In yesterday's blog, I related that most of my yard is native prairie that I mow regularly, usually in portions on a every other week rotation. This year, I'm trying to leave certain areas unmown, primarily so that I can enjoy the prairie forbs that pop up in those areas. The flowers aren't as dense-packed as you might see on a calendar photograph, but there are enough of them to enjoy. Many of my intentionally neglected areas are strips on the hillsides that will serve a dual purpose (other than for my aesthetic satisfaction) as rain gardens to slow down and clean some of the runoff from heavy rains. And of course, the unmown areas offer a third, selfish advantage; they decrease my dreaded mowing time.
I decided to show you some of the June wildflowers blooming in these areas because of my initial excitement over a patch of Purple Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata) right next to the circle (okay, teardrop) driveway. I've been mowing around it for several years while the Poppy Mallow blooms, then cutting it off again a month or so later because the blooming ceases in about a month and because a month is all I get before Mrs. ProfessorRoush starts to complain about the disheveled mess and forces me to cut it. We are not entirely in marital agreement on our appreciation of the "natural" state of lawn.
The Purple Poppy Mallow blooms brightly and gloriously for quite some time during the summer and loves the hot dry summers of Kansas. The blooms close each evening and don't open up till late morning, so if you take a picture or pass by a group in early morning, like the one on the left, it just looks like a patch of overgrown weeds and you might look at it and side with Mrs. ProfessorRoush. Three hours later, this is a river of bright purple, a floriferous masterpiece, and nobody would have the heart to mow it off.
Another forb that has been blooming in the prairie for several weeks now is the Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis). This one also comes in a light cream form (a different species, Plains Wild Indigo or Baptisiabracteata ) that usually blooms first and has already spent their beauty this year. I enjoy the dark, black rattle-ly seedpods that form on the dried up stems of these plants, but saw my neighbor chopping off the blooming false indigo this weekend because he doesn't like the seedpods. There's no accounting for taste, but at least he has a better appreciation for the fact that the sap of this plant turns purple when exposed to air.
Throughout my garden beds, one native prairie plant that I recognize as a seedling and allow to self-seed wherever it wants is the Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa). I've been amazed how often they pop up in a perfect place for display and that's good because they are nearly impossible to transplant anyway due to deep taproots. These orange beauties have just begun to bloom and they will brighten up their areas for 6 weeks. I now have 10 different self-seeded butterfly magnets in my garden. They are all tough as nails, impervious to wind and weather and insects, and as drought-tolerant as you'd ever want.
Hidden in the prairie grasses, if you look hard for it, will be light-pink-purple bristly flowers of the Catclaw Sensitive Briar (Mimosa nuttallii). What looks like flowers are actually the overpowering pink stamens towering above the tiny flowers. Touch the stamens and they fold up into a small ball instantly. Catclaw is an important indicator of prairie health as it disappears in overgrazed areas.
I've got loads of wildflowers to show you, so look for posts II and III later this week; I think we'll do the yellows, and then the whites on different days.