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Monday, April 21, 2014

Draba Draba Draba

For the third year in a row, our returning champion of First Bloomer makes its appearance!  The Fewseed Draba (Draba oligosperma) is now in bloom!  Huzzah!

If you want to learn more about Fewseed Draba, visit last year's post or the post from the year before.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Here Comes Peter Cottontail

The Berry Prairie has become home to approximately 60 species of native grasses, forbs and shrubs, as well as 8 orders of insects (according to Master's student, Kyle Bolenbaugh, who is studying the green roof).  Of course humans frequent the roof regularly, but this winter we added one more vertebrate species to our Celebrity Spotlight list: a rabbit!

These hippity hoppity little buggers are pretty darn cute.  And of course we love to brag that the roof is a biodiversity hotspot (ha!).  However, they happened to have destroyed every single one of our ball cacti on the roof, putting them on our black list for eternity. 

In all of the red circles there used to be a beautiful cactus.  Now there are only divots to honor our fallen succulents.

Now, cacti are not typically a rabbit's favorite snack.  I am certain you can imagine why.  Spiny, tough, blah.  But they do offer desperate animals one necessary resource, and that is water.

Winters in Wyoming tend to be long and windy, and we don't usually get a ton of snow.  So rabbits and other organisms that are active throughout the winter need an accessible (aka non-frozen and above ground) water source.  If there's no snow nearby, and no other puddles or rivers, the water pooled inside a cactus might be the only or best option.  Despite the spines. 

The photo above shows the poor amputated cactus, post rabbit attack.  The photo below, the former site of a cactus.

Moral of this story: not even heavily armed organisms are safe against the onslaught of thirsty rabbits.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gardening with Native Plants

This is the time of year where are fingers are itching to get in the dirt, when our seed packets are singing our names, and when gardening blogs are seeing their maximum traffic.  It's almost gardening season, and that means it's time to dream and prepare!

Last month, the UW Biodiversity Institute, in collaboration with the UW Extension, Barnyards & Backyards and the Laramie Garden Club just published a book you might be interested in.  It's called "Plants with Altitude: Regionally Native Plants for Wyoming Gardens."

Inside it is a list of about 40 wildflowers (forbs) and 12 shrubs that are native to Wyoming or just beyond, and that we recommend for gardens because they're beautiful, hardy, water wise and you can find them at nurseries or in seed catalogs.  For each plant, there's a photo and description, along with soil, water and sun requirements, and if it's beneficial for pollinators or resistant to herbivores.

If you're thinking about getting native plants into your gardens this year, this book is a fabulous resource.  And it's cheap - $5 if you buy it in person (UW Berry Center on 10th and Lewis St., or at the UW Bookstore), or $8 if you buy it online at 

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Awakening

After a long hiatus, the Berry Prairie is beginning to come alive again!  The plants in the photos below are slowly but surely sprouting new leaves, putting out buds, and embracing the 55 degree warmth of spring.

Few-seed Draba (Draba oligosperma) with a few buds on - look for the yellow dots in the photo

 Devil's Gate Twinpod (Physaria eburniflora) decked out in feathers

Hooker's Sandwort (Eremogone hookeri), benefitting from its short stature and warmth of the "soil"

Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum) bravely putting out new leaves

Black Sage (Artemesia nova) takes the prize for most chlorophyll at this stage of the game!

Stay tuned for more updates - and a story of a rabbit's desperate more to get water over the winter.

Written by Brenna Marsicek, Biodiversity Institute