The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest

Overview

Settlers crossing the tallgrass prairie in the early 1800s were greeted by a seemingly endless landscape of wildflowers and grasses, one of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet. Today, although the tallgrass prairie has been reduced to a tiny percentage of its former expanse, people are working to restore and reconstruct prairie communities. This lavishly illustrated guide to seeds and seedlings, crafted by Tallgrass Prairie Center botanist Dave Williams and illustrator Brent Butler, will insure that ...

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The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest

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Overview

Settlers crossing the tallgrass prairie in the early 1800s were greeted by a seemingly endless landscape of wildflowers and grasses, one of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet. Today, although the tallgrass prairie has been reduced to a tiny percentage of its former expanse, people are working to restore and reconstruct prairie communities. This lavishly illustrated guide to seeds and seedlings, crafted by Tallgrass Prairie Center botanist Dave Williams and illustrator Brent Butler, will insure that everyone from urban gardeners to grassland managers can properly identify and germinate seventy-two species of tallgrass wildflowers and grasses in eastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, Iowa, eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, and eastern Oklahoma.

Williams has created a brilliant, nearly foolproof system of identification and verification. Two primary keys lead to eleven secondary keys that link to characteristic groups of tallgrass plants: seven groups for wildflowers and four groups for grasses. To identify a seedling, use the primary key to discover its place in the secondary key, then turn to that characteristic group to find your seedling. Circles on each full seedling photograph correspond to close-up photographs; triangles on these close-ups illustrate information in the text to further pinpoint identification. Drawings of leaves illuminate exact identification, and enlarged photographs of each seed provide yet another way to confirm identification.

Thousands of seeds were sprouted in the Tallgrass Prairie Center’s greenhouse to provide seedlings close in size and development to those grown in the field near the end of their first season; research and photography took place over four years. Williams’s text for each species includes a thorough description, a comparison of similar species, and guidance for germination and growth. A complete glossary supports the text, which is concise but detailed enough to be accessible to beginning prairie enthusiasts.

Anyone in the Upper Midwest who wishes to preserve the native vegetation of prairie remnants or reconstruct a tallgrass prairie of whatever size—from home gardens to schoolyards to roadsides to large acreages—will benefit from the hundreds of photographs and drawings and the precise text in this meticulously prepared guide.

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587299025
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2010
  • Series: Bur Oak Guide
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 138
  • Sales rank: 607,822
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Botanist Dave Williams is the program manager for the Prairie Institute at the Tallgrass Prairie Center, University of Northern Iowa. He has been actively engaged in prairie restoration and reconstruction since 1989. The graphic designer for the Tallgrass Prairie Center since 2006, artist Brent Butler has produced many publications on prairie conservation.

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Read an Excerpt

The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest


By DAVE WILLIAMS

University of Iowa Press

Copyright © 2010 Tallgrass Prairie Center
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-58729-902-5


Chapter One

Forbs: Key Characteristic Group 1

Round stem, hairlike stipules, alternate leaves

Leadplant Amorpha canescens | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

hairlike stipules

alternate leaves

circular simple leaves on young seedlings

oddpinnate compound leaves on older seedlings

pointed leaflet tips

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Leadplant emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Stipules located at the base of the petiole where it joins the stem are rust-colored and hairlike. Young seedling leaves are alternate and almost circular, with pointed leaf tips. As the seedling matures, leaves change from simple to odd-pinnate compound with 3-35 leaflets per leaf.

LOOK-ALIKES

milk vetch: leaflike stipules

showy tick trefoil: hairy leaf margin

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of leadplant is improved with moist-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Leadplant seedlings grow very slowly; 3 or more growing seasons may be needed to produce flowering plants. Seed photo: hull intact (top), hull removed (bottom).

New Jersey tea Ceanothus americanus | Rhamnaceae, buckthorn family

round stem

hairlike stipules

alternate leaves

serrated leaf margin

glossy leaves

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

New Jersey tea emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Hairlike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. Leaves are alternate, glossy, and simple with serrated margins. Note: Because of the presence of stipules, this species was grouped with the legumes; however, New Jersey tea is in the buckthorn family.

LOOK-ALIKES

blue vervain: edged stem

Culver's root: opposite leaves

hoary vervain: edged stem

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of New Jersey tea is improved by scarification followed by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. New Jersey tea is a low-growing woody plant with several branching stems arising from a single taproot.

Purple prairie clover Dalea purpurea | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

hairlike stipules

alternate leaves

compound leaf with 3-5 leaflets

citrusy odor of crushed leaf

pointed leaflet tips

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Purple prairie clover emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Hairlike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. Young seedling leaves are compound with 3 strap-shaped leaflets. Leaflet tips are pointed. As the plant matures, some leaves may develop 5 leaflets. Crushing a leaf produces a citrusy odor.

