Trying something different today – posting a picture I took in the field. This was from a December seed-collecting trip in one of the remnant prairies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
This is a Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium). I like its stark contrast with the azure sky, and the obviously wintry trees in the background.
Things I noticed about RSM (as I abbreviated it in my notes):
- This plant is well armed against herbivory!
- Echinacea & RSM seedheads “look like sisters”
- The stalk is so stiff that when I removed seedheads, the recoil spread a few seeds. That reassurds me that I wasn’t removing the whole population.
- Other species close by (associates): Echinacea, azure sage, little blue stem, Dewberry, wild rose
- Gathering is very good work for learning a species.
Things I’ve learned:
- It’s an erygnium! Like “Eryngo”, that gorgeous purple “thistle” in the carrot family
- Huge range in the US: Mentally draw a big rough trapezoid from Florida Westward to Texas, North to Minnesota and East to Ohio
After I found my first patch of Rattlesnake Master by blundering onto it, and removed every seed head I could find, I realized I was clueless to where I should go next. So I stood in place and looked down. What species were at my feet? Then I looked farther away. What species were clumped beyond this patch that weren’t represented here underfoot? How did the other patches of vegetation look: color & texture? How did this one compare? My impressions that other patches were warm maroon brown, and [the one I was in was] ‘spikey’ with hackberries. (There were other clues, like Dewberry thickness and proximity to motts vs open prairie.) So using my new ‘vision,’ I picked out a similar spot about 1/8 mile away. I walked there and was elated as if finding an old friend when I went right to more Rattlesnake master: There ARE patterns to be discerned.