Today I am going to a start three-part series about the giants of the prairie: compass plant, cup plant and prairie dock.
We start by talking about the compass plant. The compass plant has some of the largest basal leaves in the prairie. The leaves can be more than one foot in length and are deeply lobed. The leaves stand straight up and align themselves in a north-south direction… hence the name compass plant. The orientation of the leaves protects them from the full force of the mid-day sun. What really makes this plant a giant is the flower spike. It can be anywhere from 3 – 8 feet tall with lots of flowers and smaller leaves along the stalk.
Fun fact: Stems produce a lot of resinous juice that Native American children used as chewing gum.