The Fellows and I traveled to Wisconsin this week for the annual Grassland Restoration Network workshop, which – this year – was being hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum. I’ll write more about the workshop in a future post, but for now, I’ll share a few photos from our last evening in Madison.
Despite looking forward to the workshop itself, my top priority for the trip was to revisit Greene Prairie, a site that has mesmerized me since I first saw it in 2004. Henry Greene began work on his prairie in 1943 and ended up hand-planting 130 species over the next couple of decades. It was painstaking work, laid out in great detail and brought to life by a man who, by all accounts, had a very prickly personality. We couldn’t find a window of time to visit his site during the workshop, but as soon as our last field trips ended on the last evening of the workshop, the Fellows and I headed to Greene Prairie, accompanied by Sarah Bailey and Gerry Steinauer.
We saw a lot of great restoration work during our few days in Madison, but there is something about the aesthetic at Greene Prairie that makes it stand out. During my previous visits, I’ve tried to puzzle out what draws me so strongly to it. It’s not the presence or abundance of any particular species, including some rare species, as well as lots of charismatic wildflowers. I think it’s the overall structure and look of the site that I find so attractive. Many of the restored prairies we walked through during this (and other) trips are tall and nearly impenetrable to pedestrian traffic. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely different from the prairie structure I’ve become used to here in Nebraska. The Greene Prairie, while it has plenty of tall plants, also has large areas dominated by a matrix of shorter plants like prairie dropseed. Even where many of the plants are tall, the spacing between them makes the prairie easy to walk and see through.
There’s a lot more I could say about the Greene Prairie, but honestly, it’s been a long week and my communication energy is pretty depleted. I never feel like my photos represent the site well, but they’ll have to be sufficient for now. I’ll try to come up with a good synthesis of this week’s workshop to share next week. In the meantime, enjoy these photos!
Thanks for another wise post. That Phlox pilosa looks a lot like Phlox glaberrima. As for prairie structure, yes, there’s a lot to be said for the more compact structure that seems to go with maximum biodiversity. Thanks for bringing some Nebraska perspectives east.
Please consider yourself welcome to visit some of our wonderful remnant prairies, like Moely Prairie and Walking Iron Prairie, next time you’re in the area, Chris. My wife and I have been enjoying your insights and photographs.
Thanks! I did get to see a beautiful sand prairie/savanna remnant at Walking Iron on one of our field trips. It was great to see it, and also reminded me of Nebraska – at least in terms of the little bluestem and more sparse vegetation. Gorgeous site with a lot of potential for more. Lars from Dane County showed us around and talked about all the past and future work going on. Very impressive.
When does Greene Prairie get burned, fall perhaps??
I love the photo. Good slection
After one of your recent blog posts,
I am curious if anyone got chigger bites at the conference. I tucked my pants into my socks and did not get any chigger bites. I only notice one other person tucked their pants into their socks. I did not get any chigger bites even though I did not spray bug spray on my pants. Although, my boots always have some residual on them and my socks had a little that persisted through the laundry.
I sprayed my ankles and did not get any bites.
Me too. Repellant on my ankles and waist.
On the tour of Green Prairie (B) we walked through savanna that was full of mosquitoes. I sprayed the areas above my waist (sides of my head, neck, arms, shirt). There were so many mosquitoes, I knew if I did not spray myself I would get bit while trying to shoo the other mosquitoes away. I offered bug spray to others in the group, but no one took me up on the offer. Maybe half a dozen people sprayed themselves with what they had brought, but 2/3 to 3/4 of the group went without bug spray. It makes me wonder what they know that I don’t know. Of course, once we got into Greene Prairie the mosquitoes were not as much of a problem because of the breeze.
Great pictures! I photographed ambush bugs mating on goldenrod that had also caught a bee. I knew the bee was snared by another insect but I had no idea what I was looking at! thanks to you, I know now!
I saw the phlox at Greene Prairie and it is Phlox glaberrima as Stephen mentioned in his comment. It is interesting that there are no records for this species from Dane County (where the Arboretum is located) but there are records of it for the three most southeastern counties in Wisconsin.
Since the Greene Prairie is such a great place, maybe someone in Nebraska should be creating something similar. Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) is native to several counties in the state including Lancaster. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln should have someone who would be interested in doing such a monumental and lasting project.
The fern in the images above might be Thelypteris palustris.