Well, it's certainly been a slow start to spring here in Stutsman Co., North Dakota, although, It's nice to have two springs in one year. In the short time I've had the pleasure of hiking the prairies in and around Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, I've been reminded of why I am so passionate about plants - because of wildlife. Sofar, my species richness has multiplied, including dozens of new passerines, shorebirds, and mammals. Moose, fishers, marbled godwits, and thirteen-lined ground squirrels are just to name a few. My aspiration has always been to ultimately use my knowledge of flora to manage for wildlife. Both flora and fauna have always captured my attention like nothing else.
This past week, I had the opportunity to visit some of my favorite native prairie patches around the complex after work. There, I found three violet species that are completely new to me among many other wildflowers - two are not found in Ohio and one is endangered there. I hope to find a couple of other western violets this week to add to this post.
Prairie violet (Viola pedatifida). A very similar looking plant as birdfoot violet (Viola pedata), though, birdfoot violets lack a beard and often have larger, more fragrant flowers. I found dozens of these plants throughout a recently burned prairie, which has been known to be an effective management tool for this species. This plant was found on a dry slope among little bluestem and is an indicator species of rich remnant prairies.
Western dog violet or sand violet (Viola adunca) was growing all throughout the prairie and on the edge of a small woodland. Another common name, hookspur violet, describes the stubby spur on the flower similar to longspur violet.
I originally thought this could be Northern bog violet (Viola nephrophylla) but noticed conspicuous stipules and stemmed flowers on my plant unlike the description of N. bog violet.
Nuttall's violet is one of my favorite. I'd eventually like to find ND's other lance-leaved violet, sagebrush violet (Viola vallicola). This is a fairly common violet throughout the prairies in ND, which was discovered by one of the most influential western botanists, Thomas Nuttall.