by Carl Strang
One of the larger prairie plants is prairie dock, a member of the diverse genus Silphium.
In winter the fruiting stalks remain strong and tall.
Curiously, the leaves abscise, though they remain close to the base of the stalk.
Cutting off the leaves is not universal in this genus. The leaves remain attached in compass plant.
I wonder if the broad leaves might catch the wind and tip the stalk, limiting seed dispersal, if the prairie dock held onto them. The cut leaves of compass plant would not pose this problem.
The most surprising and beautiful feature of prairie dock in winter, to my eye, is the core of the fruiting structure.