The third giant of the prairie is prairie dock. It has very large leaves, all at the base of the plant, and then in July it starts to shoot up its flower stalk. It is one of longest blooming plants in the prairie… especially as it gets older. The oldest plant in the prairie is at least 10 years old and it blooms continuously from July to September. The younger plants do not start to bloom as early. They bloom August to September. Prairie dock is a drought-resistant, long-lived perennial with fragrant, resinous sap.
While prairie dock is native to this area most of it was overgrazed by cows. We have reintroduced it to our prairie. The oldest plant is known because we planted it when it was a 2-year-old potted plant. The other prairie dock came from seed that were poked into the prairie with a butter knife.
Leaves can be anywhere from 4 inches to 2 feet long and 2 inches to 1 1/2 feet wide. Like the compass plant they tend to orient their leaves with the sun, thus maximizing exposure to the sun.
Flower stalks can reach a height from 3 to 10 feet tall. The stalks turn a lovely red in September about the time it stops flowering, adding to the fall color of the prairie.
Prairie dock is known to have a large woody tap root.