We are preparing to plant a new experiment this fall. We are cutting down ash trees (Fraxinus pennsylvanicus) in an abandoned agricultural field that was planted with Brome in the 1980s. We will plant Echinacea angustifolia seeds from our experimental crosses this summer. We will hand broadcast two native warm-season grasses: Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) and Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem). Keep up-to-date on progress on this experiment via twitter.
Recently in Common Garden Experiments Category
For many of our experiments we want to harvest Echinacea heads when they are as ripe as possible, but before any achenes have dropped.
The standard harvest indicators are as follows:
- Phyllaries (involucral bracts) are brown
- Bracts that subtend each disc floret are brown and sharp
- Flower stalk (peduncle) is brown (not purple)
- 1st (uppermost) cauline lf is brown (note: 1st lf may be close to hd!)
Once harvest indicators 1 - 4 are positive, or if a head has loose achenes or is in some way deformed and you think achenes may be lost before the next harvest, harvest the hd! Make sure to look for loose achenes at the top of every hd with brown bracts.
Harvest a head by cutting it off and placing it carefully into a labeled bag. When cutting the hd off, hold the head firmly in one hand and cut the peduncle with the pruners 3-5 cm under the hd. You don't need to open the bag all the way and the hd doesn't need to go all the way to the bottom of the bag.
That's our standard harvest protocol! Everything's flowering so late this year, we won't be harvesting for a while, but I wanted to post this while I was thinking about it.
I drove from the Chicago Botanic Garden to our field site in western Minnesota hoping for a window of appropriate burning weather on Thursday afternoon or Friday afternoon. I also brought 297 Echinacea seedlings to plant as part of an experiment that investigates hybridization between native and non-native Echinacea. Several gallons of side-oats grama grass seed were waiting to be hand broadcast at two sites after the burn.
We want to burn our large Echinacea "common garden experiment." In this abandoned field we have planted about 14000 individual Echinacea plants, starting in 1996, and measured their growth and flowering every year. We have burned this ~6 acre plot every other spring from 1998 to 2008. The weather didn't cooperate in 2010, so we burned in 2011. We are trying to burn this year! Burning in the spring really increases the chance that an Echinacea plant will flower. We are planning a big crossing experiment this summer, so we want as many plants to flower as possible. Also, burning sets back the weeds--and that is a good thing.
Here's the quick recap of major activities.
2. Driving to MN
3. Preparing to burn
4. The burn
5. Seeding after the burn
6. Preparing to plant
8. Seeding the phenology plot
9. Driving to IL
Read the gory details...
We made a lot of progress this week. First, the volunteers finished the first round of counting for one of the larger experimental plots. There are still two more rounds of counting to finish, but we're mostly there.
Suzanne started taking inventory of the heads we harvested this year. It didn't take her long to get through everything, considering flowering was so low this year. Out of about 500 heads, there was only one that was mislabeled. There were a few missing, but they are on their way back from Minnesota.
I've been busy trying to identify all the ant specimens we have pinned. Right now it looks like we have two species of Lasius, five species of Formica, and one species each in several other genera. There are also multiple species within the genus Myrmica, but I haven't identified them yet. Apparently that genus is particularly difficult to identify.
Now that the summer field season has come to an end, it is time to focus on what's going on in the lab at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I am taking over for Josh as lab manager and have spent most of the week learning my way around the lab.
Since I arrived, the two major tasks for the volunteers have been counting, randomizing, and weighing achenes from heads collected in 2011.
Here is Aldo, using the computer to count achenes from a scanned image:
Once we have a count of achenes for each head, we select a random sample for weighing. Here is Char, randomizing achenes based on a numbered grid:
As for the 2012 harvest, we brought a little over 500 heads from the main experimental plot. This is much less than the 2890 heads collected last year. Our haul from this year also includes heads from Kelly's phenology study, heads from Shona's hybridization experiment, and a sizable collection of ants from prairie remnants. We have plenty of work in store for the coming months.
