Recently in Flowering Phenology Category

We spent the morning working on our personal projects. Elizabeth assessed style shriveling on her crossed flowers at Yellow Orchid Hill, where, she reports, flowering has recently passed its peak. Meanwhile, Claire and Jared performed crosses on the focal plants on the west unit of Staffanson. In P1, Will worked on his pollen preservation experiment and the Pollinator Posse (Keaton, Maureen, and Jennifer) surveyed P1 phenology. Further afield, Alli continued her flowering community analysis.

But the real action was at Hegg Lake, where I finished my first round of aphid additions to Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, and their hybrids in P7. I have almost doubled my efficiency since starting the additions, performing 20 additions in a little over an hour. I also surveyed the phenology of the 18 E. pallida flowering in the restoration nearby. Aphid survival and flowering phenology may seem pretty disparate topics--and they are--but they both inform our understanding of the consequences of introducing a non-native but closely related Echinacea species. Do they support the same aphids? How about their hybrids? How likely are they to hybridize? How much does their flowering phenology overlap? It's hard to stick to just one question.

Doubtless inspired by my example, the rest of the team came to Hegg in the afternoon, where we measured plants in P2. Many of us we were able to increase our efficiency by working alone instead of in pairs, and row by row we progressed eastward. Less than an afternoon's work remains.

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Today marked the first weekday of the peak week of flowering for Echinacea. We are working on phenology at all the remnants as will as P1. Several flowers are already on their last day of flowering. Despite the cold and blustery conditions of today the team did crosses for the compatibility project at Loeffler's Corner and set up the project at East Elk Lake Road. Cam and I worked on my exhaustive crossing project at Yellow Orchid Hill. We weren't able to collect pollen and cross until after lunch, but fortunately the pollen was not blown away by the wind! Tomorrow will be more phenology and compatibility!

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Today was a big day for remnant phenology surveys--possibly our biggest of the season. We made the process more efficient by not recording style persistence on flowers on their 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 8th days of flowering.

But we didn't stop there. We also collected pollen, painted bracts, and performed the first crosses with the 10 focal plants at Riley. Each focal plant was crossed with its nearest neighbor, its farthest neighbor within the remnant, the earliest flowering plant, and the latest flowering plant. This is to help us understand how compatibility varies across space and flowering time.

In other news, Will and I saw an immature bald eagle amongst the gulls and turkey vultures at the landfill.

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Having mutually pledged to the Echinacea Project our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor, we set out this fine Saturday morning to survey the flowering phenology of Echinacea in the prairie remnants. We are interested in phenology (the study of recurring phenomena) because just as distance can genetically isolate fragmented populations, so can time. Since Echinacea cannot reproduce with itself, it needs to be flowering at the same time as a compatible mate if it wants a chance to reproduce.

To quantify flowering phenology, we have to check on the flowers every few days. Echinacea is just beginning to flower now, and we don't want to miss anything. Today we split up into two-person teams, went to different remnants, and recorded the progress of every flowering Echinacea. All our work locating and flagging plants earlier this week allowed us to move efficiently through the sites, finishing our survey by mid-day. Here we are converging at the final site:


A formidable crew undertaking a daunting task in pursuit of a noble goal: what a glorious Saturday!

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Sarah Baker presented "Flowering phenology of Echinacea angustifolia in Minnesota tallgrass prairie remnants over three years," the results of her summer 2013 REU project, at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Kentucky, on 4 April 2014.
Here's the presentation...


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Final consolidated file of ech. ang. flowering phenology data from 2011
Edit: now with sppe and sppw differentiated

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Flowering phenology data from summer 2013. This version contains data collected from 7 July, 2013 to 26 August, 2013. PhenDataMASTERcsv_28-Aug-2013.csv

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This morning, I went out to Staffanson to collect flowering phenology data and saw my first flowering Echinacea of the summer! Some had started flowering yesterday but a few started today. Awesome! :D
Sarah B

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Hi there everyone,

I was an intern with the Echinacea Project last summer (2012) and worked on the remnant flowering phenology project. Over my winter term at Carleton I worked on an independent study to analyze the seed set of some of the remnant plants. After finishing dissection and x-raying the achenes (with a lot of help from the lovely volunteers in Chicago!), I created a poster which I presented at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference in March of this year. I have attached the poster to this post. Hopefully, it explains some cool findings!

