Native survivors…

Two tough survivors are these plants. Able to flourish during record breaking heat this summer, they showed prolific blooms in the prairie last week. Stressful times of draught as well prairie fires do not spell doom for this pair which is characteristic to prairie species. Both plants were valuable to Native American Indians, as they were expert at unearthing the nature’s treasures.

Rattlesnake Master copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

The very name, Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium), lets one know this is a tough plant. The flowers are many small white flowers tightly packed along with prickly bracts into whitish green balls. In the fall the seed head resembles the bloom except it has turned brown and the prickly bracts are more vicious sticking and poking whatever comes into its path. The mesic prairie has mastered the rattlesnake; chased them away to dense forests or rocky bluffs, for none will be found in the prairie. The true naming, Rattlesnake Master, comes from Native American Indians’ use of the root as an antidote for Rattlesnake bite. And yes, they also found use of the seed heads as rattles….. enclosed in a puncture-proof container, I hope.

Black Widow on Rattlesnake Master copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg


Rattlesnake Master 2 copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg



Purple Prairie Clover copyright 2012 Pamela Breitberg

Much daintier in appearance from the Rattlesnake Master is this pretty violet bloomer. I wonder how many readers know what a thimble is and how it is used. Sometimes called Thimbleweed, the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) also considers the prairie its home. It favors the prairie so very much that is not found in disturbed areas, which is most of Illinois. The patch of prairie “preserve” where I observed both these plants has been maintained with wise, careful, hands so as not to disturb such finicky species. Purple Prairie Clover is one of the favorite teas of Native American Indians. Others preferred to chew on the roots. It’s ruggedness includes a tough stem which when tipped with a cactus thorn was used by Kiowa as small arrows for small game.


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