Images of Winter on the Prairie

Snow-covered Curtis Prairie

The prairie continually renews itself by adapting to, and changing with the conditions.  I like to think that visitors to the prairie absorb some of the optimism, sturdiness, and flexibility inherent in the prairie ecosystem.

Curtis Prairie under a late winter snow cover. 2014-01-29DSCN0303March 09, 2009

This image from 2009, is one of my favorite photos of Curtis Prairie, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  I like the cheerful, promising early morning light.

At least once a week I walk over to the Madison Arboretum to visit Curtis Prairie.  I’m fortunate that it is a short distance away.  I enjoy the prairie in the winter because of the peace, quiet, and solitude.  And I take delight in  the wildlife I can see if I look closely.

Curtis Prairie is striking at all times, but especially in the winter when covered by snow.  I always take along my camera and try to capture a few good images.  These are some of my favorites from over the years.


The Jackson Oak

The famed Jackson Oak, named after Joseph Jackson, one of the Arboretum’s founding elders.  Damage to the trunk and limbs from an ice storm in the winter of 1976-77 led to its gradual decline.   Even in death the old oak is majestic.

The beauty of the winter prairie is in the details of stem and leaf; twig and trunk.  In part, the prairie’s beauty is also in its many subtle shades and hues of brown, red, orange, and black.

Bird's next with eggs 612014-01-28DSCN9578January 28, 2008

The winter landscape also signals the coming renewal of spring.

Curtis Prairie is more than just a prairie.  It is a mosaic of different plant community types: prairie, wetland, sedge meadow, springs, storm water ponds, and shrub thickets, among others.  This diverse landscape explains some of its flexibility and why it is such great habitat for birds, insects, amphibians, mammals and, of course, the humans who enjoy visiting.

Curtis Prairie under a late winter snow cover. 32014-01-29DSCN0304March 09, 2009

Looking west out onto Curtis Prairie, a  March sunrise highlights the red osier dogwood . 

In early March, the winter stems of  red osier dogwood (Cornus sanguina) in this natural wetland area in Curtis Prairie, have already turned red, anticipating the arrival of spring.

The promise of spring and better things ahead are how I want to think about 2018, especially after all we have been through in 2017.   Let’s bid 2017 a farewell, take what lessons we can,  and look forward to 2018 with optimism, and the recognition that lots of hard work lies ahead if we are to shake off the effects of 2017 and get back on track.



About Steve Glass

The blogger is a restoration ecologist, Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (#0093 SER) and writer living in the Midwestern United States.
This entry was posted in Cattails, Curtis Prairie, Restoration ecology, Winter on the prairie and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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