Good luck with field work everybody!

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The last flowering plant in CG1 put out its last anthers today (August 27, 2012). It had been flowering over a week longer than any of the other plants we monitor! This marks the end of the flowering season for Team Echinacea, but we've still got lots of work left to do!

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This summer I'm going to continue with Amber Z's phenology research from last year. I've added on two new sites: North Northwest of Landfill and Around Landfill. I started taking data on June 18th when there were only a couple of plants beginning to flower, but now, many more plants have started flowering and a couple are even close to finishing!

Kelly's Flowering Phenology Project Proposal.doc

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Hello all! A lot has happened since my last post, so here is a brief update!

After returning to school with my phenology data and experimental seed heads in the fall of 2011, I began work on my senior thesis using that data as a foundation. In April of this year I defended my thesis, "Flowering Phenology and Seed Set in Fragmented Populations of the Prairie Plant Echinacea angustifolia" and was awarded Distinction by my committee! Stuart and I continued to work on my data after my defense and are planning to continue the project and potentially incorporate data from this summer in the hopes of publishing it! Here are some of the very interesting results that we've gotten so far:

> aggregate(ss ~ nndist + pdtime, data = mm, mean)
nndist pdtime ss
1 far early 0.1637403
2 near early 0.2690535
3 far late 0.2947009

4 near late 0.1802392

We found that there's a relationship between seed set (ss), peak flowering date (pdtime), AND distance to the 6th nearest neighbor (nndist). Seed set was higher in plants that had a combination of close 6th nearest neighbor (near) and early peak flowering date or far 6th nearest neighbor (far) and late flowering date. Very interesting!
(table is categorical and matches glm model which looks at pd & nn6 as continuous)

If anyone has any questions, is interested in continuing this exciting project this summer, or would like a copy of my thesis, feel free to contact me! (Amber Zahler at

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A quick list of flowering plants I noticed while assessing phenology in Jennifer's experimental plot at Hegg Lake WMA on 10 July. I list only plants observed in the plot. Asclepias speciosa is flowering just outside the SE corner of the plot.

F = flowering
X = done flowering/in fruit
N = not yet

Heliopsis helianthoides F
Amorpha canescens N
Coreopsis palmata F
Rosa arkansana F
Anemone cylindrica X
Silene F
Asclepias syriaca F
Amphicarpea bracteata F
Morning glory sp F
Apocyanum F
Tragopogon F
Cirsium arvense F
Lathyrus venosus XF (almost all done flowering)
Galium boreale F
Psoralea argophylla F
Medicago sativa F
Linum sulcatum F
Carduus acanthoides F
Senecio X
Liatris N
Achillea F
Zizea X
Red field clover F
Yellow fl lactucid F
Potentiall arguta F
Desmodium F
Physalis F
Dichanthelium leibergii XF

No Phlox pilosa in the plot!

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We found 147 flowering plants in Jennifer's Phenology Experiment during a thorough, but not exhaustive, search on Friday. Most of these plants have buds only and will start shedding pollen later. I posted a map of locations of all plants to flower this year.

c2Phenology2011initial.png Click on thumbnail to see a larger map.

Jennifer planted this experiment to investigate heritability of flowering timing (phenology) in spring 2006.

Last year eight plants flowered and about 2700 plants were alive. Read about measuring last year.

Assuming that almost all of those plants are still alive and that we didn't find all the flowering plants, then about 6% of surviving plants will flower this year (>147/2700).

For kicks, I made maps of the paths of data enterers. We usually worked in pairs and used one person's PDA to enter data. Here are the paths...

