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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hustlin' and Bustlin'

The Berry Prairie is alive with color!  Spring has sprung, hooray hooray!  The redesigned roof looks great after it's second winter, with loads of plants popping leaves, sprouts, flower buds and flowers, and we're excited to see what the summer brings.  Plants seem to be hustling to flower, ready to present their flowers, pollen and nectar to the world and reproduce.  And there are lots of pollinators about, willing to oblige them!

Here's a photo list of the species currently in bloom.

First and foremost, this display of what is normally a diminutive flower is dazzling.  Fewseed Draba, always one of the first to bloom in the spring, is putting on quite the show.  Bees and flies were buzzing all over these clumps.

This pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) is the only one on the roof currently in bloom.  These gems are one of the hardiest and pollinator-friendly flowers of early spring.

Prairie smoke, oh how I love prairie smoke (Geum triflorum).  First the pink nodding flowers with a small entry way for burly bumble bees to work their way into.  Then the gray, fuzzy, feather seedheads of summer.  Check out this mini-meadow of prairie smoke - and those are just a few on the roof!

Devil's Gate Twinpod is another staple on the Berry Prairie - it's a reliable early spring bloomer with understated white flowers.

Sky Pilots (Polemonium viscosum) stand out in a crowd, check out this wonderful, rich purple color and fun textured leaves!

Last but not least is the Hooker's Easter Daisy (Townsendia hookeri) - a little late to the party, but welcomed nonetheless.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Winter Blossom

Can you believe that in the middle of February in Laramie, Wyoming - elevation 7,200', latitude 41 degrees N, and over 1,000 miles to the nearest ocean - we have a flower in bloom on the green roof?


It's true!  The Sharpleaf Twinpod (Physaria acutafolia) has one brave and lonesome flower on.  It's a rather homely looking flower isn't it?  But you might be a bit shabby looking too if you had to bare yourself to the cold world on February 18!

This sets the record for earliest flower found on the Berry Prairie since 2012 - previous record is from last year - the Devil's Gate Twinpod bloomed on March 23; prior to that in 2012, the Fewseed Draba bloomed on March 30. 

Any guesses as to why this plant would bloom so early?  Who's out to pollinate it this time of year?  What triggers such an early bloom?

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Summer Highlights

The Berry Prairie has been ROCKING this summer.  Apologies for the lack of posting (the author just returned from maternity leave), but you gotta see what it's been doing these past couple of months.  Below are a few overview photos, as well as close-ups of a couple of extraordinary plants.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, UW Biodiversity Institute

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Prairie Spotlight: Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine

Rocky Mountain Blue Columbine (Aquilegia saximontana)

Where to start describing this beautiful gem of the mountains? Deeper blue than Colorado blue columbine, the slightly smaller blooms are held proudly above petit, dark green leaves.

The name saximontana directly translates from the Latin to Rocky Mountain (saxum = rock; montanus = mountain). True—this plant is found nowhere else; it is, in fact, restricted to the high mountains of central Colorado, reaching as far north as Larimer County, our neighbor to the south.

Perhaps a bit ironically, Colorado blue columbine grows all over the Rocky Mountains, from Arizona to Montana.

It's in the Spurs

Only four of the 21 North American species of columbine have hooked spurs like this one, and we have two of them in Wyoming.

Laramie columbine (A. laramiensis; also on the Berry Prairie, but not yet in bloom - shown in graphic below) has very pale blue to white flowers, with hooked spurs. Like Rocky Mountain blue columbine, it has a very limited distribution—the central spine of the Laramie Range.

(Our other hook-spurred species is smallflower columbine (A. brevistyla). It, too, is rare here, though abundant in Alaska and northern Canada.)

Petals or Sepals?

Columbines don’t have as many petals as you might think—half of what you see aren’t petals at all, but sepals. Sepals make up the outermost whorl of a flower, and they are typically green and not very interesting.

In columbines and many of their relatives, the sepals are as showy as (or showier than) the petals. On Rocky Mountain blue columbine, the outer round of deep blue “petals” are the sepals. The true petals grade from the deep blue of the spurs to almost white at their tips.

Pollinator Love

Who, besides humans, is attracted to the spurs? Pollinators, of course! The spurs have nectaries at their bases, forcing long-tongued hawk and sphinx moths to reach far in, coating their faces with pollen to distribute as they speed from flower to another.


So, not only are columbines interesting and beautiful by themselves, they attract other interesting species, which bring other interesting species, and interesting things happen, and …

Written by Dorothy Tuthill, UW Biodiversity Institute