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Plant of the Week #8- June 17

This week, the spotlight is on prairie rose, Rosa arkansana, offering a lovely touch of pink to the prairie landscape. This plant belongs to the Rosa genus which is commonly found in the Upper Midwest. The Minnesota Wildflowers website describes 5 species from this genus in Minnesota, while the book Wildflowers of Wisconsin lists 6, adding the Swamp Rose, R palustris.

Here is R arkansana on Lookout Prairie:

The prairie rose thrives on the bluff prairies near La Crosse and is commonly spread by animals, particularly birds, that eat its nutritious fruits known as rose hips. This specific rose species can be identified by its inclination towards the open, dry prairies such as Lookout Prairie and its compact size, typically reaching a height of less than 12-18 inches, earning its other name "dwarf prairie rose". Known for its deep roots and drought resistance, the prairie rose forms colonies through rhizomes.

R arkansana is the state flower of Iowa, except, just to make it more confusing, they often call it R palustris. As above, most other references call R palustris "swamp rose" because it grows in wet areas (palustris means "of swamps") and can reach heights up to 7 feet tall, much different than the rose being discussed here!

One might assume that the species name "arkansana" was derived from the state of Arkansas. But, instead, it came from Colorado where the plant was first collected along the Arkansas River which starts in Colorado, as shown on this map.

As shown, this river begins near Leadville Colorado, then flows east through Kansas and Oklahoma before finally reaching Arkansas and the Mississippi River.

Which leads us on a tangent to this puzzling question - with only two letters separating them, why is Kansas pronounced "KANzis" with the emphasis on the first syllable, while Arkansas is pronounced "ARkansaw" instead of "arKANzis"? This matter sparked a heated debate in the state, which was eventually resolved by the Arkansas state legislature in1881, declaring the official pronunciation as "ARkansaw". I'm sure you're delighted to learn this piece of information! As for our rose, we'll go with Rosa"ARkansana".

Similar to numerous other flowers found on the prairies, this particular one serves as a food source for pollinators such as the bee seen on our prairie rose.

Identifying these native bees can be challenging, but it possibly is a "small sweat bee" belonging to the Lasioglossum genus. Nevertheless, it's important to recognize that this rose, along with many other plants on the prairies, is helping to sustain our native bee populations!

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