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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Back in Bloom!

For the second year in a row, the winner of "First Flowerer" award goes to.... the Fewseed Draba (Draba oligosperma)!  You heard right, there's activity on the green roof, of the flowering variety!  

This little plant is impressive.  If you want a role model for:
  1. Toughness - we're still getting snow here, and the highest temperature our weather station has recorded so far this year is a mere 58.3 degrees.
  2. Independence - this plant reproduces asexually!  No other plants, no pollinators needed.  Read more about it here.
  3. Cuteness - see how little this little guy is?  It's about the size of a fifty-cent piece (do people still know what that is?).
 ... then look no further.  

Fewseed Draba (Draba oligosperma) in bloom, April 30, 2013

Spring Green

The Draba isn't the only one at the party, though it certainly started earlier than the others.  There are few other plants starting to green up and/or put buds on - the usual early spring suspects.

Hooker's Sandwort (Eremogone hookeri) - see a specimen here

Devil's Gate Twinpod (Physaria eburniflora) - check out its seed pods here

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

We are are just in the beginning of all of the action.  Check back soon!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rocky Mountain Rollercoaster

Welcome to Springtime in the Rocky Mountains.  This is the time when spring taunts us with warm weather, then dumps a foot of snow on our budding tulips.  When we feel the nearly insatiable itch to pack up the snow boots and shovels and bust out the galoshes and spades.  It's a frustrating, tough time of year.

And we love to complain about it.

However, the snowfall we get in the spring is massively critical for our western ecosystems.  Dennis Knight, retired now from the University of Wyoming's Botany department, wrote in his book Mountains and Plains: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes about the importance of snowfall in the spring.  Though he doesn't mention it makes people crabby and morose, he does explain:

"Rain that occurs during warm periods may evaoprate quickly, sometimes even before it can infiltrate the soil.  ... In contrast, snow usually accumulates during the winter, when evaporation is minimal.  In the spring, when accumulated snow melts during a short period when the potential for evapotransiration (ET) is low.  Consequently, the water is more likely to penetrate deeply into the soil."

Prairie ecosystems, with plants characterized by deep root systems, rely on slow, drawn-out (and somewhat annoying) melt water from snow - not just from rain - for maximum water uptake.  

Drought is massively prevalent throughout the country, and very noticeable in the mountain west where forest fires result.  So we can either complain about drought, or complain about snow in spring, but not both.

I think there's a quote about cake that would fit here.

Anyway, summer is just around the corner, and we'll all be ready for it!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kicking Off Spring

Welcome back to the Berry Prairie!  After a nice, long winter, we are keeping our eyes on the ground in anticipation of the spring green up.  Last spring, our first plant that flowered was the Draba - and it flowered on March 30!  This year, it's been cooler and most plants are still dormant, not even close to flowering.

For the Newbies

For those of your new to this blog, a little background.  The Berry Prairie is a green roof atop the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center in Laramie, Wyoming.  It was installed in June 2010 after the construction of the Berry Center, with the intent of maximizing climate control of the Vertebrate Collection below.  

Unlike many green roofs that have 1 or 2 species of sedum, this green roof was designed to mimic a native Wyoming prairie, so all of the 62 species of plants found on the roof are native to 25ish miles around Laramie.  Just like prairies around Laramie, the majority of the individual plants are grasses.  However, there are 44 species of wildflowers in the green roof - quite diverse indeed!

Class Kicks off the Visitor Season

A class at the University of Wyoming, Principle of Range Management, taught by Dr. Melanie Murphy, was one of the first groups to visit the Berry Prairie this year.  They spent time surveying the Prairie for vegetation types, signs of erosion, soil surface, and other range-type factors.  The green roof is one of multiple sites the class is surveying, and data from each year's class will be collated and appended to a long-term database of information. 

There are other groups planning to come to the Berry Prairie this spring, and of course all visitors are welcome - staying on the path is required!  Come find us in Berry Center 231 if you have any questions, we'd love to chat!

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute