Tallgrass Prairie Update

7 May

by Kathy Larson

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Frontier tallgrass prairie, we’ve planned several enhancements to the prairie and its surroundings.

First, we’re planting an additional six acres into prairie.  The prairie was originally planted to include these six acres but was used a few years later to grow herb crops.  It’s been in grass for the last dozen years; we’re excited to bring it back into tallgrass prairie.  We’re ready to plant as soon as it is dry enough, with an eight prairie grass mix: big bluestem, sideoats grama, Indiangrass, Virginia wild rye, little bluestem, Canada wild rye, rough dropseed and sanddropseed, and two legumes — Illinois bundleflower and partridge pea. Early next spring, we’ll plant wildflowers into the area.  We hope to add flowers that aren’t in our current prairie so we can increase the diversity of blooms.

We added to the wildlife bushes and small trees that surround the prairie on the last Friday in April. Despite threats of cold, wind and rain, 24 employees signed up to plant 300 trees and bushes. Good preparation and dedicated, fast workers got all 300 small trees and bushes planted in a little over an hour. We planted two rows of trees along the eastern border of the prairie — 50 each of silky dogwood, arrowwood, red osier dogwood, service berry, wild plum and highbush cranberry. This assortment will make a dense hedge providing wildlife cover, nesting spots and food. The rain we received after the planting, settled the trees in nicely and should get them off to a good start.

Finally, this summer we’ll be adding some signage and a self-guided prairie walk brochure. Our prairie is listed as a United Plant Savers botanical sanctuary and as such is open for public enjoyment. We’d like the prairie to be even more accessible both for enjoyment and education. A tallgrass prairie is an amazing ecosystem, complex and beautiful, and full of life.

Come visit if you can and if not, visit our prairie web pages where we have lots of plant photos and information.

P.S.  We just have to mention our first flowers of the year, blooming in April, were prairie violets. The small plants are lost in the dead foliage from the previous year and hard to find. However, after last month’s prairie burn, the violets are not only easy to find, but are getting plenty of light and moisture this year.

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