Last week was a busy and fun one for Team Echinacea 2012; no two days were the same. We wrapped up some of the first summer projects and started to transition into the second phase of the summer. We completed evaluating the recruitment plots, began to record their GPS locations, conducted demography and phenology observations in the common garden, and perhaps most notably, completed round one of seeding searches with the west (and recently burned) section of Staffanson prairie with help from Amy Dykstra, who came to visit on Friday. In addition to all the progress made on the long-term projects, we also spent multiple rainy mornings working on our individual research projects, the proposals for which have been recently, or will soon be posted here on the flog. Stuart Instructs us on the proper field techniques for cross-pollination, pollinator exclusion, and painting flowers so we can keep track of what we've just done.
After a short weekend, we started up working again this Monday with a morning dedicated to our independent projects, time which we all used to get out in the field and get our hands dirty. Ruth stopped by today and lent a hand and some very welcome advise, and joined the crew in the afternoon to do some weeding in the common garden. We clipped, pulled, and trimmed Buckthorn, Ash saplings, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sweet Clover, and Sumac.
Last summer I conducted a biweekly survey of aphids and ants in the common garden, an experimental prairie restoration containing Echinacea from various remnant populations. I was interested in the spatial distribution of aphids and ants within and across years. This year I plan to scale down my survey to once a month, beginning next Friday. Here's a detailed protocol:
I couldn't make the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference, but I made a poster. It describes preliminary results from an aphid addition/exclusion experiment I conducted in the summer of 2011. Specifically, it examines the question of whether aphid infestation influences the presence of leaf damage by other herbivores.
Here is the protocol that we plan to use for measuring in 2012:
Here's a link to the protocol that we used for measuring CG1 in 2011:
In 2012 we plan to measure in "review mode" (as we did for CG2 in 2011) -- all location records will be on the Visors with Status="Staple" or "Skip" populated. We should not spend as much time searching for plants that have not been present for 3 or more years.This should speed up measuring. I'll post the planned 2012 protocol next.
Now that we've inventoried all the CG1 heads, I checked to see just how many we have. There were about 3009 twist-ties put out, and 119 heads were duds or missing, so our (estimated) total number of good heads is about 2890.
CG2 had something like 140 heads, but we haven't inventoried those yet.
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!
Only about 13 heads left to harvest in the common garden experiment! I attached a pdf of listing all heads with no gbag info...
Here's a map of unharvested head locations in the main experiment (there's one more head in the 99S garden).
Today we will start measuring Echinacea in the Common Garden. Here is the link to the protocol: CGmeasureprotocol2010.htm
Four plants are flowering in Andrea's garden this year. Andrea Southgate planted this experiment (aka inb2) in 2006 as part of her Master's research project. Andrea and Jennifer made a photo essay about their plantings that year. These are the first plants to flower in this experiment--about 4/1500 in their fifth growing season!
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!
I found a few things besides Echinacea plants, while searching for plants that may have died in the common garden. I found a fossil shell. I gave it to Per and he held on to it for a while but dropped it. Someone else will find it! I found a stylus (for a handspring visor). It's probably Gretel's; she lost hers earlier this year. I found a snake skin with an intact top of head--the eyes were transparent-cool! Per gave to Hattie, I think. I found a mouse in a mouse nest (right on top of dead Echinacea leaves from last year). The mouse bounded away. Also, Ruth called while I was searching to say that she had just found the serial cord for the survey station data collector that we couldn't find--we had been looking for that for a few days. Wahoo! Finally, I emptied my pockets of litter that I had picked up: three pieces of flagging, one melted plastic plug label, and 2 blue plastic cocktail stirrers.
melted plastic plug label (1), blue plastic cocktail stirrers (2)
We are making great progress on annual measurements of plant in the common garden. On Monday we finished measuring all plants (~10000). On Tuesday we finished placing staples at all locations where plants died overwinter in 2007-2008 (>700). Today we made a huge dent in "rechecks."
