Linaria canadensis grows on open disturbed sand until more permanent
elements of the sand prairie community can get established. Typically it
will be found sharing this seemingly hostile environment with another
diminutive native plant, the dwarf dandelion Krigia virginica.
Like many plants that evolved to exploit disturbed areas, these plants produce
seeds that can be carried for long distances on the wind, creating a small
but non zero possibility of lodging in another disturbed place where they can grow,
produce seed and thereby continue the cycle. But it must be remembered that these
are native plants, and are integral parts of the functioning of the sand prairie
ecosystem, even if they are not likely to be found in any numbers on a stable prairie.
In pre-European contact times the disturbances that would have allowed these
species to grow might have included a bison trail or wallow, or perhaps an
abandoned native American village. No doubt today our vehicles, agricultural
and construction activities have greatly increased the amount of disturbed
land and therefore these pioneering species are probably actually considerably
more common today than they were prior to industrialization of the landscape.
One quality that makes natural areas restoration easier in sand than
in richer soils is that native species such as the one pictured here
continue to be the primary forces in pioneering disturbed or denuded areas.
In areas with richer, loamier soils more agressive alien Eurasian weeds
have largely ousted the native pioneering species from this niche.
Failing to establish the correct initial step in the successional sequence,
the later stages only become more difficult to achieve--eurasion weeds
presage eurasion meadows. Prairie pioneers presage prairies.