Tom's Blog

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Prairie and savanna plant species present at Pleasant Valley Conservancy before restoration

We were fortunate that in 1995-1997, before any restoration work had begun at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, several plant species lists were prepared by competent botanists. Later, after Kathie became more familiar with the property, she added more species.

I put these lists together and added quite a few other species that had been missed because they were in remote parts of the property or would not have been visible at the time of year when the original observations were made.

There were 307 species that were present before any restoration or seeding, which is impressive. Also, quite a few of these species are very desirable, with high Coefficients of Conservation (C values).

As part of my work on the history of PVC, I was interested to see where these species had been originally found, thinking that may give some idea of how they were able to hang on without human help. The table shows the principal locations, and lists the most interesting species.

In the very high quality 1990 air photo shown here the locations of the two largest prairies can be seen. Also there are quite a few smaller areas that had not (yet) brushed in.

County F road bank
Mostly savanna; a few also found in prairies, lots of golden Alexanders; important collecting site, especially for savanna species
North Woods
Large populations of Trillium grandiflora and large lady slipper orchid
Toby’s Annex
Flowering spurge, Missouri goldenrod, Showy goldenrod, little bluestem, Indian grass
Unplowed north side of what is now Toby’s Prairie
Large population of Baptisia alba
Kathie’s Prairie (Unit 1)
Lead plant, sky-blue aster, purple prairie clover, small yellow flax, fringed puccoon, short green milkweed, Agalinis gattingeri, violet wood sorel, small skullcap, blue-eyed grass, gray goldenrod, prairie dropseed, bird’s foot violet
Tom’s Prairie (Unit 4)
Lead plant, sky-blue aster, fringed and hoary puccoon, violet wood sorrel, prairie turnip, blue-eyed grass, prairie dropseed, bird’s foot violet, prairie violet
Remnant area of Unit 11A
Lead plant, New Jersey tea
White Oak Savanna
Large population of shooting star
Unit 18
Virginia wild rye, spiderwort, white baneberry,  red baneberry,
No seeding has been done; sweet Indian plantain, glade mallow, swamp milkweed
Oak savanna areas
poke milkweed, purple milkweed, spikenard, wild sarsaparilla,

In addition to these larger sites, a number of smaller prairie remnants existed at Pleasant Valley Conservancy at the time restoration work began. Most of these were areas that had not been plowed, or had been too far from the barn for much grazing. Some of these remnants were important because they were the sources of seeds of particular prairie or savanna species.

Seeing this summary makes one realize that there is good hope for many other so-called degraded sites!

A detailed study of the 1990 air photo is interesting. Many south-facing hillsides like this one had at this date been completely covered with red cedar, which is very invasive and spreads rapidly. Why is this slope still fairly open?
The photo was taken before leaf-on, so the only green seen are conifers. However, almost all of these conifers were red pines that had been planted by a former owner. There were a few red cedars, but only scattered. I think the presence of the pines had kept the cedars from taking hold. And the rest of the vegetation on the south-facing slope was deciduous, either shrubs or trees.

We began clearing this hillside in the winter of 1997-1998 and finished it in 1999-2000. Now with many burns and extensive seeding, it is a highly diverse tallgrass prairie!

Air photo taken April 13, 1990 (from Dane County Regional Planning Commission)


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