Josh D's visor, Amber E's, Nicholas G's visor, Gretel K's visor, Lee R's visor, Callin S's, Stuart W's visor, Maria W's visor, Amber Z's visor. For the record Katherine M's visor had only one record and we didn't use Karen T's visor.

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For Lee, I found that there is a good deal of Heli. heli at Aanenson - most bloomed the center head but not the sides.
For all, there wasn't much Ech blooming at RRX, LC, RI, or YOH as I remember in years past.
For whomever is interested, west of YOH and not IN Douglas county but there is a good deal of Rudbeckia? - I was moving pretty fast and didn't stop to look close - just a lot of yellow flowers!
I don't know if matches up to the BOB MAHONEY RESTORATION, but its there to be seen.

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Hi everyone, Maria here again. Today was a particularly happening day in my opinion. Everyone had something to do. Amber E. is back from Alaska with Ruth! Karen arrived from Evanston in the afternoon!

In the morning those of us who hadn't finished our Stipa searches in the common garden finished that! (So Stipa is done! - we scaled back though and only searched for the 2011(?) cohort). After that Gretel, Ruth, Amber E and I put Position/Row signs in the common garden and made the signs face East/Westwards so now it's so much easier to read the signs while you are walking in the common garden. Then we got started on looking at the phenology of Echinacea in the common garden. We systematically walked through each row, looking out for flowering Echinacea with emerged anthers and pollen, twist-tying the heads and recording them in our visors. Josh joined us when he finished his Stipa searches. We found quite a few flowering heads - bet there'll be more soon.

While we were looking for flowering Echinacea, we saw Stuart, Callin, Amber Z and Nicholas crowded around 'Joe' - the pet name given to the prominently flowering Echinacea at row 28, position 860. As described by Callin in the previous post, they were practicing bract-painting for their independent projects on Joe.

When we finished looking at all the rows, it was time for lunch and short presentations of our projects. It was good to hear about everyone's projects and talk about my own projects and get feedback. After lunch, we got started on our independent projects or worked on the New Media Initiative.

Gretel and I headed to Hegg Lake to look for Dichanthelium (Panic Grass) seeds for my second project. This summer I will be collecting seeds from Dichanthelium plants from different remnants, including Hegg Lake and Loettler's Corner (I might not have spelt that right - sorry). My plan is to collect seeds from 30 individuals from each "site", as there are several places at Hegg Lake that seem to have a lot of Dichanthelium. After collecting the seeds, I will be bringing them back to Chicago Botanic Garden and do more work on them in the fall/later.

Click here for the
Google doc of my summer project proposals

I am super super indebted/thankful/grateful for Gretel. Without her guidance, I'd probably be in a big mess/not knowing what to do/still be at Hegg Lake as this is my first time doing independent field work.

When we reached the place at Hegg Lake (it was near the road, area with ditch, south of the parking lot), a lot fo the Dichanthelium seeds had already fallen off the culms. It was quite disheartening. We walked a little north and found a patch of Dichanthelium with most of their seeds intact, then we laid out the tape measure for 20m in a roughly north-south direction (I kept thinking it was 2m while Gretel patiently corrected me ^^;;). Initial plan was to do every plant within arm's length from transect, or every other plant if population was dense. However, that was not quite possible given the circumstances. After Gretel and I collected seed from the first plant and did all the measurements, she continued measuring/collecting while I picked ~30 plants near the transect (more than my arm's length) that had at least one culm with 8 or more seeds to collect from and flagged them with a blank flag. I started measuring/collecting after I finished flagging. Around 4pm, Lee called - reinforcements were coming! Ruth and Lee arrived with Karen and they helped us finished the rest of the plants (by that time Gretel had completed 17 plants (!!) and I was on my 6th plant). It turned out that we had 31 flags so 31 envelopes with data and samples! We also collected some "random" samples - ie seeds from various random plants away from transect. Finished around 5pm - thanks to Gretel, Lee, Ruth and Karen! Really excited to get the first 30 done!

