Every year the prairie is different. Last year it was glutted with black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia) and this year I have hardly seen any. The burn this spring has activated seeds of flowers we’ve never seen before. Among these, the most dramatic is the rough blazing star. Wow. Even before it blooms, it is a stunner. The smooth stem is studded with baubles that burst open like fuzzy pom pons. They are popping up in pairs, scattered throughout the prairie. This prairie is 10 years old, and it’s still surprising us.
I’ve been out to photograph the blazing stars several times, and can’t quite capture their impact. This is the best photo I’ve got.
It also shows the prairie sage and some of the big bluestem.
The prairie has really had everything, often in small sprays– purple coneflowers and a couple types of yellow coneflowers, including one a friend from Texas calls Mexican hat for its sombrero-like cone. The bergamot and most of the purples have faded, although there are still occasional sprigs of blue vervain here and there, and of course the blazing stars just coming alive. What is really prominent now is the goldenrod, really a fall flower, which will mellow into the browns of late autumn.
I also don’t remember seeing this particular variety of sunflower (Maximillian sunflower) rising above the prairie. I think it has just been there in such large quantity that it didn’t stand out like it is this year.
Also, there have been so many pollinators I swear I can hear a buzz even standing next to the house. Of the bees we’ve been landlording, one colony never really got started (they discovered flies got in and laid maggots in June and took the box away), but the other seems to be thriving. I hope these prairie bees, which are also active in the vegetable garden, and which are loud and attentive though not aggressive, are the ones in the honey hive. They seem a vigorous bunch.
I swear, it’s been among the most beautiful summers in the prairie. There has been nothing especially dramatic, just these small pleasures you have to walk out to see. Still, especially in the evening, I could sit and look at it for hours.