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September Article
Seasonal Observations- 2018

Wow, the state fair has come and gone, and now the Vikes are providing their purple perennial drama right on cue. As fall approaches, we start to reflect on how fast this summer has gone by. Each year is unique and definitely takes on its own character. Here are some of our observations that helped to shape our 2018 growing season. 

Remember our "spring"? It was like the weather gods flipped a switch and we went from "cold and snow" to "hot and humid" overnight. With the deep snow going into April followed by temperatures reaching into the 90's in May, we were very interested in how this would impact our native plant communities. Fortunately, the wet and hot summer seemed to jump-start our native flowers and they really bloomed spectacularly. We noticed that the grasses seemed to bloom a bit later, but when they did arrive, they too put on a wonderful display.

No two years are the same for ecological restorations. With plant communities, individual species will flourish one year, and then the next year, a different species will take its turn. For instance, last year we noticed an abundance of cardinal flower, but sneezeweed seemed to be more subdued than usual. This year we are observing the exact opposite, with much less cardinal flower and way more sneezeweed jumping up and blooming impressively. The same is true with invasive species. Last year seemed to be a good year for crown vetch, with it being very abundant and aggressive. This year it seemed less abundant. Along the water's edge, purple loosestrife and reed canary grass seemed to have enjoyed the late spring and hot summer, which has kept our maintenance staff on full alert.

What about the pollinators? Over the last several years, we have noticed pretty low monarch caterpillar and adult sightings. While this year, we were surprised to see a considerable jump in sightings of both. We noticed multiple caterpillars on many swamp and common milkweed plants and plenty of adult butterflies swooping above us while we monitored our restorations. We also noted an abundance of tussock moth caterpillars, which also use milkweed as a host plant. Our crews also found more giant silk moth
 caterpillars in our restorations this year, which are always fun to find. Other years we have seen many more swallowtail butterflies than monarchs. This year, we waited for the swallowtails to emerge, but we saw very few caterpillars and the adults were only seen a few times a month. Red admiral, American lady, and painted lady butterflies also seemed less abundant to us than other years. These observations remind us of how important it is to plant a diversity of native plants for multiple species of pollinators.

One defining feature of this season was the abundance of Japanese beetles. Luckily they seem to prefer a good number of ornamental cultivars compared to our native plant species. We saw many Japanese beetles stuck in yellow garden spider webs. These spiders were doing a great job in reducing this pest in a large number of our restorations. Bees and wasps didn't seem to mind the beetle invaders; they went about their busy schedules despite having to work around the Japanese beetles. We observed an abundance of bumble bees, wasps, flies, and hornets using our native plants to collect pollen and nectar. It's a special treat to weed a restoration with the loud buzzing of hundreds of native bees working around you, enjoying the native plants!

As summer turns to fall, our late-season native plant species  like aster species and zigzag goldenrod  are jumping into the forefront.  Last year, we were fortunate to have an amazing show of beautiful fall tree colors. This had to do with a favorable combination of moisture levels, temperatures, and wind. We can only hope for a repeat performance this autumn season!

We all learn from each other's field observations. What have been some of your observations this summer? Does your restoration or native planting change each year? Let us know! We would love to hear about your observations on our Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for another wonderful restoration season!

Native Plant of the Month
Heliopsis helianthoides

Moisture: Moist or Dry
Exposure: Full Sun or Partial Shade
Color: Yellow
Blooms: July-September
Height: 3-5 Feet

Oxeye is a stiff-stemmed plant with rough textured and coarsely toothed leaves.  Their leaves are stalked and opposite along the stem.  Oxeye's flowers are bright yellow with darker yellow centers and have a long bloom period.  This native perennial thrives in dry to moist nutrient poor soils.  It is most often found in dry woods, woods edges, dry to mesic prairies, roadsides, and waste areas and is drought tolerant.  Bees, butterflies, and beetles are attracted to their flowers and their seeds are eaten by birds.  Other common names are false sunflower and oxeye sunflower. 
Invasive Plant of the Month
Prickly Lettuce
Lactuca serriola

Moisture: Dry
Exposure: Full Sun or Partial Shade
Color: Yellow
Blooms: July-September
Height: 2-6 Feet

Prickly Lettuce is a biennial from Europe with small yellow flowers and leaves that clasp around the stem. It exudes a milky sap when broken. The  blue-green leaves are lobed with a whitish mid-vein and prickles along the bottom side of the leaf. Their dandelion-looking flowers turn into white fluff that floats away in the wind.  This plant invades areas with disturbed soils. Management strategies include hand weeding and weed whipping.

Native plant alternatives include  Oxeye or Gray-headed Coneflower!
Pollinator of the Month
Goldenrod Soldier Beetle
Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus

Range :  Midwest and eastern North America 
Habitat : fields, gardens, open areas, roadsides
Identification : Soldier beetles are about a half inch long and are dark yellow or orange with black legs, heads, and markings on their heads and wings. 
Pollination :  Solider beetles are especially attracted to yellow flower species such as helianthus spp., grey-headed coneflower, black eyed susan, goldenrod species, sneezeweed, and others. 

September 2018 Issue
Our Company
Visit our Photo Gallery
Retail Nursery News
Our retail nursery is closed for the year. Thank you for another wonderful season!

Our retail nursery address is:
1480 County Rd. 90  Independence MN 55359

Have any questions? Contact our greenhouse manager Jill at

Click and visit our website for current
Minnnesota Native Plant Brand ensures that plant species are native to Minnesota. 
5 Plants For...
A Short Prairie!
This mix of grass and forbs are found in our short grass prairies and provide wonderful habitat for wildlife!

1. Little Bluestem
( Schizachyrium scoparium)

2. Side-oats grama
( Bouteloua curtipendula)

3. Purple Prairie Clover
(Dalea purpurea)

4. Blue Grama
( Bouteloua gracilis)

5. Butterfly weed
( Asclepias tuberosa)

 Want to learn more about these native plants? Click Here to visit our website!

Mystery Plant of the Month!
Test your plant ID skills!

Here is another Minnesota plant often found in short grass prairies, its seed head should give you a good indication of its identity!
Need another clue?
Take a closer look, at its bright yellow petals!

Visit our Facebook page to see if you're right!