Take a look at the simple data entry for today's collection for more technical details if you're interested. I might also do the seed count for today's samples just to see how many seeds we can get from 30 plants using the '8 or more' rule. (I just need to be rreally careful not to lose any seed >.<)


We left 11 flags (labelled with sample number) at the site that we will return to later to collect more seeds from.

Now that I have more experience, I'll definitely be more systematic+efficient about it.
Notes to self for tomorrow/next time:
- "just-in-case" extras (extra equipment, envelopes, pens, sharpies, flags) do come in handy! Meter sticks are probably more efficient than tape measures. More flags would be good. Maybe use a different color for "done" or for extras.
- Extra samples are good too. Maybe do 32 plants per site?
- Bring a plastic bag/something to put a plant specimen in - I need to get a sample of the other Dichanthelium species ("hairy leaved") to press and identify.
- Equipment list would be useful esp when I have more than 5 things to remember.

Lesson of the Day: Having an experienced person around and helpers is always always always helpful! =D

Thanks again to Gretel and everyone who helped!

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We finished measuring plants in Jennifer's Phenology plot at Hegg Lake WMA this Friday.


We measured many plants.

We measured about 2700 plants. Eight plants flowered this year. We visited another 1300 locations where we couldn't find a plant (mostly because they had died). Here's a map of the plot with the status of each location (click to see a bigger version)...

In addition to Echinacea angustifolia, we saw some good prairie plants in the plot, including lead plant (Amorpha canescens), yellow lady-slipper (Cypripedium calceolus), prairie rose (Rosa arkansana), Missouri goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis), silver leaf scurf pea (Psoralea argophylla), and many others.

It was a big job, but we were quite efficient. We laid out 50m tapes on every other row to help guide us. Four of us went out on Wednesday to flag positions 1 and 50 for all rows. That took ~2h. We started flagging positions 10, 20, but that was unnecessary. On Thursday we all went out and measured from 2-4 pm. On Friday we did two shifts: 10 -12 and 2:30 -5.


We were happy to be done.

On the way out we removed a weed that we had noticed the day before--spotted knapweed. We were careful not to touch it because it can be a skin irritant. I'd never seen this plant in the study area before.


Heading home.

What a great way to end the week. It was Katie and Laura's last day. They are heading back to the Chicago Botanic Garden to prepare their posters and talks.

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This afternoon we are going to measure plants in Jennifer's Phenology plot at Hegg Lake WMA. Here is a script that makes a datasheet that assigns us rows to measure. The order is approximately 1 - 80, but they are slightly mixed up (just to keep us on our toes): measurePHENatHeggLakeRows.r

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June 21, 2010 marked the start of Echinacea flowering in the common garden this year. As of June 28, 2010 113 plants had started producing pollen. Approximately 775 plants will flower this season with a total of 1062 heads. We will be busy keeping track of the first and last day of pollen production per plant. As you can see from the pictures above, the pollinators are back at work, too!

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Here's a list of plant species that flowered within 2m of a flowering Echinacea plant that we observed last year. The list is sorted by the count of inflorescences we counted. Species in the Asteraceae are highlighted.

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Here are the locations of E. strigosus plants in the common garden:
32 953, 33 954, 38 960
Plants have just started to flower!

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Thank you all for your hard work when we measured my Hegg Lake common garden a week back. It was by far the fastest the Hegg garden was ever measured and there were no rechecks besides can't finds! Below is some information regarding the Hegg garden.
Total plants planted in May 2006: 3,945
Number alive in August 2006: 3,699 (94%)
Number alive in August 2007: 3,320 (84%)
Number alive in August 2008: 3,008 (76%)
Number alive in August 2009: 2,834 (72%)
As you can see the length of the longest leaf actually decreases from 2008 to 2009. However, there were way more plants with multiple rosettes this year than in years past. I think the leaf length decreased because last year there was so much duff on the ground that the petioles of the leaves grew really long. The plants definitely looked healthy this year after the spring burn than they did last year. What was really exciting was I had my first flowering plant this year in row 7 position 44! Below is a picture of that flowering plant, and one of everyone measuring at Hegg.
Also, thank you to everyone in the town hall for being so hospitable to my dad, Oscar, and me. We had a great week and except my weird heat rash (it eventually went away) it was a lot of fun. Best of luck with the final push at the end of the season!
Jennifer, Oscar, and John

