A cold wind is blowing down the range, and it will arrive on Saturday with a high of 52 degrees. The traditional blooms of the prairies are closing up shop this week.
The goldenrods are turning brown, and the asters are converting to seed. In the woods, things are even further along as decay is setting in with a flourish of mushrooms dotting the forest floor. All this to highlight how surprised I was to come across this fresh blue flower in a local oak savanna.
To be fair, I didn’t find it randomly. I was brought to it by my friend, Doug Kripple, who had seen it while cutting honeysuckle last weekend. The second I saw the flower structure, I knew it was a gentian, and I quickly found about a dozen plants in the area.
Consulting with a friend, we guessed it is a soapwort gentian because of its slender leaves and the sandy oak habitat. Bottle gentian also is a possibility, but is generally found in wet prairies. Whatever the species, it is a new find for Doug and I in this particular area.
Both the bottle and soapwort gentian flowers stay mostly closed. It takes a strong bumblebee or beetle to pry them open and get the good stuff.
It was a timely find for Doug and me as we are working on removing invasive species from the area around the wetland where the gentians occur. We now have some extra motivation to enhance the habitat that much more.