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Prairie

Along Lake Michigan

There is a growing interest in restoring and recreating natural areas. Together with this increasing enthusiasm is the recognition that healthy communities include people, plants and wildlife in balance. Prairie restoration projects range from those in backyard gardens to agricultural field buffer strips and large plantings for wildlife habitat. Restoration and naturalization are still new and developing fields, and there is much to learn. Sharing information derived from practical experience is the best way to develop better projects. 

Restoration of our prairie along Lake Michigan began in 2002. Our identified goals with this prairie project include:

  • restore a natural plant community that once existed on the planting site
  • create a showy wildflower display
  • provide a quality habitat for local wildlife
  • create a low-maintenance landscape
  • use plants to stabilize the site from erosion
  • provide an educational opportunity for schools or the surrounding community
  • conduct ecological research

We started the practice of prescribed burning in the early Spring time. Generally we do this every other year.  Benefits we've noticed of prescribed burning over the years include: 

  • stimulating prairie grass growth and wildflowers
  • controlling invasive plant species
  • improving habitat for bird nesting
  • providing native vegetative growth for songbirds

Benefits to plants:

Prescribed burn
Prescribed fire to control honeysuckle. Image from the Wisconsin DNR

Many of Wisconsin's native plants developed adaptations to survive in a fire-prone community. For instance, fire-adapted prairie grasses and flowers develop deep roots and buds beneath the soil, enabling them to withstand the fire, while shallow-rooted non-native plants succumb to the heat. But these plants do not simply tolerate fire better than others, they actively benefit from fire. For instance, by removing accumulated leaf and grass litter and invading brush, fire stimulates the growth of native herbaceous species and maintaining the open character of these systems. Prescribed fire also returns nutrients to the soil, which in turn benefits the entire plant community.

Informational Resources:

Resources