Plant of the day—stiff sunflower

Silphium terebinthinaceum (prairie dock) blooms across the glade.

I’ve been coming to Victoria Glades Conservation Area regularly for nearly 40 years now, yet still I continue to find things that I’ve not seen before. It had continued hot and muggy the last couple of days until a cold front come through, bringing rain and the classic early fall cool-off. The pre-flowering plants of a different goldenrod and blazing star still haven’t bloomed, but I’m fairly certain they are Solidago ridiga (stiff goldenrod) and Liatris aspera (rough blazingstar), respectively. They should definitely be in full bloom by the time I check the traps again in 10 days.

Solidago ridiga (stiff goldenrod) pre-bloom inflorescence.
Liatris aspera (rough blazingstar) pre-bloom inflorescence.

The plant of the day today, however, is what I believe to be Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower), a few plants of which I saw at the top of the knoll on the west side. There are no iNaturalist records for this species either here or at nearby Valley View Glades, but the WGNSS Botany Group has it on their floral list for Victoria Glades. This is a first sighting for me, but I am confident in the identification due to the dark disc florets, stiff lanceolate opposite leaves with rough upper and lower surfaces, and generally only one flower head per stem.

Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower) inflorescence.
Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower) involucre.
Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower) stem/leaves.
Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower) leaf adaxial surface.
Helianthus pauciflorus (stiff sunflower) leaf abaxial surface.

Unfortunately, non-native species continue to pop up with regularity in this gem of a natural area. This includes not only plants, such as Centaurea stoebe (spotted knapweed), a single plant of which I found in bloom at the edge of the parking lot…

Centaurea stoebe (spotted knapweed).
Centaurea stoebe (spotted knapweed) inflorescence.

…but also insects, such as this Tenodera sinensis (Chinese mantis) found perched on the trunk of Quercus stellata (post oak).

Tenodera sinensis (Chinese mantis) on Quercus stellata (post oak).

©️ Ted C. MacRae 2021

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