While visiting northwest Ohio for raptors, we slipped in a quick trip to Kitty Todd, one of the best places in Ohio for botanizing. Fall colors are tuning up nicely, and the members of the Asteraceae family have a huge role this time of year. The most obvious members of the Asteraceae is Asters: those daisy-like flowers blooming along the roadsides and wastelands. However, goldenrods and prenanthes are also card carrying members of this huge group of composites.
Prairie Rattlesnake-root, Prenanthes racemosa, state listed as Potentially Threatened, is found scattered on wet prairies and fens mostly in the glaciated west of Ohio. Easily passed by in the field, this plant is no stunner until you look close! The lower portions and leaves are smooth, but the flowers and upper portions of the stock are as fuzzy as a kiwi fruit.
Prenes means "drooping" and anthe is "blossom" which perfectly describes the habit of drooping, closed flowers held close to the stem. But once you crawl below and get this ant's-eye view, the flower is quite unusual and lovely! And checking out those wildly reaching stamens loaded with pollen, one wonders what creature is enlisted to pollinate this odd flower.
It just goes to show that even some of the blandest looking plants have unusual and exciting flowers when you stop for a much closer look.