A Sunday Afternoon Outing With The Prairie Enthusiasts


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Prairie Enthusiasts botanizing, and socializing atop the Hauser Road Prairie, a prairie remnant in northern Dane County, WI.

June 7, 2017 Madison, WI–Last Sunday afternoon was a picture perfect day in southern Wisconsin–clear skies, warm breezes, and low humidity.   It was also a wonderful day to spend with fellow prairie enthusiasts, literally on top of the world, in Hauser Road Prairie one of the few remnants of original prairie sod in Dane County.

Hauser Road Prairie is an island in the surrounding agricultural landscape and sits on a high ridge of exposed bedrock with a 360 degree view that includes the Wisconsin’s State Capitol building–over 12 miles away.  (I didn’t have a long camera lens to capture that image so you will have to come out  yourself some day this summer to verify.)

An outing with The Prairie Enthusiasts is really an educational excursion during which time one can learn about the geological and cultural history of a site, learn about management issues, as well as how to identify native prairie plants and the grassland birds that make the prairie home.

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Rich Henderson (center, in wide brimmed hat) points out and identifies an interesting prairie plant.  Notice the plowed farm fields in the middle background.

Hauser Road Prairie is owned and managed by The Prairie Enthusiasts, Empire-Sauk Chapter.  The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) is a private grass roots organization operating primarily through volunteers.   Its sole mission is the protection and management of the last remaining pieces of the once vast and now endangered native prairie and savanna of the Upper Midwest.

Hauser Road Prairie is typical of a TPE project–it involves both preservation and restoration; the majority of the work performed by volunteers.   To permanently preserve the prairie, TPE bought the property from willing sellers, who had themselves, preserved the prairie throughout their ownership.  To restore the site, the TPE site manager pulls weeds, cuts and treats invading brush, burns the site and scatters locally-collected native prairie seeds.

Remnant of the once vast Empire Prairie

Hauser Road Prairie is 45 acres and is the largest single piece of the once extensive (over 100 square miles) Empire Prairie of south central Wisconsin.  This fine prairie remnant contains over 100 native prairie plant species with spectacular displays of shooting star, pasque flower, prairie smoke and goldenrods.

 

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The prairie was probably never plowed because of the exposed bedrock and scattered glacial boulders.  The site was disturbed by grazing and parts still have some agricultural weeds (note the red clover in the lower right corner).  Can anyone identify the lichen on the boulder?  Notice the prairie smoke plant on the top left of the boulder.

A Sweet Spot

This was my first trip to Hauser Road–a place that a fellow prairie enthusiast that day called “a sweet spot” in the landscape–but  it won’t be the last.  In an original prairie sod remnant such as Hauser Road, each day is different.  As the season progresses, early bloomers fade to be replaced by the flowers of later season bloomers and then the fall color of the native grasses.

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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 Prairie plants, Prairie restoration, Restoration ecology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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