Monday, December 28, 2015

Steele Prairie State Preserve Wildflowers

Over the 2014 and 2015 growing seasons, Mary Damm and I conducted a plant inventory at T.H. Steele Prairie State Preserve for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  In addition to the few photos below, I put together a short slideshow that can be viewed here.

Allium stellatum

Liatris pycnostachya

Asclepias sullivantii

Sorghastrum nutans

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Grass Identification and Ecology Workshop to be Offered at The Morton Arboretum

In 2014, I was asked to lead two sessions of a grass identification and ecology workshop at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.  The workshops both sold out and were very well received, and I've been asked to return to lead the workshop again this summer.  Here is some information for anyone interested.

Tired of seeing "unknown grass" and "Dichanthelium sp." on your vegetation sampling datasheets?  Need to know what species that Elymus is to figure out if you're in a wetland or an upland?  Interested in learning vegetative characteristics for some of our more common grasses?  Just want to know more about grass identification and ecology in general?  If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the workshop discussed below being held on September 17-18, 2015 at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois may be for you.  If you have any questions about the workshop, email Scott Namestnik at

Learn to identify the grasses that add beauty and interest to the summer and fall landscape. Grasses allow us to read the landscape: from soils, habitat, disturbance and past land uses. They form a critical component of the biodiversity and with nearly 11,000 species, this is the fourth largest plant family. This workshop consists of an intensive, hands-on approach incorporating both classroom work and field study.  Identify warm season grasses in the field and lab, learn the specialized terminology and distinguishing features, discuss their ecology, and practice identifying species from keys.
Instructor: Scott Namestnik, senior botanist, Orbis Environmental Consulting
Notes: Held both indoors and outdoors. Please dress for the weather each day. Limit 20
Supplies: Please bring a water bottle, a hand lens, and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes for walking over uneven terrain. Fee includes all workshop handouts, morning refreshments and a box lunch.
Intended audience: Advanced students and professionals.
Certificate information: Can be used as a Naturalist Certificate, WSP elective (14 hours)
Prerequisites: Prior experience with plant identification required
Course number: 
Thursday, September 17 and Friday, September 18, 2015, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Botany Lab, Research Center
Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum.
$195.00 member
$230.00 nonmember
$65.00 students; call 630-719-2468 or email for student rate
CALL: 630-719-2468
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wild Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis, Wild Columbine. This attractive member of the Ranunculaceae is beginning to put on a show in the Midwest. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trillium cernuum and Trillium flexipes

Often confused with the similar Trillium flexipes, the first two photos below are Trillium cernuum.  Look closely at the stamens... the anthers and filaments are approximately the same length.  In Trillium flexipes, the anthers are much longer than the filaments.  The ranges of the two species sometimes overlap, but Trillium cernuum is generally a more northern species, whereas Trillium flexipes is generally more southern. 

The photos above are from Bog Meadow Nature Trail in Saratoga County, New York, May 21, 2014.

For comparison, here are four photos of Trillium flexipes. The first was taken at Turkey Run State Park, Parke County, Indiana, May 3, 2008.  The next three were taken at Bendix Woods Nature Preserve, St. Joseph County, Indiana - the first two on May 5, 2013 and the last on April 25, 2009.  Again, take a close look at the anther to filament ratio. The anthers are much longer than the filaments in Trillium flexipes

I tend to think that the anther to filament ratio is a better way to distinguish these two similar species than the actual length of the filaments.  Many references use a filament length of up to 2 or 2.5 mm for Trillium flexipes in their keys, but if you dissect the flower you often can find filaments that are longer than 2.5 mm.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that the filaments in the first through third photos of Trillium flexipes above have filaments longer than 2.5 mm (I can see them pretty easily without even dissecting the flowers). 

All of this said, I have seen specimens in northern Indiana that are somewhat intermediate between the two species, so the distinctions are not always as black-and-white as they are in these photos.