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Prairie phlox

Prairie phlox

Prairie phlox

Plant with us in the deep woods and explore the vast grasslands of northern Wisconsin. The basins and bluffs of Buffalo Bay are home to one of the most beautiful and abundant wildflower provinces in the Midwest.The flower structure of the Phlox genus is a classical example of a butterfly flower. Such flowers feature widely spreading petals or corolla lobes that function as a landing pad for these insects, and a long narrow corolla tube that is accessible to the long proboscis of butterflies, as well as skippers and moths. Such flowers typically occur in loose, rounded clusters, and they are often fragrant. The flowers of Prairie Phlox have all of these characteristics. A very rare variety of Prairie Phlox that occurs within the Sangamon river basin in Sangamon and Champaign counties is Phlox pilosa var. sangamonensis (Sangamon Phlox). This variety is distinguished primarily by its hairless stems, flowering stalks, and leaves, and it is listed as 'endangered' in the state of Illinois.Phlox pilosa (Prairie Phlox) is an upright perennial forming clumps of stiff stems clad with widely-spaced, sharply pointed, linear to lanceolate, deep green leaves, 4 in. long (10 cm). Blooming for about 3-4 weeks in late spring to midsummer, a profusion of pleasantly fragrant, starry, pale pink to lavender flowers appear in rounded terminal clusters. Rich in nectar, they attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Stems and leaves are usually covered with soft white hairs, hence the species name. Excellent selection for rock gardens, cottage gardens, wild gardens, native plant gardens or prairies and meadows.

PHLOX

Prairie Phlox adds a splash of shocking pink to prairies each June. It also does well in a garden, in sunny, sandy soil. There are numerous varieties (or subspecies, depending on the reference)—up to 9 total, most of which are very localized in a few states. The primary distinguishing trait is the calyx hair (or lack thereof); the hair length and whether hairs are glandular sets one apart from another. The one in Minnesota and most of the Midwest is var. fulgida, which is not glandular and has very fine hairs on the calyx. Each flower is about �" across; its corolla has 5 widely spreading lobes at the apex of a narrowly tubular base. These lobes are obovate or oblanceolate in shape and often somewhat angular toward their tips. The calyx has a very short tubular base with 5 long narrowly linear teeth that extend along the narrowly tubular base of the corolla; this calyx is light green to deep reddish purple and hairy. The corollas of the flowers may be white, pink, or lavender; near the throat of the corolla, there are often markings that have a deeper color than the lobes. The flowers have a slight fragrance that is pleasant. Prairie Phlox typically blooms during late spring or early summer for about 3-4 weeks. This plant has a taproot, and it occasionally tillers at the base, sending up multiple stems from the same root system. The small seeds are distributed by the wind to some extent.

The native Prairie Phlox occurs occasionally in most of Illinois, but is uncommon or absent in west central and southeastern Illinois (see Distribution Map). At high quality sites, it may be locally common. Habitats include moist to mesic black soil prairies, rocky open forests, Bur Oak savannas, sandy Black Oak savannas, limestone glades, thickets, abandoned fields, and prairie remnants along railroads. Prairie Phlox appears to benefit from the removal of excess debris by wildfires occurring during early spring or the fall. The nectar of the flowers attracts primarily long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers. Other visitors include moths and bee flies. Among the bee visitors are bumblebees, Anthophorine bees, little carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), cuckoo bees (Nomada spp.), and green metallic bees (Agapostemon spp.). Butterfly and skipper visitors include the American Painted Lady, Sulfur butterflies, Swallowtail butterflies, and Cloudywing skippers. The caterpillars of a moth, Schinia indiana (Prairie Phlox Flower Moth), feeds on the flowers and developing seeds of Prairie Phlox. Other moth caterpillars that feed on the flowers and developing seeds of phloxes (Phlox spp.) include Heliothis turbatus (Spotted Straw) and Heliothis phloxiphaga (Dark-spotted Straw). Other insects feeding destructively on phlox species include Lopidea davis (Phlox Plant Bug), Poecilocapsus lineatus (Four-lined Plant Bug), an aphid (Abstrusomyzus phloxae), and stem-boring larvae of a long-horned beetle (Oberea flavipes). Mammalian herbivores readily consume Prairie Phlox, including rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and livestock. It may be difficult to establish this plant where there is an overpopulation of these animals.

 

 

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