LOOK-ALIKES

round-headed bush clover: hair prominent on the stem

white prairie clover: notched to rounded leaflet tips

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of purple prairie clover is improved with dry-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Purple prairie clover is a high-protein forage source for wild turkey, white-tailed deer, and quail. Seed photo: hull intact (top), hull removed (bottom).

Round-headed bush clover Lespedeza capitata | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

hairlike stipules

compound leaf with 3 leaflets

pointed leaf tips

hairy stem and leaf margins

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Round-headed bush clover emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Hairlike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. The stipules on young seedlings are light green, and darken as the plant matures. The first leaf is simple, and subsequent leaves are compound, with 3 leaflets. Each leaflet has a pointed tip that can be seen without a hand lens, making this species easy to identify. Hair is prominent on the stem and leaflet margins.

LOOK-ALIKES

cream false indigo: leaflike stipules purple prairie clover: straplike leaflets white prairie clover: notched leaflet tips white wild indigo: leaflike stipules

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of round-headed bush clover is improved with moist-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Dense, dark brown flower heads make round-headed bush clover easy to spot in the winter. Seed photo: hull removed.

Showy tick trefoil Desmodium canadense | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

hairlike stipules

alternate leaves

circular simple leaves on young seedlings

compound leaves with 3 leaflets on older seedlings

hair on leaf and leaflet margins

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Showy tick trefoil emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Hairlike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole and sometimes on the petiole near the base of the leaf. Young seedling leaves are simple and almost circular. As the plant matures, compound leaves develop, each consisting of 3 leaflets. Hair on the margin of leaves and leaflets can be easily seen with a hand lens.

LOOK-ALIKES

flowering spurge: stipules absent leadplant: pointed leaf and leaflet tips milk vetch: leaflike stipules

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of showy tick trefoil is improved with dry-cold stratification. This species grows in wet-mesic to dry-mesic soils and in full to partial sunlight. Showy tick trefoil's small, dark seed pods will stick to your clothes if you brush up against this species in the fall. Seed photo: segmented pod removed.

Showy tick trefoil Desmodium canadense | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

hairlike stipules

alternate leaves

compound leaves with 3 leaflets on young seedlings

notched and round leaflet tips

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

White prairie clover emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Hairlike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. Young seedling leaves are compound with 3 leaflets. As the plant matures, each leaf can have up to 9 leaflets. Leaflet tips are notched or rounded. Crushed leaves of this species do not produce a citrusy odor.

LOOK-ALIKES

cream false indigo: leaflike stipules

purple prairie clover: pointed leaflet tips

round-headed bush clover: pointed leaflet tips

white wild indigo: leaflike stipules

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of white prairie clover is improved with dry-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. It is commonly called broom weed; Native Americans constructed brooms from its stems. Seed photo: hull intact (top), hull removed (bottom).

Chapter Two

Forbs: Key Characteristic Group 2

Round stem, leaflike stipules, alternate leaves

Cream false indigo Baptisia bracteata | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

leaflike stipules

alternate leaves

obovate, balloon-shaped leaflets

compound leaves with 3 leaflets

hair prominent on stem and leaflets

leaflets thick and fleshy when rubbed

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Cream false indigo emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Leaflike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. All leaves are compound with 3 leaflets, alternate, and connected to the stem with a very short petiole. Leaflets feel thick and fleshy when rubbed between the fingers. Hair can be seen easily without a hand lens.

LOOK-ALIKES

round-headed bush clover: hairlike stipules

showy tick trefoil: hairlike stipules

white prairie clover: hairlike stipules

white wild indigo: hair absent on stem

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of cream false indigo is improved with scarification followed by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Emerging shoots in spring look like asparagus. Cream false indigo seedlings grow very slowly; 3 or more growing seasons may be needed to produce flowering plants. Seed photo: color variants and pod removed.

Milk vetch Astragalus canadensis | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

leaflike stipules

alternate leaves

odd-pinnate compound leaves with 3-35 leaflets

oval leaflets with notched tips

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Milk vetch emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Leaflike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. Young seedling leaves are oval with notched leaflet tips and alternate on the stem. As the seedling matures, milk vetch leaves change from simple to odd-pinnate compound with 3-35 leaflets per leaf. Hair is easily seen on leaflet undersides but difficult to detect on leaflet tops.

LOOK-ALIKES

cream false indigo: balloon-shaped leaflets

leadplant: hairlike stipules

showy tick trefoil: hairlike stipules

white wild indigo: balloon-shaped leaflets

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of milk vetch is improved with scarification followed by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in wet-mesic to dry-mesic soils and in full to partial sunlight. Large, leafy, shrublike plants and cream colored flowers make milk vetch easy to find in a prairie. Seed photo: pod removed.