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Echinacea plants on our transect at Staffanson Preserve are done shedding pollen for the year. A few still have persistent, receptive styles, but August 18th was the last day pollen was shed.

This graph show how many heads (left panels) or plants (right panels) finished on each day. The earliest heads finished on 15 July. I divided the preserve according to the burn unit: burned East (top panels) and unburned West (bottom panels):


Final date of flowering for 393 heads on 161 Echinacea plants
from a burned and unburned unit of a prairie preserve

This graph is based on preliminary, raw data, but I wanted to share. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version of the graph.

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We went out for a family hike this afternoon and near a nice little wetland found a patch of Teucrium that's still flowering. Details available upon request!

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Kate and I made a list of species coflowering with Echinacea at Ri, LC, and rrx yesterday. These species are not within the 2m floral neighborhood, but are within 10 m of at least one of the observed plants. coflsp13jul2009.xls

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I flagged 20 spots at the landfill site last Saturday. 18 are centered on Echinacea plants that flowered last year (blue flags). 2 are random locations (orange flags). Amy and Caroline are going there tomorrow to search for seedlings.

I noted other plants that were flowering on the east hill:
Zizia aurea
Lithospermum canescens
Sisyrinchium (1 pla)
Viola pedatifida
Astragalus sp.
Pediomelum esculentum - just about to start
Geum triflorum - done
Commandra umbellata - mostly done

On the west hill I noted these:
Senecio (1 pla)
Taraxacum officinale
Antennaria neglecta - done

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One last floret on head 'yel' of plant 40-943.5 shed pollen on September 1st. I imagine the plant exclaiming "better late than never."

Six heads in the garden might still flower. They all look like duds or early buds. I don't suspect they will flower, but I have been wrong before!

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I suspect the last day of flowering (pollen shedding) in the common garden was yesterday. I won't be totally certain until the snow falls, but here's the full story... Dwight observed eight heads on Friday the 29th. Two of them were shedding pollen and each had two immature florets. Today, I observed them all again. Neither of the of the two normal heads shed pollen. One head was obviously done and the other (40-943.5-yel) has one immature floret. I suspect that that one immature floret will not mature, but I may be wrong.

Six heads are still in the bud/dud stage. They haven't yet started to flower and they don't look like they will. But, I may be wrong.

I will report on the flowering status and post a complete flowering schedule within a few days. I will also recap the final week of team Echinacea--we had an awesome finale. But first I need to catch up on sleep and harvest some heads tomorrow. The forecast is for winds 25 - 30 mph and gusts to 41 mph.

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Echinacea angustifolia is flowering late this year.

Peak flowering this year was 27 July. Peak was 12 July and 14 July in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Here's a rough graph that shows flowering phenology in these years. Red dots are the count of fl plants on each day. Horizontal gray lines indicate days that each plant shed pollen.


See the updated animation of flowering in the common garden experimental plot.

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As of 25 July 2008:

1422 of 1850 heads have started to flower in the common garden.

171 heads are done flowering.

194 of 1033 plants have not started to flower.

Here is a graph showing the number of heads that started to flower on each day.


