Even though it’s well into October and flowers have mostly gone to seed except for late bloomers like asters and some goldenrods, a prairie in fall is still a fine place to be, so on Sunday we headed out to visit two prairies not far from the Twin Cities.
At McKnight prairie, wind bent the prairie grasses in graceful arcs, and white seed heads shone in the sunlight as brightly as new-fallen snow. Sumac leaves burned red, a few goldenrod flowers still bloomed, and prairie blazing star gone to seed stood up like bottle brushes. The biggest surprise: partridge pea still blooming, the yellow flowers catching the sunlight and holding it like cups of gold. One black-eyed Susan still had its black eyed, yellow petaled flowers, and bumble bees buzzed in the few blue asters we came across. We searched for whorled milkweed and butterflyweed, both of which we remembered seeing here before, but the only signs of milkweed were a few opened seed pods on tall, leafless, single stems—maybe Sullivant’s or common milkweed, but not whorled or butterflyweed.
At our next stop, River Terrace Prairie Scientific and Natural Area, we did find whorled milkweed pods, some already spilling seeds to the wind, some still pointing upward like candelabra. Here we identified dotted blazing star gone to seed, one of the blazing stars we’ve worked to identify this past year.
The sky was autumn blue, the bright sun a photographer’s challenge, but the use of a sunshade and shoga (shade yoga where we contort our bodies to throw shadows on flowers for the sake of a picture) helped.
Spring, summer, fall, winter– any time of year the prairie holds surprises, and the wind under a wide prairie sky blows away all concerns, at least for a while, making any day a prairie day.