Tom's Blog

Sunday, January 3, 2016

How long will prairie and savanna forbs last in southern Wisconsin in the absence of restoration or weed control?

There is very little “on-the-ground” data on the character of southern Wisconsin prairies and oak savanna before restoration work began. By chance I discovered an early detailed report of the spring flora for 1936 for an area that is contiguous with Pleasant Valley Conservancy (PVC). This report (found in the UW-Madison Herbarium documents archive) was prepared by a group of students taking Norman Fassett’s Spring Flora of Wisconsin course. The lead author was Edith Seymour Jones, who was a plant pathologist and experienced plant taxonomist. The location of this study was the Sevenson farm in Section 8 of the Town of Vermont. PVC is in the adjacent Section 5. Our bluffs and the bluffs surveyed are identical in geology, soils, and aspect. (The photo below from 1936 shows PVC as the hill in the left in the distance. The road in the foreground is County Highway F.)
Pleasant Valley Conservancy is the hill seen in the distance

Considering that this is just a “spring flora”, done around the middle of May, the species diversity is quite high.

The species list has over 50 species, of which the ones shown in the accompanying table are the most noteworthy. As the table shows, most of these species have also appeared at PVC after restoration, and many of them were in the species list before any restoration work had started. As far as it is known, these species first arose in PVC without the agency of external seeding.


It is encouraging to learn that so many prairie and savanna species survived from 1936 until 1998 (32 years) when restoration work at PVC began in earnest.

Check list for 1936 flora in Section 8; Town of Vermont
Latin name
Common name
Also present in 1998 PVC list
Achillea millefolium
Yarrow
x
Anemone cylindrica
Prairie thimbleweed
x
Anemone patens
Pasque flower
x
Anemone quinquefolia
Wood anemone
x
Antennaria neglecta
Field pussytoes
x
Aquilegia canadensis
Wild columbine
x
Arabis lyrata
Sand cress
x
Aralia nudicaulis
Wild sarsaparilla
x
Arenaria stricta
Sandwort
x
Campanula rotundifolia
Harebell
x
Ceanothus americanus
New Jersey tea
x
Celastrus scandens
Climbing bittersweet
x
Comandra  umbellata
False toadflax
Cypripedium calceolus pubescens
Large yellow lady-slipper
x
Dicentra cucullaria
Dutchman's breeches
x
Dodecatheon meadia
Shooting star
x
Erigeron philadelphicus
Marsh fleabane
x
Fragaria virginiana
Wild strawberry
x
Galium aparine
Catchweed
x
Geranium maculatum
Wild geranium
x
Heuchera richardsonii
Prairie alum-root
x
Hypoxis hirsuta
Yellow star-grass
x
Iris virginica shrevei
Wild iris
x
Lathyrus venosus
Forest pea
x
Lithospermum canescens
Hoary puccoon
x
Orchis spectabolis
Showy orchis
x
Osmorhiza claytoni
Hairy sweet cicely
x
Oxalis violacea
Violet wood-sorrel
x
Pedicularis canadensis
Wood betony
x
Phlox pilosa
Prairie phlox
Podophyllum peltatum
May-apple
x
Polemonium reptans
Jacob's ladder
x
Polygala senega
Seneca snakeroot
x
Potentilla canadesis
Dwarf cinquefoil
Ranunculus abortivus
Small-flowered buttercup
x
Ranunculus fascicularis
Early buttercup
x
Rosa sp.
Rose
x
Scutellaria parvula
Small skullcap
x
Senecio pauperculus
Balsam ragwort
x
Senecio plattensis
Prairie ragwort
x
Silene antirrhina
Sleepy catchfly
x
Sisyrinchium campestre
Blue-eyed grass
x
Smilacina racemosa
False Solomon's seal
x
Smilacina stellata
Starry false Solomon's seal
x
Stellaria longifolia
Stitchwort
x
Taenidia integerrima
Yellow pimpernel
x
Triosteum perfoliatum
Tinker's weed
x
Uvularia grandiflora
Bellwort
x
Viola pedatifida
Prairie violet
x
Viola soraria
Door-yard violet
x
Zizia aurea
Golden Alexanders
x

1 Comments:

Blogger Jake Lloyd said...

When you started restoration, did more good plants reside in areas of steep topography where cattle were less prone to spend time grazing, or were the really nice areas the ones farthest from the farm? It appears that the level area on top of the ridge was more open which kind of suggests that cattle spent more time grazing there and suppressing the oak grubs and native flora. I was just wondering if this open area had less good plants than the steep south facing slope.

January 7, 2016 at 7:40 AM  

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