Rechecking is when we revisit all the locations where we recorded a "can't find" and left a flag while measuring. We placed about 1500 flags. About 700 of those "can't finds" were stapled this year. So, we just verified that staples were in the correct locations and pulled flags. Some locations had staples from previous years that a measurer didn't find. We pulled flags there too. Then there were the plants that were alive last year. We rechecked those and found quite a few plants. Each time someone found one, they yelled "wahoo" and the rest of us responded with a whoop and a holler.
Shucks, it was fun!! Actually I was burned out by the end. Next year we should plan two 2h sessions instead of one 4h session.
Staples mark positions in the Common Garden where plants have died. Our policy has been to add a staple to a position where a plant has not been found for 3 years. This year, we've followed that protocol for the Inbreeding and INB2 gardens. However, we have added staples in Big Batch, 2001, SPP, Monica's, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 1999s where plants have only been "Can't Find" for TWO years. This should minimize the time it takes to search positions. We hope that plants and staples won't both be found at the same position in the future.
This week we are going to make big dents in CG measurements and our independent projects. We will measure the CG MWF morning and TTH afternoon. We'll start T & Th morning with Phenology assessments and end off each morning with time to work on independent projects. Afternoons on MWF will be devoted to independent projects.
Be ready 8:30 Monday morning--with sunscreen on & visors synced--for a pep talk (it'll be about efficiency & the well-oiled machine)!
day AM PM Monday measure CG ind. proj. Tuesday phenology & i.p. measure CG Wednesday measure CG ind. proj. Thursday phenology & i.p. measure CG Friday measure CG ind. proj. Saturday phenology & off off
We mowed most of the CG this morning. Putting flags in went smoothly. It helped that we left many flags overwinter. We mowed according to the plan established two years ago. We started removing clippings & pulling flags that marked fl pla from 2008.
I noticed a plant I do not recognize at R46 P~903. Also, in R14 near P870 there is a patch of somethings that is starting to spread. We should determine if it's a weed we should eliminate.
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!
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.
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.
Here are some clarifications about how mfl and immfl should be filled in for heads in and past the flowering stage. Selecting status "Flowering" means that the last day of flowering is certainly 4 days away or longer. If the last day of flowering is 3 or fewer days away, then select "End of flowering."
Flowering It is not necessary to fill in mfl, ffl, or immfl. (mfl and Immfl are presumed to be well over 11).
End of flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (Both may 11.)
Last day of flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (immfl should be zero.)
Done flowering Fill in mfl and immfl! (mfl & immfl should be zero.)
Note 1: When the action is xxxx, then fill in a status (usually: flowering, end of flowering or done).
Note 2: When status is "Flowering," "End of flowering," "Last day of flowering", or "Done flowering" then don't fill in ffl!
We had a slow start to the flowering of Echinacea in the common garden for the 2008 season. Being one who gets excited about the abundance of Echinacea heads, I'm pleased to post the numbers of plants and flowering heads so far.
The total number of plants flowering in the common garden as of 17 July 2008 (which is sure to increase as we find more hiding in the tall brome or decrease as they are grazed by deer):
The total number of flowering heads identified as of 17 July 2008 (many still just buds):
As of 17 July 2008:
447 of the 1868 have started to flower. (They are still far from peak flowering!)
Here is a graph showing the number of heads that started to flower on each day.
This animated GIF file is a map of all plants that flowered in the CG on each day from July 5 to July 15th. Each dot represents a plants that's flowering on the day (see upper right corner).
This legend shows plants with 3, 1, and 2 heads flowering (left to right).
Less than 10% of the heads that we think will flower this season had started flowering as of Sunday. Flowering is so late this year! We'll walk through the Garden systematically tomorrow (Tuesday) to see what's new. It's possible one head (49.33 946.33 grn) will be done flowering tomorrow.
There's always something new and exciting going on when Team Echinacea is in full swing. After we all pitch in to assess flowering phenology tomorrow, Amy will work on her large-scale crossing experiment that requires erecting pollinator exclusion cages, collecting pollen & hand crossing. The fun doesn't end there. We are tiling and plumbing the Hjelm House, photographing floral development on Echinacea heads, measuring plants at the Hegg Lake CG and the main CG, taking ladder-high aerial photography of flowering plants in the prairie remnants, and chasing bee pollinators in the CG. And that's just tomorrow!
