What's new in the prairie?
By Carol / June 4, 2012 /
My normal tendency is to worry. But the prairie has taught me at least two things: 1) the prairie can take care of itself and 2) my worrying about it accomplishes nothing. So I approached the prescribed burn we conducted in March with optimism. Simply the next step in prairie life.
I’m pleased to report that the prairie is thick with growth since the burn. Grasses and forbs are waist high. Some plants are even taller. Many of my old favorites are back along with some that are new. Dots of yellow, blue and pink blooms are a small taste of the technicolor blast to come.
The first blooms of the spring were Spiderworts. The name isn’t appealing, but the multitude of bright blue blossoms (picture shows much paler than they really are) that grace the end of each stalk certainly are. A friend and I went to the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge recently. It’s always fun to see what plants they have blooming compared to what’s in my prairie. I saw spiderworts sprinkled throughout the prairie. I only have this one cluster of plants and hope to encourage more in future years. That blue over a wide space is lovely.
New! I spotted my first Pale Purple Coneflowers this spring. Unlike the Purple Coneflower, the Pale Purple variety has delicate, long slender leaves. The petals are thinner and paler pink (not surprising given the name). Apparently this variety also blooms earlier in the spring since I don’t have any Purple Coneflowers blooming in the prairie yet.
I finally took my Tallgrass Prairie Wildflower book to the prairie to identify this flower that perplexed me last year. I am almost certain it’s a Showy Tick Trefoil. What causes me to stumble is that the book says it blooms in mid-late summer. And here it is one of the earliest blooms. So I could be wrong. If anyone has another idea, please let me know.
There is a redbud tree in the middle of the prairie and I wondered how it would survive the burn. It suffered a setback but I’m pleased it is still alive. For a while, I wasn’t sure. The few blossoms came weeks later than other nearby redbuds. Leaves came from near the base of the tree but not the tips of the branches. I took the loppers and did a hard prune yesterday. It looks better than it did, but has quite a bit of coming back to do.
Fortunately, the bluebirds still find the tree a favorable spot from which to eye the birdhouse we build for them. We had one hatch already and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another.
Do any of you readers enjoy the prairie as much as I do? I’d love to hear where you visit the prairie and what you’re seeing.
Behind my house in downstate Illinois, a few acres of park have been reconstituted as prairie land. It’s full of beautiful flowers and grasses. I only wish it were bigger. Your photographs are lovely.
Thank you, Mary. Many parks in Iowa are restoring prairie areas. We were never taught about prairie in school and it is amazing to see places like Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. You can stand amidst hundreds of acres of prairie and oak savannah and imagine what it was like 200 years ago. My little patch is tiny but I can let my imagination run.