Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Mouse-eared Chickweed (Cerastium vulgatum)

This agricultural weed is originally from Eurasia. It is found across most of the United States on abandoned cultivated lands and, in our case, a prairie restoration in a once-cultivated field. It won’t tolerate plowing, but the seed must remain viable for several years.

The meaning of the species name is “common or generally accessible;” I prefer to take it more literally and call it “vulgar” as in offensive or indecent! The name “chickweed” comes from plants used as starter feed for chicks. [Read more…]

How to ID Sedges

Sedges often remain a mystery for many of us. This year, the Prairie Bluff chapter of The Prairie Enthusiasts had an outing at Abraham’s Woods for the purpose of learning how to ID sedges. This morning workshop was lead by Nate Gingerich and John Larson. [Read more…]

Think Like a Seed

Our management plan is simple: remove the invasives and increase diversity. One way we increase diversity is by propagating plants and planting them into various areas. How many we plant out in a year varies. It depends on my success rate at getting the native seed to germinate and then how many plants survived the overwintering process. Every year is different. [Read more…]

Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)

We recently bought an additional 20 acres and with it we inherited a large infestation of Spotted knapweed. I have seen a plant here and there in other areas of our 45 acres so I knew it was not contained and we had to deal with this immediately.  Much like I handled the research for the cool season grass and bindweeds, I did the same with this. Hopefully, this will help others who have problems with this invasive. [Read more…]

Bindweeds

We have discovered two types of bindweed in our plantings – Field bindweed (Convolvus arvensis) and Hedge bindweed (Calystegia sepium). This isn’t good news when some researchers have called Field bindweed the 12th and the 10th “worst weed in the world”. (Pfirter, Mitich) Field bindweed has the status of a serious weed in 14 countries and a problem weed in 19 countries. Both plants have the ability to vine up other plants as they grow; making it difficult to control without collateral damage. [Read more…]

Cool Season Grass Management

Cool season grasses, such as Smooth brome, Kentucky bluegrass, and Quackgrass are prevalent and wreak havoc on prairies. Their phenology gives them a competitive advantage in the spring but in the fall, the phenology works against them. As with many aspects of ecological restoration, you’ll find there isn’t adequate or definitive research. I have learned that the best way to deal with specific invasive issues is to learn everything I can about the plant, talk with other restoration practitioners, and then figure out a plan that works for my prairies in my area. To that end, I am sharing my initial research. As we move through the management plan, I’ll update this and provide our lessons learned in the hopes it will help others. Please feel free to provide any experiences you have had with managing cool season grasses. [Read more…]

Monitoring and Management—a sensible pairing

This article was written by Beth Goeppinger, WI DNR Naturalist at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. It demonstrates how important monitoring is to our management practices. [Read more…]

Bats in Wisconsin

“Bats are important to almost every ecosystem on the planet. They act as natural pest control eating not only human pests but also forestry and agricultural pests, as well as seed dispersers and pollinators for foods we eat every day. In Wisconsin alone, bats provide an estimated $658 million every year in pest suppression services.” [Read more…]

Animal, Mineral or Fungi?

What an interesting question to be asking. Well…I was inspired by this beautiful fungus with a horrible name…slime mold.

[Read more…]

Going “au naturale”

What is ecological restoration? Some define it as returning the land to pre-settlement conditions, which in Wisconsin is pre-1830. Some define it as unnecessary work because they believe that “nature knows best” and to just let “nature take its course.” If we are to preserve the biodiversity that remains on our planet, we need to expand our definition beyond these archaic and fantastical notions. Perhaps a better definition would be creating habitat that is useable and functional so that a diversity of biota are able to thrive. [Read more…]