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Hi all,
Since this is my first flog entry of the season at quick intro for our new readers. My name is Jennifer and I am a Ph.D. graduate student at University of Illinois-Chicago in an integrated program called LEAP (landscapes ecological and anthropogenic processes) . I just finished up my third year and have been part of the Echinacea project for longer than I often like to admit. If you are an avid flog reader you may remember be from such classic 2007 entries like "Fishing in Minnesota�? and "Microsatellites in Echinacea...they do exist.�? Today I am going to discussing my plot at Hegg Lake. In the summer 2005 we followed the DAILY flowering phenology of the 224 flowering plants in the main Common Garden. We took the seeds from the flowering heads and germinated and planted around 4,000 (3,942 to be exact) and planted them in the spring of 2006 at a new common garden site at on DNR owned land near Hegg Lake (about 7.5 miles from the main Common Garden site). Hegg Lake is a beautiful site and it is, fortunately, on top of a small plateau so there is nearly always a breeze and the mosquitoes stay away.
Measuring at Hegg Lake 2008

We have just finished measuring and rechecking Hegg and I have final survival and growth info for this year. Unfortunately the last winter was really rough on my poor little plants and death was much higher than I would have liked. This also meant measuring and rechecking Hegg took a long time this year. Next year I must come up with a better method for measuring and rechecking. My current plan is to buy 50 meter tapes and measure along the 50 meter tape...I think this will dramatically reduce the time. Below is info for the last three years of survival and growth data. The first number the the year, then the average number of leaves, then the average height of tallest leaf (cm) and finally percent survival (cumulative).
2006- 2.13- 6.36- 94%
2007- 2.14- 13.24- 85%
2008- 2.07- 13.61- 76%

As you can see my plants barely grew (and that is only the ones that survived) and the average number of leaves actually went down. More disappointing is the survival which took at hit with the really long cold winter. That is it for Hegg this year...glad it is done...hopefully next year, with a site burn, my plants will grow more and death won't be as bad.

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Here's a practice time lapse series for plant (28, 943) from July 2nd-6th. I'll be photographing 16 plants every morning or until people get tired of driving me around to the garden. I didn't hit the 'thumbnail' option when I uploaded this, so if you want to see it in its full glory, right-click and go to "view image".


Even though I've marked the position and height of the tripod with flags, it looks like it's difficult to get the same photo every time. The changing background, I suspect, is a result of the head growing upwards a bit, causing me to change the camera angle. This shouldn't be as much of an issue in the pictures taken from above.

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We are very interesting in observing (and participating in) the Echinacea mating season this summer. We are still waiting for the action to begin.

Here is a map of the flowering plants in the main garden. Each dot represents a plant with 1 or more buds (immature capitula). The short purple bar indicates a plant with one bud, a long bar indicates two, and n short bars indicates n buds. In the main garden we found 869 plants with at least one bud and a total of 1572 buds. The most buds on a plant is 11. This is a modified "sunflower plot" that was generated with R.


We are waiting for the action to begin. At this time last year, like most years, Echinacea flowering was in full swing.

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I thought I would spend some time comparing the 2006 and 2007 measuring of the plants at Hegg Lake. The Hegg Lake common garden is located on Minnesota DNR land and is approximately a 7.5 mile drive from the main common garden. In May 2006 3,941 seedlings were planted at Hegg Lake after they were first germinated and grown in a green house at the Chicago Botanic Garden. To learn about this large seedling growth experiment see">">

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Hi all,
So I arrived up at the field site about a week and half ago to finish up monitoring flowering and help out with measuring and demo. Except for the recent death of my computer's hard drive it has been an excellent start to my field season. As you may know flowering was about a week earlier this year with many more flowering heads than expected. I would have estimated around 800 (max) flowering heads but we had over 1,100 flowering in the common garden. Last year was also a huge flowering year (over 1,300 heads) because it was a burn year. I am excited to now have two years of flowering data on a large of plants in the common garden.

We have spent a large part of the last week I have been here measuring both in the common garden and at the hegg lake common garden. The hegg lake common garden was established back in May of 2006 to as part of my graduate research. It is about 6 miles from the main common garden on Minnesota DNR land. It has around 4,000 plants planted on a 1m X 1m grid. Today we had the entire field crew out at hegg lake measuring for a total of 13 people and measured nearly half of the entire plot just was great!

