WHAT IS A PRAIRIE?
Prairies are characterized by a lack of trees and shrubs and an abundance of grasses. They are dependent on intermittent fires to maintain their open structure and promote germination and growth of native plants. They can occur on a wide variety of soil types and soil moisture levels.
WHERE TO LOOK
The key to finding any prairie is to locate areas that were never plowed and not too heavily grazed. Dry prairie remnants are usually found on steep and rocky hillsides, areas of thin soil, and south and west-facing slopes. These are the prairies we are most likely to recover.
Mesic prairies tend to be found in moist fertile soils on more level terrain, but are extremely rare. Best places to find a mesic prairie is along roadsides and railroad tracks, where they escaped the plow.
Wet prairies occur in lowland areas subjected to frequent flooding, especially along streams or in association with springs and seeps.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PRAIRIES?
Prior to European settlement, approximately 2.1 million acres of prairie existed in WI. Today, less than 0.1% of Wisconsin’s prairies remain. Prairie loss is not only a Wisconsin issue, but in fact, tall grass prairies (mesic and wet-mesic prairies) are one of the most endangered ecosystems on Earth. In Wisconsin most prairies were converted to row crops, grazed, altered through fire suppression or invaded by woody and invasive species.
Birds: Henslow’s sparrow, Bobolink, Dickcissel, Savanna Sparrow
Mammals: Franklin’s Ground Squirrel, Prairie Vole, Least Weasel
Reptiles and Amphibians: Ornate Box Turte, Pickerel Frog
Plants: Prairie Bush Clover, HiIl’s Thistle, Pale Purple Cone Flower
MAINTENANCE AND INVASIVE SPECIES CONTROL
Good Oak Ecological Services
Beginner’s Guide to Prescribed Burns By Frank Hassler
Fire is essential to maintain the health of prairies, woodlands and wetlands in America. Historically in the Midwest most fires were ignited by Native Americas, with some occasionally lit by lightning. Fire not only invigorates native plants which have been happily co-existing with fire for thousands of years, but it also damages or kills many weeds and invasive species. Many aggressive woody species are weakened by fire, especially if these burns are repeated several years in a row.
Download10 Free Technical Guides for Prairie Restoration
Tall Grass Prairie Center- Download one, or all ten, of the Tallgrass Prairie Center's technical guides. Each guide was created using information from The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Prairie Restoration in the Upper Midwest (University of Iowa Press), a source of comprehensive information about tallgrass prairie restoration.
Seed Collecting from Tallgrass Prairies
Drying, Cleaning and Storing Prairie Seed
Propagating Native Plants
Recognizing and Appreciating Tallgrass Prairie Remnants
Native Seed Source and Quality
Designing Seed Mixes
Initial Post Seeding and Early Peconstruction Management
Evaluating Stand Establishment
Visit our Invasive Species Control Page
Productive Sources of Native Nectar & Pollen in Wisconsin Grasslands and Savannas by Rich Henderson
It is very important for pollinators to have diverse array of nectar and pollen sources available throughout the growing season. Bees in particular need pollen (protein) from many species of plants in order to have a balanced diet and thus stay productive and healthy. This table is a compilation of my field experience and observations along with published and on line information sources. It is not the final word by any means, but a starting point for bringing more information together.