Compass plant against a July thunderhead
An upland sandpiper guards a prairie remnant
Wild bergamot attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
A black swallowtail dries off atop a stiff goldenrod
Insects love partridge pea and other prairie blossoms
RATTLESNAKE! master - uniquely prairie
Blazing star - Liatris pycnostachya
Morning fog drenches a grayhead coneflower
An American lady caterpillar on pussytoes, a favorite food
The beauty of diversity
MilkWEED? Not a weed for a monarch caterpillar!
Spider dew

Dew drops gilding the bluestem . . .

An ever-changing mosaic of color – from butterfly milkweed orange, to coneflower and partridge pea yellow, to bergamot and liatris pink, to Indiangrass green . . .

Butterflies flitting . . .

Caterpillars creeping . . .

Insects buzzing . . .

Busy birds chattering . . .

Summer heat may slow us humans – but the warmth of July and August just make the prairie even more dynamic and lively.

This evening, as the sun sets and the air cools just a bit, take the time to explore a roadside remnant or even a pocket-sized prairie restoration. Or venture out before sunrise, when the dew drenches the grasses and flowers and spider webs. Then try to imagine a beautiful expanse stretching to the horizon – the scene that greeted the first Iowans before the advent of square-mile corn and soybean fields.

For all the diversity and splendor of the prairie flora, my favorite remains the compass plant, Silphium laciniatum.

That’s probably because of Aldo Leopold’s classic essay in “A Sand County Almanac” about the destruction of a roadside prairie.

“What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered,” Leopold lamented, “and perhaps not even asked.”

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