Minnesota Zoo Butterfly Conservation

Erik Runquist at the Minnesota Zoo is leading a unique and important Prairie Butterfly Conservation program. Along with Cale Nordmeyer, their research is discovering the life cycle and needs of endangered and threatened butterflies that use native grasses. Watch Erik in this video collect and tag butterflies in Minnesota. Pictured below are their cages for raising native skipper butterflies, each with a prairie dropseed plant and one or more skipper larvae.
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Grass Collection worth a visit

IMG_3503Many grasses are at their peak now; it’s a great time to visit the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection. Shown above from left: blue, falling over “Wind Walker’ big bluestem; front center ‘Buffalo Bedtime’ sideoats grama; front right ‘Blue Lagoon’ little bluestem; right background dark purple ‘Rain Dance’ big bluestem shows the variation in new named forms of native grasses. The Grass Collection is open daily with gate admission or free to Arboretum members. Special event Walk with Mary Meyer 4-6 PM September 19, 2109 at the Arboretum.

“Buffalo Bedtime’ sideoats grama below, has dark purple flowers.

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What is your favorite native grass?

I get this question a lot…and my answer is always…”It depends on what month it is!” This week the Bouteloua’s look great….blue grama and sideoats grama are not the showiest in the formal garden…too messy for many, but their flowers are really incredible. These tough grasses favor dry sites and are larval food for at least 15 Lepidoptera species, including the endangered or threatened Poweshiek skipperling and Dakota skipper. Sideoats has red anthers that dangle from the florets and blue grama is known as the “eyelash grass” with delicate flowers the turn from purple to tan as they age. Native bees and flies are on these grass flowers now eating the pollen. Today, these are currently my favorite native grasses.

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Juncus inflexus, hard or blue rush

Hard or blue rush was planted at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in 2004 and has survived well. The plants are 30 inches in height and about 36 inches in width. The shiny brown flowers contrast with the blue cylindrical foliage. Hard rush is an easy to grow plant for full sun, clay soils or wet sites.

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New Arbor in Grass Collection

A beautiful new arbor and deck are completed in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Grass Collection. New plants have been added to showcase sedges and grasses for shade, both native and non-native plants.

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Grasses for Shade

What grasses grow in shade? Lots of sedges and a few grasses. See this new list at the Yard and Garden blog with the University of Minnesota. The tallest grass for shade is river oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, that grows to 3 1/2 feet and often self-seeds in Minnesota. IMG_5462.JPG

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Penn sedge is blooming

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Last week, about May 1, I saw the first flowers on Pennsylvania sedge, Carex pensylvanica.  You can see the yellow male anthers filled with pollen above, which sit higher on the flowering stalk than the female flowers, which are the darker brown color.

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