Diversity in the prairie – I'm giddy!

By Carol / July 6, 2011 /
Rattlesnake Master  – Neal Smith NWR

This spring, a plant looking very much like some variety of thistle showed up in my prairie. The spines along it’s slender leaves tempted me, but I exercised remarkable-for-me restraint in not pulling it up.

The plant has started to form flower buds and I am giddy with delight to realize this thistle-like plant is actually a Rattlesnake Master. The seed mix I planted said it was in there, but who knows whether the conditions would be right for it to actually grow? And if it did grow, would it be in year 1 or year 2 or year 3 or sometime later?

Ever since I saw the alien-looking ‘flowers’ of the Rattlesnake Master on one of my first trips to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge, I’ve been hoping for one in my prairie.

When I described the prickly white, golf-ball sized flowers to my husband, he didn’t understand what the fuss was about. It’s certainly not the prettiest flower in the prairie. But it is unusual, unexpected and remarkable in its differences. And in my prairie, it’s New!

I wouldn’t want an entire prairie made up of this plant, but I wouldn’t want an entire prairie of any one plant. The diversity of prairie plant life is one of the things that makes every walk in the prairie a treasure. Thank goodness I didn’t pull up what looked like a thistle and in doing that deprive myself of another example of prairie uniqueness.

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