This is my first winter of prairie watching. I noticed how strong prairie plants were during summer wind storms. They bent but didn’t break. That same quality is true in the winter.
Snow piles up in the prairie, caught by grasses and flower stalks that continue to stand strong. Because the plants stand up, they create a living snow fence, trapping snow rather than letting it blow through.
Recently I’ve been doing research for an article on planting native plants along Iowa’s roadways. The Iowa Department of Transportation has been working at this for some 25 years. The Native Roadside Vegetation Centerat UNI works with Iowa counties to do the same. You may have seen the results of their efforts – swaths of coneflowers and black-eyed Susans, asters and goldenrod along the Interstates and state and roads. They’re pretty flowers and much more.
The IDOT landscape architects tell me that because prairie plants stand tall in the wind, they trap blowing snow, prevent road glare and inhibit drifting. Prairie plants make winter driving safer.
We might wish the prairie was north of our drive instead of south!