Palm sweat pilot

You’re grasping a vintage palm pilot,

When a Hoverfly lands! And while it

Licks salt and tastes ya

Record echinacea 

With palm sweat, palm tears, palm pilot

Farewells Sting

Today was Harrison’s last day with us 🙁 Stuart made a prairie-inspired cake to honor his time with the project. He is returning to teach young minds about ecological research. Farewell, Harrison, and good luck!

The team also conducted floral abundance surveys. Essentially, we want to see how many plants (and what kinds) may be associated with ground-nesting bees. That requires feet on the ground to estimate abundances and identify plants.

Lastly, a battle occurred today. While the crew did demography of echinacea plants- where we record data on this year’s flowering plants- I was stung by two wasps. Luckily, Lindsey was prepared to retaliate, though it wasn’t necessary.

All in all, farewells can sting, but at least there’s cake in the end.

Golden hour all day

Above 100 AQI

Orange level alert

How do you manage to stay alive

During a field season, unhurt?

First of all expect

To be somewhat Crabby and Tired.

Your body is being wrecked 

Because Canada is on fire!

The first thing is clear-

Drink so much more water!

Not coffee, juice, or root beer

Your hydration must not falter!

Driving around from site to site

Use the Air Recirculation button!

Windows open? That’s not right-

Keep the smoke out and cleaner air shut in.

Echinacea! licorice, ginger, peppermint, 

Supports the respiratory system.

Make tea and inhale the steam for a minute

To relax and help out your alveolar ecosystem!

Mike’s Homecoming Celebration!

The lab was buzzing today as we bee-stowed Mike, one of our loyal volunteers, with an official Achene County of Echinacea Empire Passport! This celebration marks Mike’s return from Bee Land, where he has been residing since this past September.

For the past many months, Mike has been working tirelessly on pinning our bee specimens for the Yellow Pan Trap project. This project tracks the changes over 20 years in bee abundance and species composition along roadsides in western Minnesota. You can read more updates on the Yellow Pan Trap project here!

Mike has been working on the samples we collected during the 2022 field season, and just a few weeks ago he finished pinning 789 bees! I can’t bee-lieve how many specimens that is!

The pinning project required steady hands, an attention to detail and the extensive knowledge of bee identification; all characteristics that Mike has! He spent many hours with the microscope sifting through vials of insects.

No Achene County celebration is complete without, you guessed it, a sweet treat! The most famous baker in all the land, Alex, crafted a beautiful honey cake drizzled with chocolate and surrounded by pear slices. The ornamental bees on the top of the cake are made up pears (for the body) and dark chocolate shards (for the wings).

We are so excited that Mike is no longer a solitary worker bee! We are also excited to send all of Mike’s specimens over to Zach at the University of Minnesota for identification.

If you get the chance, please welcome back Mike to the Echinacea hive!

You’ve got to be (or)chid-ing me!

Last week, the Chicago Botanic Garden ended their annual orchid show and opened up all their plants for purchase to garden members and employees! Alex and I ventured to the sale at 10 am last Thursday to find a long, looping line that weaved throughout the Regenstein center. We waited about 25 minutes to reach the beginning of the line. We were not prepared for the carnage we were about to witness.

Elbows were flying, emotions were high, plants were abundant. There was a good deal on tiny Phalaenopsis, 2 for $10. At one point, a man tried to purloin Alex’s beautiful orchid while she went to return a shopping basket, and I had to protect the plant from danger. Alex described the ordeal as “a mad house” and “chaos”, and I definitely agree with that assessment.

Nobody tell Jared, but I walked (or, more like ran) out of there with 7 orchids (some to give to family and friends, and one or two for myself). Alex ended up with 3 stunning orchids as well!

The line to check out was slightly calmer, though equally as long as the line to enter the sale. Many people were becoming agitated, having to wait in line and carry their heavy load of orchids. Alex noticed that each cash register had a number (as you can see in the photo below) and each number was a different font! How silly!

For anyone wanting to brave the orchid sale in future years, my only advice is to prepare for battle.

Orchids Magnified

Orchids in a ball, orchids on a post, orchids in a spiral, orchids in the water, orchids in a pot, orchids through a lens. How many ways can you imagine displaying an orchid? This week, Lindsey and I visited Orchids Magnified at the Botanic Garden, and we saw orchids in all these orientations and many more. I was amazed by the orchids’ astonishing range of color and shape. It makes me wonder about their evolutionary history.

The orchid show staff night also included free food. Lindsey tried the ramen, and she reported, “It had many tasty vegetables and the teeniest mushrooms. However, it could have used some spice and they only had forks”. I sampled the salad, which contained an orchid flower. It felt wrong to eat one after looking at so many, but I had to try it. I expected a flowery flavor like jasmine, but it was rather bland and not much different in taste from a lettuce leaf. In short, I don’t recommend snacking on orchids if you attend the show.

St. Patrick’s Day Shenanigans

Two weekends ago, Alex and I ventured into the heart of downtown to witness the annual dyeing of the Chicago River! I knew of this tradition prior to being in Chicago, so I was excited to witness the event in person!

The origin of the dyeing began in 1955 when Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley took office and began efforts to clean up sewage leaks in the river. A green dye was implemented to determine the source of the waste. Later, Daley proposed using the same dye to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day; however, the ambitious mayor wanted to try and dye parts of Lake Michigan green instead of the river! Eventually, Daley was persuaded by friend and business manager of the Chicago Plumbers Union to stick to the river for the holiday festivities. In 1962, Chicago city workers added almost 100 pounds of an oil-based dye to the river, beginning an annual tradition.

With festivities beginning at 10 am, Alex and I arrived early in the city and grabbed some breakfast. We made our way to the river around 9 am, and all the surrounding was packed! Luckily, we found a clear view tucked behind an Apple amphitheater where a presentation about the latest Apple technology was being given prior to the dyeing.

Every year, members of the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers Local Union 130 change the river to a bright, emerald green. These days, the dye used is a top-secret vegetable-based formula supposedly safe for the environment. We were surprised that the dye is actually a bright orangeish red powder! One boat releases the dye while a few other boats navigate the river and mix the dye.

Following the river dyeing is the annual St. Patricks’ Day parade. We saw many kilts, bagpipes, and even a marching band from Minnesota!

After a tiring day of St. Patrick’s Day festivities, we stopped to get some deep dish pizza.

The emerald green color only lasts in its brightest state for a few hours. However, I returned to the river this past weekend and hints of green still lingered!

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!