Archive for Prairie

Prairie Flowers, an Introduction

This is a wonderful time of year to bicycle out to Grimes Farm to see all the flowers in bloom in the patches of prairie surrounding the wetlands just east of the Nature Center.  Here you’ll find all sorts of goodies in bloom at the moment (early August)–from the spare little “Rattlesnake master” to the more showy stands of Purple Coneflowers, Prairie Clover, and Wild Bergamot.  It’s beautiful to look at, and it also shows what a really healthy stand of native Iowa prairie might have looked like to the Native Americans and the first settlers.  A true native prairie is a complex ecosystem that we can only approximate in our modern plantings, but the richness of the flora and fauna certainly show something of the possibilities.

For more information, we might recommend a little booklet from Iowa State called “Introduction to Native Iowa Prairie Plants” (a free download if you just click the title).  As the title suggests, this nicely illustrated document will give you a very good foundation in the plants and grasses that make up a native Iowa prairie.

One sad fact: the Queen Anne’s Lace that many visitors to Grimes Farm find so attractive is not a native species, and, in fact, the USDA lists it as a “noxious weed” and treats it as an invasive species.  This seems like harsh treatment for a plant whose other name is “wild carrot” and from which our domestic carrots have originated!

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