Two Tall Prairie Composites

by Carl Strang

Though the tall grass prairie is so named for its grasses, these are not the only, nor the tallest, plants growing there. Today I will feature two members of the sunflower family whose flower stalks tower high above the grass tops.

The first of these is tall coreopsis. In a single season it sends up flowering stalks that reach 6-8 feet in height, bearing a number of small flower heads as shown above. It has a more delicate appearance than the yellow coneflower featured earlier in the winter, but the dead stalks are strong enough to resist winter’s driving snows.

A more robust flower stalk is that of the compass plant.

Its flowers are larger, fewer, and on a relatively unbranched stem.

Prairie plant perennial roots wait until later in the spring to begin growing their annual shoots. This renders them less vulnerable to spring prairie fires. It also makes all the more remarkable the ability of some, including those featured today, to grow so tall in a single season.

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