Besides the field work I have been keeping myself busy in rural Minnesota by fishing (Ian has promised that I will actually know how to fish by the end of the summer), playing poker, and going to a dirt track race. In the near future I plan on flogging all non-Echinacea related activities that can be done in rural Minnesota....however now I'm tired so it will have to wait until the weekend.

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In general, the two main differences between '99 South and the main common garden (for damage assessment and herbivory) appears to be less damage in '99 South and more ants (and less ant diversity).

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Here are some preliminary instructions on how to observe and record bee/ant presence or absence while we are doing phenology measurements. I thought that while we are looking so closely at each head, we might as well try to garner some information on the Hymenopteran vistors as well. It will not be continuous data, but rather a simple 'yes' or 'no' measurement for each plant (bees) or for each head (ants).


Bee collecting composite pollen, copyright Jon Sullivan


As you begin your phenology measurements only scan for bees once you are within 1m of the plant. If there are any moving, active bees on any head, mark the appropriate box in your phenology form. As soon as you touch a head for phenology measurements, stop recording any bee presence/absence. So, if you are looking at a head and a bee lands on an adjacent head, just ignore it. For bees, we are interested in bee presence for the ENTIRE plant, so as soon as you see one, you are finished entering data.

Remember, wee are only interested in active bees, so don't count sleeping bees, dead bees, bees caught by crab spiders or assassin bugs, etc.


Ant, copyright Alex Wild


Ant data are collected on a per-head basis. As you take each head into your hand and begin your anther count, notice if you see any ants on the top of the inflorescence (either ray OR disk florets). Don't make any special effort at looking underneath the inflorescence. If no ants make an appearance as you are handling the head, mark the head as having no ants, if ANY ants appear whilst you are searching the head, enter the data as such.


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Hello all,
So this is my very first blog entry so it will be lacking all the neat links to pictures et al in that are in other people's entries but it will talk about Echinacea.

Since this is my first blog I should probably spend a little time introducing myself. My name is Jennifer I am a in an inter-disciplinary PhD program, called LEAP, at the University of Illinois at Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Botanic Garden. LEAP stands for Landscape Ecological and Anthropogenic Processes, it is an NSF funded IGERT program aimed at increasing biodiversity in human altered landscapes. For a much better description of LEAP see As for the Echinacea Project I have been involved with the project first as an intern back in 2003-2004 then as a graduate student (since summer 2005). My research mainly focuses on understanding how flowering phenology (when a plant flowers) shapes seed set, pollen movement, and ultimately genetic structure in a population. For more see my website at

To understand how flowering phenology shapes population structure we use a variety of methods. First we collect phenology data in the common garden. The current protocol has us counting anthers shedding pollen every other day. We then collect the seed heads in the fall and individually weigh a subset of the seeds to get an estimate of seed set. Why individually weigh seeds? Well it is the only non-destructive method of determining if an achene (the technical term for fruits in the Asteraceae) actually has a viable embryo. We know that 97% or seeds weighing greater than 2 mg will germinate and 91% of less weighing less than 2 mg will not germinate. As of this spring we have individually weighed (with the help of an amazing volunteer named Art) weighed 30,211 seeds. This June Art has embarked on weighing another 3,000 seeds from the 2006 flowering plants. So far we know that late flowering plants set much less seed than early or peak flowering plants. To get at the hereditability of flowering phenology we planted a second common garden (yes there is another common garden) on a site called Hegg Lake owned by the DNR. The site was planted with just about 4,000 seedlings in May 2006 and the plants will hopefully flower before I finish my PhD.

