Mar. 11, 2017

prairie dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum

Prairie dock has an unusual appearance. The plant has all of its leaves at the base. The blades of the leaves are about a foot long and six inches across. Rising from there is a naked stalk up to eye level. There is a cluster of sunflower like heads at the top. The individual flower heads that you see here are close to three inches across. I first saw them along a railroad. Historically, cinders from train engines set fires, helping to maintain small patches of prairie along tracks. More recently, railroads mowed to keep track sides open. Now they use lots of herbicide, and almost nothing of interest remains. Prairie dock often appears in large patches in dry open habitats in AL, AR, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MI, MO, MS, NC, OH, SC, TN, VA, WI, WV, and ON. Ives FEn Preserve, Lenawee Co MI, 8/8/10