Many flowers in bloom on the prairie!

SUNDAY, JULY 1, 2012

Despite the heat, we had a good-sized group for Sunday’s Curtis prairie tour. We headed out in a westwardly direction, along the fire lane, cutting back diagonally on C1 and then popping over to the limestone prairie. There, we enjoyed the delicate purple harebell flowers and pale purple coneflower. We saw flowering spurge—and compared it with the invasive leafy spurge. We also saw white and purple prairie clover. Between B5 and A6 we stopped to admire mountain mint. We were surprised to see a few wild white indigo with fresh blossoms—some buds not yet open! Most of the wild white indigo are long done flowering, with fat and maturing seedpods evident. We were excited to find several Michigan (or Turk’s-cap) lilies. We noticed some liatris, or blazing star, almost-but-not-quite ready to bloom in shades of purple. Note: that’s just a sampling of some of the plants we stopped to discuss or admire and nowhere close to an exhaustive list of what’s in bloom.
Since there aren’t many mosquitoes out these days and the sun was plenty hot over the prairie, we decided to take a little side venture through the shade and over to Teal pond. And it was very interesting. I don’t remember ever seeing Teal pond so low and…thick. There didn’t seem to be much open water—just a thick, muddy, plant-ey porridge. We saw one turtle stick its head up—so there must have been something fluid underneath the surface. But the rest of the “pond” surface was practically covered with frogs. We thought they were green frogs, which, despite their name, can be brown. The frogs hopped along the semi-solid surface of the pond—everywhere! We headed back to the visitor center, stopping in the native plant garden for a last few minutes before 2:30.
And a couple of answers to questions that came up during our walk:
1) The white boxes (that take measurements of soil variables in the remnant and restored prairies) came up in conversation. We talked about the myriad research projects in process at the Arb at any given time and noted these boxes as an example of an ongoing research project. I realized, however, that I didn’t know who initiated the research and/or who was currently collecting the data. Brad Herrick (Arb Ecologist/Research Program Manager) helped out with some answers: This research project was started around 2005 by Chris Kucharik from the Department of Agronomy (also affiliated the with Center for a Sustainable and Global Environment (SAGE)). The research is currently continued by the Arb’s own Mark Wegener.
2) Surprisingly (to me) related, those upside-down garbage cans were placed over the sensor equipment that is connected to the white boxes. These sensors need to be protected when management burns are conducted in the spring—and they just haven’t yet been removed…another thing for the To Do list, I suppose!

Sara Christopherson, Naturalist

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.