Partridge pea Chamaecrista fasciculata | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

leaflike stipules

alternate leaves

hair on stem and leaflet margins

even-pinnate compound leaves with 8-24 leaflets

pointed leaflet tips

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Partridge pea emerges as a single stem. The stem is round when rolled between the fingers. Leaflike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. All leaves are even-pinnate compound with 8-24 leaflets, which makes this species very easy to identify at a young seedling stage. The first few leaves have 8 leaflets, and subsequent leaves may have up to 24 leaflets. Leaflets have a pointed tip. Hair on the stem and leaflet margins can be seen easily with a hand lens.

LOOK-ALIKES

leadplant: hairlike stipules

milk vetch: notched and rounded leaflet tips

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of partridge pea is improved by scarification followed by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Partridge pea is an annual plant that grows rapidly and flowers in the first year. Seed photo: pod removed.

White wild indigo Baptisia alba | Fabaceae, legume family

round stem

leaflike stipules

alternate leaves

compound leaves with 3 leaflets

balloon-shaped leaflets with notched tips

stem and leaflet hair absent

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

White wild indigo emerges as a single stem. The stem feels round when rolled between the fingers. Leaflike stipules are located on the stem at the junction of the petiole. The first leaf is simple and balloon-shaped. Subsequent leaves are alternate, compound with 3 leaflets, and connected to the stem with a very short petiole. Leaflets feel thick and fleshy when rubbed between the fingers. Stem and leaflets are hairless.

LOOK-ALIKES

cream false indigo: hair on stem and leaflets

round-headed bush clover: hairlike stipules

showy tick trefoil: hairlike stipules

white prairie clover: hairlike stipules

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of white wild indigo is improved with scarification followed by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in wet-mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Emerging shoots in spring look like asparagus. White wild indigo seedlings grow very slowly; 3 or more growing seasons may be needed to produce flowering plants. Seed photo: color variants and pod removed.

Chapter Three

Forbs: Key Characteristic Group 3

Round stem, stipules absent, alternate leaves

Flowering spurge Euphorbia corollata | Euphorbiaceae, spurge family

round stem

alternate leaves

elliptic and oval leaf shapes

very short petiole

hairy stem and leaves

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Flowering spurge emerges as a single stem. The stem feels round when rolled between the fingers. Leaves are elliptic to oval, alternate, and connected to the stem with a very short petiole. Hair on the leaf margins and stem can be seen without a hand lens. This seedling has a unique appearance and is easily identified in the field.

LOOK-ALIKES

leadplant: hairlike stipules

showy tick trefoil: hairlike stipules

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Germination of flowering spurge can be tricky. This species has a hard seed coat, and moist-cold stratification is needed to break seed dormancy. Flowering spurge grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Seedlings grow very slowly, and 2-3 growing seasons may be needed before flowering plants are produced. Seed photo: color variants.

Grass-leaved goldenrod Euthamia graminifolia | Asteraceae, daisy family

round stem

alternate leaves

3 linear veins on leaves

linear, straplike leaf shape

sessile leaves

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

Grass-leaved goldenrod emerges as a single stem. The stem feels round when rolled between the fingers. Look closely at this seedling plant because there are some identification characteristics that can be easily missed. Leaves are strap-like, alternate, and connected to the stem without a petiole. Linear veins on the leaf surface resemble those of the grasses. Leaf margins have very small serrations that cannot be seen with the naked eye but make the leaf edges feel rough when rubbed across the fingers.

LOOK-ALIKES

butterfly milkweed: opposite leaves

common mountain mint: opposite leaves

slender mountain mint: opposite leaves

prairie coreopsis: opposite leaves

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of grass-leaved golden rod can be improved by moist-cold stratification. To maximize light for germination, seeds should not be covered with soil after sowing. This species grows in wet to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. Seedlings grow very slowly; 2-3 growing seasons may be needed before flowering plants are produced. Seed photo: color variants, pappus removed.

New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae | Asteraceae, daisy family

round stem

alternate leaves

spatulate leaves

leaves clasp stem

pubescent hairs on stem and leaves

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

New England aster emerges as a single stem. The stem feels round when rolled between the fingers. Leaves are alternate and shaped like a spatula. Leaves are connected directly to the stem, clasping it without petioles. Short, soft hairs on the leaves and stem can be seen without a hand lens.

LOOK-ALIKES

smooth blue aster: leaf petiole present

tall boneset: opposite leaves

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of New England aster can be improved by moist-cold stratification. This species grows in wet-mesic to dry-mesic soils and in full to partial sunlight. In late summer to early fall, when most other prairie flowers have finished blooming, the rose-purple to purple flowers of New England aster glow in a planting. Expect flowering plants in the second growing season. Seed photo: color variants, pappus removed.

