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More than just flowers

Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission - Wednesday, January 30, 2019
by Leslie Patrick

For several years, a regular feature on our Facebook and Instagram pages has been a weekly post called Friday Flower. The posts highlight native plants with showy or interesting flowers often in bloom at the time. In winter, when there is not much in bloom, it can be a challenge to come up with Friday Flowers.

To help us find flowers to fill our winter Fridays, we launched Staff Pick Friday Flower, a series of posts on favorite flowers of ANHC staff members. Staff submitted their individual flower picks along with an explanation of why they chose a particular flower. Some chose flowers that evoked special memories, while others simply liked a flower for its vibrant color or beautiful form. Along with featuring the flowers, these posts have given us the opportunity to introduce some of our staff who are typically behind-the-scenes and share a little bit about our staff with our social media audience.

ANHC Education and Information Coordinator Ruthie Berryhill is one of our staff who usually works behind-the-scenes, researching, writing, and editing information for the public. When it came to picking a favorite flower, however, she was in a quandary. Ruthie explains:

When asked to pick a flower for this week’s Friday Flower post, I didn’t think it would be difficult because I love many of our native flowers. However, it wasn’t easy for me to choose one flower or one genus of flowers. While trying to pick one, I realized that there was a common thread that ran through all of my favorites – they are all prairie flowers! I love the sight of one of our prairies in bloom with all of the flowers dressed up and dancing in the breeze. Some of my coworkers have theorized that it is because I grew up in western Arkansas and the tallgrass prairies are familiar to me. Maybe it is. Or maybe it is the prairies’ succession of colorful blooms, with a little of everything to look at throughout the growing season. Maybe it is all of the descriptive common names or the folk medicine uses for the plants. Or maybe it is a combination of all of these. Regardless, I think there is no single flower more stunning than a sea of prairie flowers with bees buzzing by and butterflies flitting about.
So, my pick for Friday Flower isn’t just one flower, it is coneflower, beebalm, wine cup, milkweed, purple passion flower, sensitive brier, prairie gayfeather, and bluets. It is big and little bluestem, Indian paintbrush, blue sage, late purple aster, blue-eyed grass, buttonbush, and Ohio spiderwort. It is meadow wild onion, rattlesnake master, black-eyed Susan, slender mountain-mint, sunflower, cornsalad, and shooting-star. This is in no way a complete list of Arkansas’s native prairie flowers, so be sure to visit a natural area near you this year to find your favorite.


Top -- Indian paintbrush on Downs Prairie Natural Area.

Bottom -- Flowers in bloom at Baker Prairie Natural Area. Photo by Bill Holimon.

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