Field Notes Friday 0006: Rattlesnake Master and New Eyes

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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.

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One thought on “Field Notes Friday 0006: Rattlesnake Master and New Eyes

  1. Pingback: Field Notes Friday 0008: Cycles of Life | the happy naturalist

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