Finally, to understand how flowering phenology influences pollen movement we are using molecular genetic techniques, specifically microsatellites markers. Microsatellites are a molecular genetic marker that consist of repeating non-coding regions in the genome (eg GATGATGATGAT). Since they are repeating non-coding regions they mutate relatively rapidly so there are different number of repeats for the same microsatellite in a population--alleles. With these microsatellites we will be able to, eventually, take a seed from a known maternal plant and find out who the dad is. I developed microsatellites specifically for Echinacea last fall at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I now need to determine of these microsatellites I found do they actually have enough alleles to conduct paternity analysis. While everyone else has been up in Minnesota flying kites I have been spending time in the genetics lab trying to get the microsatellites to work. After spending too long figuring out the optimal number of cycles and temperature in the PCR, plus how much, if any, Mg to add I finally have been having success with about 5 microsatellites.

Today I ran four out of the five primers on 16 plants (8 from the preserve and 8 from Steven's approach) and had multiple alleles!!! I had between 4 to 6 alleles just in these 16 plants. It was very exciting after spending so long playing with PCR conditions. It was very rewarding to run samples that actually worked and even better that all the microsatellites were at least moderately variable. My goal is to get 8 primers with all with around 6 alleles, which should be enough to do figure out who the dad is. For my next blog entry I'll see if I can figure out how to add pictures and I'll insert some images of my microsatellite alleles.

I think that is more than enough for my first entry. I will hopefully have more exciting news regarding the microsatellites before I come up to Minnesota (which is on July 15th).

Notes to self:
Equipment for MN
-2 meter sticks
-data logger (?)--talk to JF
Finish up at CBG
-put seeds into freezer--talk to AS?
-data entry for Theresa
-get tissue samples into fresh silica gel
-molecular work for John and Eric

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Dearest floggers:

Well, it is 7am on my day off, but I can't stop thinking about science and the possibilities to learn more about how Echinacea fares in the rich community we have in the common garden. Florid, yes, but I am pretty excited about possible data. It is like gold.

Truly, there are tons of projects to do, but the trick is to find the ones that:

1) Can be done in a timely manner,
2) Are interesting and important in advancing our knowledge about Echinacea and prairie plants in general,
3) Are educational for the students (and researchers!),
4) Can be repeated well into the future of the CG or remnants, and
5), Have a good chance of filling a gap in the literature so they can be published in good journals (this, of course, is related to #2).

This last point is not crucial in the moral sense, but crucial in the practical sense, as papers are the currency of our profession, as my advisor, Rick Karban, once told me.

Anywho, as we do phenology every other day it occurred to me that we could also quantify the percentage of ray florets with herbivore damage at the same time. Perhaps some genotypes accrue damage faster than others...I'm not sure if many researchers have looked at florivory over time in such detail. There seems to be quite a bit of damage this year. I did some 'quick and dirty' sampling last year, but did not have the plant IDs recorded, DOH , oh well, live and learn.

We also have to figure out how to measure fluctuating asymmetry (FA) so that we have multiple measurements to account for measurement error. Measurement error is important to quantify because the small deviations from symmetry that we may observe may smaller in magnitude than our error, but we can't know unless we have replicate measurments! One way to do it is to take several pictures of the same plant, perhaps by different people. Or, you could have several people measure the same plant. Also, I wonder if FA changes with phenology or with organ under consideration...

Stuart and I are going to try and run electrical cord from the granary to the CG so that we can run the videocameras for a good long time each day. It is 120m from the granary to the SE corner of the garden, so this will take lots of cord to complete. Since I know very little about electrical wiring, save that you shouldn't stick live wires into tubs of water, I will wait until Stuart gets some advice in Chicago before diving in.

BTW, I took video of the biggest plant in the CG yesterday and didn't see any pollinators in 90 minutes of filming, so perhaps an even longer interval would be better to get good, non-zero data.

Signing off until this afternoon. I never knew I would like blogs, but they are useful, especially if people read them (hem hem)


We should measure style persistence as a measure of pollen limitation when we can (perhaps on Tuesday). Also, damage to ray florets would be excellent to measure. I wonder if damage to ray florets has greater indirect effects through reduced pollination than the direct damage to styles that we have seen?!

;) Andy

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