White sage Artemisia ludoviciana | Asteraceae, daisy family

round stem

alternate leaves

serrated margin on less than half of leaf

stem and leaf hair prominent

sage odor of crushed leaf

whitish foliage

SEEDLING DESCRIPTION

White sage emerges as a single stem. The stem feels round when rolled between the fingers. Leaves are spatula-shaped and alternate. Less than half of the leaf is serrated. Leaves appear whitish from the hair on the leaf surface. Seen through a hand lens, the hairs appear matted and tangled on the leaf. As the seedling matures, the foliage takes on a whitish color and is easily recognizable. Crushing the leaf produces a strong sage odor. The leaf hair and sage odor are unique characteristics for this species.

LOOK-ALIKES

None

GERMINATION AND GROWTH

Seed germination of white sage can be improved by dry-cold or moist-cold stratification. To maximize light for germination, seeds should not be covered with soil after sowing. This species grows in mesic to dry soils and in full to partial sunlight. The unique white foliage of white sage makes up for its lack of showy flowers. Seed photo: color variants.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest by DAVE WILLIAMS Copyright © 2010 by Tallgrass Prairie Center. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Contents

About This Book....................ix
About the Photographs....................xi
Acknowledgments....................xi
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................1
Leadplant, Amorpha canescens....................7
New Jersey tea, Ceanothus americanus....................8
Purple prairie clover, Dalea purpurea....................9
Round-headed bush clover, Lespedeza capitata....................10
Showy tick trefoil, Desmodium canadense....................11
White prairie clover, Dalea candida....................12
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................2
Cream false indigo, Baptisia bracteata....................15
Milk vetch, Astragalus canadensis....................16
Partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata....................17
White wild indigo, Baptisia alba....................18
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................3
Flowering spurge, Euphorbia corollata....................21
Grass-leaved goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia....................22
New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae....................23
White sage, Artemisia ludoviciana....................24
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................4
Butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa....................29
Culver's root, Veronicastrum virginicum....................30
Ironweed, Vernonia fasciculata....................31
Prairie phlox, Phlox pilosa....................32
Prairie sunflower, Helianthus pauciflorus....................33
Saw-tooth sunflower, Helianthus grosseserratus....................34
Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata....................35
Tall boneset, Eupatorium altissimum....................36
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................5
Blue vervain, Verbena hastata....................41
Common mountain mint, Pycnanthemum virginianum....................42
Hairy mountain mint, Pycnanthemum pilosum....................43
Hoary vervain, Verbena stricta....................44
Ox-eye sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides....................45
Prairie coreopsis, Coreopsis palmata....................46
Slender mountain mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium....................47
Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa....................48
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................6
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta....................53
Bottle gentian, Gentiana andrewsii....................54
Canada anemone, Anemone canadensis....................55
Compass plant, Silphium laciniatum....................56
Foxglove beardtongue, Penstemon digitalis....................57
Fragrant coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa....................58
Golden alexanders, Zizia aurea....................59
Gray-headed coneflower, Ratibida pinnata....................60
Great blue lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica....................61
Heath aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides....................62
Old field goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis....................63
Pale purple coneflower, Echinacea pallida....................64
Prairie smoke, Geum triflorum....................65
Prairie violet, Viola pedatifida....................66
Rosinweed, Silphium integrifolium....................67
Showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa....................68
Smooth blue aster, Symphyotrichum laeve....................69
Sneezeweed, Helenium autumnale....................70
Stiff goldenrod, Oligoneuron rigidum....................71
Thimbleweed, Anemone cylindrica....................72
Wild quinine, Parthenium integrifolium....................73
Forbs: Key Characteristic Group....................7
Ohio spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis....................77
Prairie blazing star, Liatris pycnostachya....................78
Prairie onion, Allium stellatum....................79
Prairie spiderwort, Tradescantia bracteata....................80
Rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium....................81
Rough blazing star, Liatris aspera....................82
Wild garlic, Allium canadense....................83
Grasses: Key Characteristic Group....................1
Big bluestem, Andropogon gerardii....................91
Bluejoint grass, Calamagrostis canadensis....................92
Indian grass, Sorghastrum nutans....................93
Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium....................94
Side-oats grama, Bouteloua curtipendula....................95
Grasses: Key Characteristic Group....................2
Canada wild rye, Elymus canadensis....................99
Virginia wild rye, Elymus virginicus....................100
Grasses: Key Characteristic Group....................3
June grass, Koeleria macrantha....................105
Kalm's bromegrass, Bromus kalmii....................106
Prairie cord grass, Spartina pectinata....................107
Prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis....................108
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum....................109
Tall dropseed, Sporobolus compositus....................110
Grasses: Key Characteristic Group....................4
Porcupine grass, Hesperostipa spartea....................113
Glossary....................115
Index....................117
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