Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Page of Prairie Dock

The notes read: "Flower stalks of the prairie dock rise high above their leaves, which are enormous, rough, veiny, cool. In the early morning, the buds still lean towards the setting sun of yesterday afternoon. Already, as I finish they begin turning their hears toward the east... The leaves are tipped in red, translucent and deeply shadowed with the morning sun... Still rolled tightly, terminal buds hold the promise of yellow.... Grasshopper rests on a leaf, hops when I touch him... Leaves clasp the stems -- the lower down on the stalk the longer the leaf's stem, like increasingly evolved giraffe necks [getting only so long that they can effectively reach food without giving up the ability to hold up the food grabber; leaf in this case, head in giraffe's]. Higher up, the "necks" are stubby, short, even absent at the top. Leaf teeth also get larger the further down the leaf is on the plant."

I am thrilled to have these stalks to draw in my yard. See, I planted this prairie dock, and 2 others, at least 6 years ago. They've done well enough, coming back the first couple of years with a few leaves and the last several years with huge leaves, many of them, looking robust and healthy. But this is the first year I have gotten the flower stalks. There are 8 of them total. I used to fear that my plants were somehow not happy, didn't like their places although the leaves were large. Now I think they were just children, and they have finally reached adolescence and started to grow tall. Next week, perhaps, the first yellow flowers will bloom upon them.

That reminds me... I saw this other phenology blog (I know, right?) that used a really neat method to convey a lot of information really fast. It listed plants and then weekly progress reports, as in:
Prairie dock:
last week -- flower stalks about 3-4 feet tall
this week -- flower stalks 5-6 feet tall, still no flowers
last week -- the first, bright purple flowers opening
this week -- full bloom
Etc. I love this idea... and, although I don't like the idea of copying another person... well, no ideas are really original anymore, right? And this format would allow me to go back to making more scientific phenological observations and recordings, which I haven't really been doing lately. I've just been profiling a few plants as they catch my eye enough, at some point in their life cycle, for me to want to draw them. Well. We'll see. (Opinions welcome.)


  1. The weekly progress report method would certainly provide a lot of information in an easy to follow to format and would be a great way to record information. Personally, unless I'm searching for some specific information, I don't get really interested in reading lists. I much prefer reading something like your narrative on the Prairie Dock where I can think things like, "Hey, Naomi's Prairie Dock is at about the same bloom stage as mine. I remember how many years it took my little plants to begin blooming. Won't it be exciting when she has Prairie Dock blooms right in her yard?"

  2. Naomi, I agree with Steve. I look forward to reading your prose accounts on a weekly basis with your drawings and photographs. If you want to do the lists keep the other parts I love. :D

  3. Oh, I certainly wouldn't replace what I'm currently doing. JUST a weekly list would be terribly boring, I think.