canadense (meadow anemone)
  • Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed)
  • Cypripedium parviflorum (yellow lady’s slipper)
  • Heuchera richardsonii (prairie alumroot)
  • Lilium philadelphicum (wood lily)
  • Pediomelum esculentum (prairie turnip)
  • Thalictrum dasycarpum (tall meadow-rue)

We spotted several Echinacea plants on our walk. No flowers yet, but the leaves were as long as my finger!

What’s blooming at Landfill East?

We burned Landfill East last spring. Which plants are blooming one year post-burn?

  • Astragalus crassicarpus (ground plum)
  • Comandra umbellata (bastard toadflax)
  • Viola pedatifida (prairie violet)
  • Sisyrinchium (blue-eyed grass)
  • Geum triflorum (prairie smoke)
  • Lithospermum canescens (hoary puccoon)
  • Zizia aptera (heart-leaved Alexander)
  • Antennaria (pussytoes)

These photos were taken on May 26th.

The Great Corn Disaster of 2022

This week, the weather looked promising in Minnesota, so Stuart, Jared, and I drove up to Minnesota on Wednesday to prepare sites for burning. On Thursday morning, Jared and I mowed burn breaks at the Andropogon pilot plot and remnants waa, mapp, and nwlf. After lunch, we were loading up the vehicle with more supplies at Hjelm when we heard a loud crash in the direction of Highway 27. We wondered what it was, and when we drove down the road, we discovered that a semi-truck full of corn had tipped over just south of p8! Three people had stopped to help, but the driver was still trapped inside the cab. Fortunately, he had been wearing his seatbelt. Stuart and Jared stayed to help while I drove back to Hjelm to find a ladder. By the time I returned, they had broken the front window and helped the driver out. Soon, lots of emergency vehicles arrived, so we continued on our way to Landfill.

The spilled corn was no ordinary cargo – it was worth $8 a bushel! The truck had dumped several thousand bushels, so a clean-up crew was sent to salvage the wreckage with a corn vacuum. They sucked up the corn and transferred it to new semi-truck. By the end of the day, they retrieved most of the corn, but there is still a glimmer of yellow in the grass.

On a brighter note, the pasqueflowers are blooming at Loeffler’s West. We ended the day on Thursday by mowing breaks and cutting brush at South of Golf Course. There is about an hour of work left at that site. Overall, it was an eventful day – and we hadn’t even started burning yet!

It’s spring at the Garden!

Are more words necessary?

The Echinacea Project is now the Lilium Project!

As much as we love Echinacea angustifolia, we’ve decided it is time to move on. After 25 years of data collection, we have more than enough data to answer all of our long-term research questions. We’re still planning to analyze and publish the data we have, but we won’t be collecting any new data on Echinacea. Instead, we’re excited to announce that we are starting fresh as the Lilium Project! We’re looking forward to answering our burning questions about the reproductive biology of Lilium philadelphicum and the impacts of habitat fragmentation on this gorgeous prairie species.

Here’s our new logo!

Editor’s note: this was posted on April 1

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!

Roadkill Birthday

Hi Flog

Yesterday was my birthday, this is the second birthday that I have celebrated out here in Western Minnesota. The work day started with some sling (seedling re-finds), Alex and I did sling at Steven’s Approach and then we set off to Nessman. We quickly discovered that part of the site was mowed, and we had to go back to Hjelm to get the GPS to re-find the circles we needed to visit. We were driving away from Nessman at the corner of Dairy drive and 27 I saw something on the road. I asked Alex what it was, and she peeked out the passenger side window and said, “it’s a zucchini!” As we drove back to get the GPS, we contemplated whether we should rescue the zucchini or not. Once we saw the zucchini again, we knew we had to rescue it. After we finished at Nessman, we set of to procure our roadkill! We decided that it was most likely fell of a truck and then was run over. We scooped it up and removed the ant and millipede then buckled it into the back seat.

We then set off to Staffanson to visit two more sling circles, the two circles are on complete opposite ends of the prairie preserve. Neither circle was fairly straight forward so after we finished the last circle Alex flopped down onto the ground, I quickly joined her, and we just laid there for 10 minutes staring up at the sky taking it all in. We eventually decided that we should probably head back for lunch, and after a bit of a hike back to the car we were shocked to see the zucchini since we had forgotten all about it.

After lunch I set of two experimental plot 1 to try and sort out some issues with the measuring data. Alex and Jared worked on sorting out some demo problems. It got up to 84 degrees Fahrenheit which might be the record high for September 28th (or at least it is based on my working memory).

For dinner Jared made spring rolls, he even had ripe avocados! Spring rolls have been a staple/highlight of the summer meals. After a yummy dinner Alex and I set out to turn our roadkill into cake. We quickly determined that the zucchini was in fact not zucchini but some other sort of squash. We decided out of impatience to not peel the squash. After making the cake and very patiently waiting for it to cool, we tasted it and it was surprisingly slightly crunchy. Overall it was a wonderful day, spent in a great place, with good friends, and good food.

Moral of the story: Always peel the roadkill

Escape the heat: goats on the run

Today the crew started out the day like all MWF’s with phenology, phenology has droped down to only 822 flowering heads so the crew swiftly crushed all of the phenology routes. At lunch we celebrated Kennedy’s birthday that was on Wednesday, Happy birthday Kennedy!

After lunch the crew split up to do various tasks including rechecks in the hybrid plots, finishing measuring experimental plot 6, and completing a through search for aphids in experimental plot 1. The team has done an amazing job at expediently finishing measuring every plot I throw at them. Next week we will start measuring experimental plot 2 which should be fun! Since it burned they plants will be easy to see. Overall it was a good hot July day!

Now I want to rewind back to Monday, also another hot and humid July day. It was a little after 5 I was walking to my car. I look North on Tower Rd and I see a few goats. It took me a few seconds to realize that seeing goats on Tower Rd was not a usual occurrence, did I mention that it was a hot and humid July day. Once I registered the goats, I jumped into action and ran back and told the crew that the goats had escaped. Stuart and Miyauna were in a zoom meeting and could not join us in our chase. But Peter cut a large branch of buckthorn to use as a lure, and a heard of Team Echinacea went running down tower. As we got to the bottom of the hill we started to look around wondering where the goats were and we looked to the west of the road and we saw a 6 goats happily munching away at soy bean plants. Peter decided that we need to take both a carrot and a stick approach, so he ran in front of the goats and the rest of us ran behind the heard of goats chasing them. We ran the goats back up to the driveway and down towards the pastures. Along the way the goats ran behind Miyauna who was still on her zoom call with the National Geographic Society. Reports are that the goats were in full view of the call and stopped right in frame to pose for the camera. Once the goats were fully returned to the pen, we assessed what happened and it turned out that they had run out of water and thrown a prison break. So for future note when it is 90 degrees its important to make sure that the goats don’t run out water, and to always record zoom calls cause you never know when a heard of goats will go running by with a heard of Team Echinacea members.