NEBRASKAland July 2018

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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Page 27 of 59

28 NEBRASKAland • JULY 2018 Summer Wildflowers of the Sandhills Blooms on the Dunes Photos and story by Gerry Steinauer, Botanist F rom many Sandhills dune tops, one can see prairie stretching to the horizons. North America's largest sand dune field, the wind-whipped Sandhills, covers more than 20,000 square miles of north-central Nebraska, ranging from low and rolling to steep and towering. The Sandhills is also our nation's most intact grassland ecosystem – the wildflower-rich prairie, a vestige of times past. LEFT: A member of the aster family, nippleweed (Thelesperma filifolium) is common on dry, sandy and gravelly soils on the Sandhills periphery. The name refers to the nipple-like shape of the joined bracts found below the petals. RIGHT: In late spring and early summer, colonies of shell-leaf penstemon (Penstemon grandiflorus) can tint the dunes pink to lavender. This species is found in prairies nearly statewide, preferring sandy soils.

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