Friday, September 21, 2012

Carl Kurtz's Photo Essay: Compass Plants

In preparation for the upcoming second edition of A Practical Guide to Prairie Restoration by Carl Kurtz, we're excited to be sharing Carl's beautiful photos and observations about nature!

Carl Kurtz is a professional writer, teacher, naturalist, and photographer. He and his wife and partner, Linda, live on a 172-acre family farm in central Iowa that is one of the few prairie seed sources in the Midwest.

Compass plants, one of the most distinctive features of the mid-continent tallgrass prairie, grow in both wet and dry areas.  They seem to flourish where the soil is moderately wet, in botanical terms, mesic.  As a long-lived perennial they require a number of years to mature and produce a flower stalk.  Young plants, 3 or 4 years of age, may have only one flower stalk, while those 10 or more years of age may have more than a half dozen.  It appears they are sensitive to changing weather conditions and some years store food reserves rather than produce flowers and seeds.   Showy-tick trefoil provides a  
colorful understory to this scene.

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