Edge of the Prairiethe sand prairies and savannas of the Chicago region

    Linaria canadensis
    Blue toadflax

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.

Linaria canadensis

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.

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Colony of Linaria canadensis in a sand 'blow-out' at Lena Park, Starke County Indiana. [107k] The yellow flowers are Lithospermum croceum, a common associate.

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Linaria canadensis on Missouri Plants - good closeups.

Linaria canadensis - good close-up photographs; [Japanese].

 

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