Thursday, February 5, 2009

Midwest Native Plant Conference Logo

For our inaugural post I thought I would give you a little info on our logo for the Midwest Native Plant Conference, July 24th-26th. Go here for pre-registration and more info. There are four species represented in the logo; two flowers, one grass and one butterfly are skillfully weaved together by artist Ann Geise.

A field of Sideoats Grama at Green Lawn
Cemetery. Photo by Jim McCormac.

The grass that forms a graceful arch in our logo is Sideoats Grama, Bouteloua curtipendula. This short grass, which reaches one and a half to three feet in height, is a handsome plant even in winter. In the above photo, Sideoats Grama makes a welcome addition to a prairie planting at Green Lawn cemetery in Columbus, OH. In the photo below, Sideoats Grama creates an amber sea of grass surrounding the large wire bison statue on the White River Canal in Indianapolis.

Photo by John A. Lind.

Graceful, delicate stalks of Sideoats Grama. Photo by Kevin Tungesvick.

Each individual stalk creates a unique look, with seed heads forming along one side of the stem. This plant can grow in rocky, sandy and shallow soil, so it could be a nice addition to an area you cannot grow other grasses.

The golden flower head of Ohio Goldenrod welcomes butterflies. Photo by Jim McCormac

The yellow flower in the logo is Ohio Goldenrod, Oligoneuron ohioense . You may also see this plant listed as Solidago ohioensis. The goldenrod group went through some name changes a few years back. This beautiful plant, with large golden blossoms, is a butterfly magnet! It is especially attractive when paired with the rich lavender hues of New England Aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (also known as Aster novae-angliae), which blooms about the same time. Absolutely gorgeous! I used to work at Spence Restoration Nursery and we had a few long rows of Stiff Goldenrod, a cousin to Ohio Goldenrod, planted for seed production. I looked forward to checking the row each day and seeing all the butterflies that smothered the blossoms, taking advantage of the nectar source. I marvelled at the variety of species I observed. By the way, the goldenrod species gets a bad rap for causing allergies in the fall. It is actually ragweed that is the culprit for most allergy symptoms.

This closeup shot by John Howard shows the purple
filaments of Dense Blazing Star, Liatris spicata.

A beautiful lavender field of Dense Blazing Star. Photo by John Howard.

The purple flower in the logo is Dense Blazing Star, Liatris spicata. This plant is another butterfly attractant. We, also, had a row of Dense Blazing Star at the nursery which monarchs really enjoyed. One day, I counted over 25 monarchs feeding on the Liatris in our field. The dense flower stalks are covered with seeds attached to fluffy pappus in the late fall and winter that many birds find irresistible.

Male Monarch butterfly on Common Milkweed.

That brings us full circle to the monarch butterfly in our logo. Monarchs are great ambassadors for nature. Adults and children alike delight in spying a monarch on the wing. Their bright orange and black signature colors may attract humans, but birds know it is a warning sign to stay away. Monarchs pick up cardiac glycosides from their host plants, poisons found in the milkweed family. The caterpillars munch away on leaves of milkweed, all the while protecting their delicate bodies from harm. If a bird eats a monarch caterpillar or adult, they will soon learn that it will cause vomiting and they will shun them from then on.

Migrating monarchs. Photo from. US Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library.

Monarchs' annual migration to Mexico each year links many citizens from both countries. School children participate in many projects pertaining to the monarch migration. Citizen science tagging projects through Monarch Watch and Monarch Larva Monitoring Project involve many people in the U.S. on the tagging end of the project and Mexico on the recovery of the tags. The monarch is a very appropriate mascot, considering these insects truly connect people to nature and that is our goal, as well.


  1. The last photo in this entry made me think.. how would I react if I saw this many butterflies flying in my direction.. Still not sure if I would run or freeze there and pray :) I noticed that under every photo you add the name of the person who took it. Do you personally take any pictures?

  2. Hi Katya,

    I think if I saw that many I would be in total awe. Butterflies would never hurt you. They have a proboscis with which they drink nectar from flowers-like a curled up straw. No chewing mouthparts. :)

    Yes, I do take many of my pictures. But I also have some very talented naturalist/photographer friends who sometimes take a much better photo or have pictures of the plant or creature I wish to talk about that I do not. All the pics on the slideshow at the top of the page are mine. The monarch on the milkweed is mine and the hibiscus is mine.

  3. Oh wow! So you actually know the people who took those pictures? Awesome! Yeah, I was going to comment on the slide show, but then decided not to, but now decided to comment on it anyway. It was a very good decision that you put it at the very top of the page, it REALLY grabs attention! And the photos that are in it definitely don't disappoint :)

    Yes, I know that butterflies cannot hurt humans, but they're kind of.. big.. bigger than average butterflies.. and I would definitely feel somewhat intimidated if a bunch of them flew past me. :) can't help it.

  4. Oops, I almost forgot, Katya. I also had quite a few pics of Skunk-cabbage on the sign of spring post. I have another blog for my job, so sometimes I forget where I post what :)

  5. I think I can give Katya some insight about how she might react.

    When I was young, I witnessed Monarchs migrating south. They had mobbed my grandfather's aster plants and he called to have me take pictures. I never forgot.

    So when the opportunity to travel to Michoacan, Mexico in March, 2007 to the Monarch butterfly refuges when they began their migration back north, I jumped at the chance.

    We hiked up into one reserve one morning... at every water source - stream or spring or puddle - the edges were massed with Monarchs "puddling" - taking on water. Every blooming bush was covered in nectaring butterflies.

    The branches of the pines were covered in what looked like giant pinecones, which were really large clumps of Monarchs - sometimes several thousands of them layered one over another, conserving warmth during the night.

    As the clumps warmed, the outer layers would turn orange as the Monarchs opened their wings. Then sometimes a whole sheet of resting Monarchs would slide off the pine. You could stand under the pine and experience a "Monarch shower."

    As the day warmed, millions of Monarchs left the refuge, heading north to Northern Mexico and Texas. They flowed like an orange river. I stood on a rise in the flight path and watched an orange river flow around me down the valley.

    How would you react? Probably like I did. You would be in awe of the beauty... and lulled by the distinctive sound - a gentle shushing - of millions of Monarch wings. I sat down, alternating my attention from the massive flight to the details of the individual Monarchs landing on and around me... the nectaring, mating...

    No way to count, but a reasonable estimate would be that we saw between one and two million Monarchs in four hours there.

    Impossible to describe... it is a spiritual event.

    By the way, I got to this site when looking up liatris plants. There is one species of liatris, liatris ligulistylis (Meadow Blazingstar), that has some kind of aroma / chemical attractant that draws Monarchs in huge numbers. When it is available, they will pretty much ignore any other flower or liatris plant in favor of nectaring on the ligulistylis.