Field of Science

Prairie study site visit - August

Today was our first visit to our prairie study site in a month, and let me assure you that the hot, and now dry, weather has not had an adverse affect on the prairie. So let's start with our first task: finding our research plots. Now just in case you think us amateurs, the plots are quite well marked by 30 inch white pvc posts in one corner. In the tall portion of the prairie a bamboo pole was added raising the height to around 6 feet and orange plastic flagging was tied to the top, and in late May and early June that all seems over the top. But now it's August, some 5 months from when it was burned to the ground, and the change is most amazing. A dense canopy of vegetation is in places chest high, and the emergent grasses block your vision (see image) and forbs tower above my fingertips even when my arm is raised straight above my head. At one point we were within a foot of a plot and still could not see the pvc. Some helpful denizens of the prairie had chewed off most of the plastic flagging for reasons that seem quite unclear other than sheer perversity and at a distance of about 20 feet even my colleague was quite out of sight let alone trying to spot nice beige-colored bamboo poles. Even with our trusty map plots were hard to find, and the physical effort of just pushing through such dense tall vegetation was quite taxing; where are bison when you need some? But this is quite impressive vegetation really, and for people who have never seen such vegetation, and these days that is very few, it's quite a revelation that something so cool has been nearly destroyed by the John Deere legacy.


Sally said...

Lovely!! Thanks for the visit and imagery. Our tallgrass, though also impressive this year thanks to summer rains, is half the stature of yours... I really must come see the real thing. Is this original or restored?

The Phytophactor said...

Sally asks: "Is this original or restored?"
This plot is restored prairie, about 40 years old, and of fairly high quality, but now the invasion of an exotic plant, silky bush clover, threatens the diversity and community structure. With no apparent way to check its spread our efforts are now turned to documenting the demise of this prairie plot. It's quite sad really.

Anonymous said...

That's so sad - even though this is a restored (restored or recreated?) prairie. The same thing happens everywhere, even here where Japanese knotweed overwhelms one plant community after another.

The Phytophactor said...

Restored or recreated? Well, perhaps more of the latter and less of the former because this site was agricultural, although poor soil,but before that prairie.
And RE invasive species: this is one of the major biological problems of our time and yet funds to pursue such problems are generally lacking. Good thing some of us work cheaply by teaching students how to do research.