Field of Science

TALL grass prairie vegetation

One obvious aspect of field research is that you cannot apply treatments or gather data if you cannot find your permanent plots. Now least you think TPP is careless or an amateur, several precautions were taken this spring, and in prior springs, to mark and map the 100 or so meter square plots out there on our research prairie. There is a permanent spike in the SE corner and smaller markers in the other corners, and in the late spring a 30" piece of white pvc pipe is pushed in over the spike.  Then in early summer 4-6' bamboo poles are placed within the pvc pipe with a bit of gaudy flagging on the top in those areas where the prairie vegetation is known to grow the tallest. TPP's September assessment is that tall grass prairie had a very good year; the vegetation is thick and tall, and even the bamboo poles are all but invisible. The tallest vegetation reaches 8-9 feet tall and it's solid up to 5-6 feet tall, so dense that TPP had difficulty even pushing through it. Armed with maps and familiarity and experience, it only took us 5 hours to find most of the plots and remark them so samples could be easily collected next week. It was exhausting work and at times my colleague was totally out of sight even though only a handful of meters away. These plants are all herbaceous perennials so all of that above ground biomass grows annually, and in this case on some very poor, low nutrient soil. Still you would have to experience such vegetation to truly appreciate just how amazing the prairie is this time of year.  And in case you wonder, very few short students have been lost in the course of our research. 


Anonymous said...

Here in Downeast Maine, farmers plant corn for mazes. With the vagaries of rainfall and climate, there are times when they have to work to get corn as tall as your prairie. Us fisherfolk wonder if you evah see any buffaloqe out theyah.

The Phytophactor said...

Sadly no buffalo, but TPP gets startled by deer regularly.