The Fall Colors of the Prairies and Savannas


Here are some of my favorite images of fall on restored and remnant prairies of the upper midwest.

Storm clouds over the Black Earth Creek Valley.

Storm clouds over the Black Earth Creek Valley along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Fall color on Wisconsin’s prairies and savannas is more subtle, and less dramatic than the flaming colors of a northern Wisconsin forest; but I love the muted earth tones, the smoky golds, and the rusty browns and burgundy of the fall prairie none the less.

The aesthetic of the fall prairie is in the hundreds of shades of browns, tans, and bronze– a panorama that changes daily through the fall.

Aldo's Prairie at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Aldo’s Prairie at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Occasionally, there is a burst of red on the prairie landscape from a sumac patch or one of Leopold’s “Red Lanterns.

Early morning October light on Curtis Prairie.

Early morning October light on Curtis Prairie.

Aldo Leopold talked about the brilliant red of the blackberry patches he called “Red Lanterns” in an essay by the same name in the chapter “October” in A Sand County Almanac.”  He used the red lanterns to light his way to hideouts of the partridge and pheasant on his fall hunts.   Nowadays though, to the prairie/savanna restorationist, red lanterns are likely to signal a spot of ground that needs a bit of restoration, maybe more frequent prescribed fire followed by seeding with native prairie grasses and forbs (flowers).

Blackberry foliage, or what Leopold called "Red Lanterns, at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Blackberry foliage, or what Leopold called “Red Lanterns”.   At the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Sunrise on the savanna highlights its smoky golds, reds, and russets.

 "Fall in the Arboretum"

“Fall in the Arboretum”

Sometimes the fall prairie colors are as blatant as a north woods forest, other times you have to stop, look around, and discover the colors at your feet.

Prairie smoke and oak leaf at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Prairie smoke (Geum triflorum) and oak leaf at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

Long after trees have shed their colorful leaves, the prairie grasses and forbs remain visually interesting.

Glacial Park, McHenry County Conservation District, Illinois

Glacial Park, McHenry County Conservation District, Illinois.

 

 

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About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist practicing and writing in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in "The Shack", Aldo Leopold, Curtis Prairie, Fall foliage, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Prairie restoration and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Fall Colors of the Prairies and Savannas

  1. Sandy says:

    Really lovely essay and photos for a calm nov. morning reading! The view from the bluffs at Pleasant Valley State Natural Area is also worth taking in this time of year…..lots of browns and tans and buffs…….

    • vilashaulerssoftball says:

      Hi Sandy, Thanks for your kind words.  And thanks for the reminder to get out and see Pleasant Valley this fall.  It really is a spectacular place. Steve

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