Greene Prairie’s Summer Tapestry


Greene Prairie, considered one of the finest prairie restorations ever, is in the UW-Madison Arboretum. Its rich diversity is a delight in all four seasons.

Greene Prairie was planted from 1943 to 1958–almost single-handedly–by Dr. Henry Greene a UW-Madison botany professor and expert on parasitic fungi.

Looking southeast we see a matrix of the grass prairie dropseed  (Sporobolus heteropepis) and the baby rattle-shaped rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium).  The large elephant ear leaves of prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) are in the lower right corner.

Although not in the Lake Wingra watershed, Greene Prairie is important for the quality of life of the broader Madison community.  It is a social amenity, it provides critical wildlife habitat (think sandhill cranes and foxes) in an urban area, and it performs ecological services like infiltrating rainfall to the ground water.

Dr. Greene created a masterpiece that has withstood the test of time (until recently) as the second oldest restoration in the world (Curtis Prairie is the earliest restoration dating from 1935), but today this elegant prairie is threatened by storm water runoff and the pest plant reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea).   Reed canary grass since 1993 forms a near monoculture in the southern part of Greene Prairie.  In 2007 reed canary grass occupied 9.8 acres of the 50 acre prairie (Wegener and Zedler, 2009.)  The pest plant’s  invasion and steady march across the prairie is driven by storm water runoff.  To understand how and why storm water facilitates reed canary grass invasions, see the Zedler Lab Leaflet # 5.

The sustainable long-term solution is to direct storm water away from the Arboretum, not into it.  Outdated and old-fashioned storm water management strategies and tactics that rely upon channels, ponds, concrete and riprap will not protect the treasured Greene Prairie.

Advertisements

About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist practicing and writing in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in Ecological restoration, Human impacts on restorations, Prairie restoration, Storm water and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s