Rose family (Rosaceae)
Description: This herbaceous perennial plant is unbranched and about 3-6' tall. The central stem is smooth and sometimes reddish. The alternate compound leaves are up to 2' long. They are often yellowish green, and become much smaller and sparser while ascending the central stem. Each compound leaf consists of 1-7 palmate leaflets that are aligned along each reddish leaf-stem in succession. Each leaflet is up to 6" long and across and has 2-5 cleft lobes. The margins are coarsely dentate.
The inflorescence occurs on a long naked stalk, consisting of a panicle of pink buds and flowers about 5-8" across. Each flower is about 1/3" across, consisting of 5 pink petals and numerous long white stamens with pink anthers. The overall appearance of the inflorescence resembles wind-tossed fluff or foam, and is quite beautiful. The flowers bloom from the bottom up, and have little or no fragrance. The blooming period occurs from early to mid-summer, and lasts about 3 weeks. Afterwards, straight reddish fruits develop that are about ¼–½" across. The root system consists of a taproot and rhizomes. Queen-of-the-Prairie tends to form colonies under moist conditions.
Cultivation: The preference is full or partial sun, and wet to moist conditions. The soil should be high in organic content, and can contain a little sand. The cooler climate of the Great Lakes region is preferred, rather than hot, dry summer heat. Occasionally, the leaves become spotted from foliar disease, otherwise it is not subject to any special problems.
Range & Habitat: The native Queen-of-the-Prairie occurs primarily in scattered counties along the upper basin of the Illinois River and in the Chicago area. It has also been observed in east central Illinois (see Distribution Map), where it has been successfully introduced. This uncommon plant is listed as 'threatened' in Illinois. Habitats include moist black soil prairies, moist sand prairies, moist meadows along rivers in woodland areas, shrubby fens, and wet areas in or around seeps and springs. This is an indicator plant of high quality habitats, although in some areas it has been introduced as part of restoration efforts.
Faunal Associations: The colorful flowers provide pollen as a reward for insect visitors, but not nectar. Various species of bees collect pollen from the flowers and probably are the most important pollinators. Beetles and flies feed on the pollen. Wasps and butterflies may land on the flowers looking for nectar, but their search will be futile. Little is known about the floral-fauna relationships for birds and mammals. The foliage doesn't seem to be bothered by deer and other herbivorous mammals.
Photographic Location: The photographs were taken at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, Illinois.
Comments: This is a wonderful plant, if only it would bloom longer! In prairies, the pink flowers rise above the surrounding vegetation and can be seen from a considerable distance. It has a very distinctive appearance, and can't be confused with any other native plant. However, the introduced Filipendula ulmaria (Queen-of-the-Meadow) is somewhat similar. This latter species differs from Queen-of-the-Prairie by having white flowers and twisted fruits.