We are in a quiet period before a marathon of Echinacea germination. Jill Pastick, the intern from Lakeforest College, is preparing an experiment to test different methods of germinating Echinacea achenes. In the past, we have germinated achenes on blue blotter paper placed in petri dishes. While this method has been successful, it has its disadvantages. For example, when seedlings emerge, their roots sometimes attach to the paper, leading to damage when they are removed from the petri dishes. Before we launch into germination for major Echinacea project experiments, Jill will explore the use of agar (a gel produced from algae) as an alternative to paper for germinating Echinacea achenes.
And, for your enjoyment, here is a scene from under the microscope. These ants are part of the collection that Jill Gall led this summer. In case you can't tell, the one one the right is biting onto the antennae of the one on the left. I believe they are both Formica obscuripes.