Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mystery of the Month - October 2013

The photo this month resembles a scary Halloween mystery. What ever could it be?

A clump of Buckminsterfullerene?

A medieval mace?

Lady Gaga’s newest headdress?

Read more to see if your guess is closer…

It’s a close-up-and-personal shot of a bur-reed seed head – Sparganium eurycarpum to be specific.  “Giant” or “broadfruit” bur-reed is the most common species of the 8 species known to occur in Minnesota. It’s a stout perennial plant that looks a bit like a very short sturdy cattail, with a fuzzy round cream-green flower that develops into the amazing seed head shown above.

Giant bur-reed is a good choice for shoreline restorations.  It grows well in shallow water and can also tolerate periods of dryness. The plants are interlaced by rhizomes, root-like extensions that produce new plant shoots. This helps them reduce shoreline erosion and spread quickly to protect the shore.  Bur-reed provides excellent fish and bird habitat, and the seeds are eaten by waterfowl. Although muskrat will eat the entire plant, in experimental plots bur-reed was the last plant selected by munching muskrat. This is an important consideration in areas where muskrat grazing can wipe out emergent plants. And of course, in the fall it will gift you with a fine assortment of miniature medieval maces!

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