IMG_8141.JPG

NATIVE PRAIRIE

Mayme Keagy

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. 

CONSERVATION CONSERNS

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

Good Oak burn handout cover.jpg

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.

 

Tall Grass Prairie Center Guide.jpg

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.

  1. Seed Collecting from Tallgrass Prairies

  2. Drying, Cleaning and Storing Prairie Seed

  3. Propagating Native Plants

  4. Recognizing and Appreciating Tallgrass Prairie Remnants

  5. Native Seed Source and Quality

  6. Designing Seed Mixes

  7. Site Preparation

  8. Seeding

  9. Initial Post Seeding and Early Peconstruction Management

  10. Evaluating Stand Establishment

Visit our Invasive Species Control Page

INCREASE DIVERSITY

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.

 

grass is good

For more information contact Cindy Becker, 

Southern Driftless Grasslands Coordinator, 

(608) 930-3252 or email at cindy@driftlessconservancy.org

Driftless Area Land Conservancy is an accredited non-profit land trust in Southwest Wisconsin. All images and text on this site are property of Driftless Area Land Conservancy and/or are being used with permission from the authors and photographers. Please do not share or distribute text, images or any site content without expressed, written permission.

CRP_maymekeagy_edited.jpg

2021 Southern Driftless Grasslands. Web design by Mayme Keagy