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.
Here's an update on the main research activities this spring. The cool spring with a late snow (~15 inches -38 cm- at the end of April) delayed burning weather somewhat and we think seedling recruitment may be later than in the past few years.
On May 9 I mowed burn breaks so the DNR burn crew could burn the plots. They burned the middle unit at Hegg Lake WMA on May 28. Two plots were in this unit. Here's a photo of one plot just after the burn. Nice work! There are 3 plots to be burned at Hegg Lake WMA, two at Kensington Duck Refuge, and one a Eng Lake WMA. At the duck refuge I saw 2 Sandhill cranes and a Red-necked grebe (among the regular, awesome array of water birds).
Dwight, Jean, and I burned the common garden on May 22, starting just after noon. The weather was within prescription, but the wind was a bit strong and the fire jumped the gravel road and started some corn stubble. The fire worked its way to some reed canary grass and we managed to put it out there. If it had gone a little longer it would have torched the cattails and burned the whole slough west of the common garden. Whew!
The running fire was great in the 99S garden, but there were quite a few unburned spots in the main garden. We burn the CG every other year and we mow paths annually, so we don't have quite enough fuel for really complete burns. Maybe in 2010 we should augment the fuel load with some prairie hay.
A big tree just east of the CG caught on fire. It was hollow, but quite strong. It finally broke and fell over around 7 pm. To put it out we scraped all the embers and coal from the trunk with an axe and shovel. We couldn't reach a spot of punky wood 8 - 9 feet (2.5 m) off the ground. So I climbed up the trunk and used a 5 lb. pick mattock to scrape out the embers and punky wood. Then Dwight lifted the smith Indian backpack sprayer over his head and I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. We put it out by around 10 pm. Exciting! We need to cut up the part of the tree that fell on the CG.
An adult bald eagle flew over the CG just as we started to burn and then again around 8 pm -- great!
On 24 May, Gretel and I broadcast seed over the CG. We seeded Galium boreale, Bouteloua curtipendula, and Schizacharium scoparium. Gretel, Per, and I seeded the ditch with many species of seed, including Stipa spartea and Spartina pectinata. We forgot to seed the 99S garden.
On 27 & 28 May Ruth, Amy, Julie, and I searched for Echinacea seedlings in five remnant prairies. We searched about 75 circles with 41 or 50 cm radius and found 17 seedlings. Several had only cotyledons and the tallest first leaf was 24 mm. We got rained out yesterday (29 May). It was also cold and windy.
Last weekend Pete, Dwight, Gretel, and Stuart cleaned out all the sheetrock and insulation (yuck) in the house. That was a job. We got the house all ready to have the floors sanded. We have a lot left to do to get the house ready for the main field season. The highest priorities are bathroom and computer network.
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 http://echinacea.umn.edu/experiments-spring-2006.htm">http://echinacea.umn.edu/experiments-spring-2006.htm">http://echinacea.umn.edu/experiments-spring-2006.htm
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 today...it 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.
Here are some notes including completed management and what's left to do...
... are boring.
I took about 118 photos this afternoon and the > 100 straight-down shots are not interesting. Straight-down shot will provide good data when we have the ground markers and get enough shots in the right places. But for visual appeal & interest, the photos are boring.
Flying the kite was fun. It was cloudy with 10 - 15 mph winds from the N - NNW. It was a challenge to get the FF16 kite up--a 15 minute ordeal. But when it got up, it stayed. It was tiring to take it down and then it easily went right back up again. I took shots of the CG and then went to Staffanson.
Here's one of the few shots with the camera tilted. I like it.
This is a view of part of the common garden from the West. The rows are 1 m apart and those things are tripods for the video cameras. The tripods weren't in use today and have plastics bags over them. Flags are more visible than the Echinacea plants. But If you click on the thumbnail, you'll be able to see some flowering plants in the larger image.
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).