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!