Tom's Blog

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pretty things at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie

Yesterday Kathie and I spent some time at Black Earth Rettenmund Prairie. Right now all the early blooming species are up, and the views are spectacular. Well worth a visit.

We had great burns at the end of March. Late enough so that the snows were gone and the fine fuel was well cured, but early enough so that all living plants were still dormant. What a difference 6 weeks has made! Despite the cool spring, great early prairie plants.

The photo above (by Kathie) is of a typical area in the south burn unit. In addition to the orange hoary puccoon, there are loads of shooting star in full bloom, plus lots of blue-eyed grass, wood betony, pussy toes, Robin's fleabane, bird's foot violet, and yellow star grass.

The blue-eyed grass at Black Earth Rettenmund is interesting, since it is all white rather than blue. It is not uncommon to have both white and blue blue-eyed grass in the same area, and most people assume these are just variants. But we have searched extensively at Rettenmund and have never found any blue flowers.

Another point about the photo above: ten years ago when Kathie and I started managing this prairie, the area shown in the south unit had been heavily brushed in. Large honeysuckles especially, but also sumac, scattered buckthorn, and lots of other woodies. Most were eliminated by cutting and treating (Garlon), but last fall and early this spring crews made several passes through the whole prairie basal barking all remainng living woody vegetation. It is nice to see how well these areas have responded to careful herbicide use.

Of course, this prairie is just getting started for the growing season. Come back frequently!


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