Field of Science

Hot prairie research

Yesterday was a beautiful November day here in the upper midwest. On Monday last our prairie study site was burned, a fall rather than a spring burn. The reason for this hinges on observed differences in time of seed dispersal for two species, a native and an invasive bush clover. The invasive bush clover tends to hang onto its seed very late in the season, so how much of its reproductive potential will get damaged by a fall burn? The answer to this question will probably be not enough, but you never know until to try it and determine the answer for certain. So yesterday we collected seed from scortched clovers and from the litter that tends to accumulate under dense stands of the invasive clover, and in another month or so, after a cold treatment, germination trials will be set up. No matter how toasty the whole place looks, none of these herbaceous perennials are damaged by these fires, so the parent plants will not be harmed. Now in a side story the Phactor was driving the F1's slick silver coupe because it was making a "noise". It's a very nice late model ride, but not exactly cut out for field work. Please understand that after spending a couple of hours out on a recently burned prairie, you get pretty blackened from the knees down, rather smoky flavored, although not as smoky as doing the actual burn, and you have dirty bags of plant material. The good news is that this particular sport coupe has good traction in the mud and made nary a wayward sound. The smoky odor should fade in a few days, but too bad about the floor mats. Shhh! Don't tell!

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