When surveyors were marking the townships on this land in 1852 one of them described the land as “mostly covered with scattering black, burr and white oak, aspen timber. Surface nearly covered with prairie grass”
Our land still has remnants of this prairie/savanna landscape. We have overgrown savannas and bluff prairies, wet prairies and sedge meadows, and springs that feed into a narrow creek.
Cows grazed most of the land, and it was protected from fire. As a result, most of the prairie and savanna areas are overgrown with White Birch, Aspen, Sumac, Dogwood and Prickly Ash. But prairie grasses still grow under the tangle of branches, and there are still openings in the trees where some of the prairie plants can flower.
We’ve been trying to restore some of these remnants – clearing brush and killing and removing invading trees. We’ve also worked on the wetland areas – killing and removing invasives, and replanting when necessary to bring back native vegetation.
One of our restored prairie remnants with Rough Blazing Star and Stiff Goldenrod.
Bluff prairie – we’ve done restoration work in the middle, but haven’t gotten to the edges.
Restored savanna remnant with old open-grown oaks
Here’s a list of the plants I’ve found growing in the understory of the overgrown savanna areas. The plants are probably remnants of the original savanna vegetation.
This is a recent aerial photo of the farm with the remnant prairies marked. There are more small prairie openings, and more savanna remnants, but they’re not ones we’re working on yet.
Below are links to descriptions of these remnants with stories about the efforts we’re making to restore them. Most of our land faces south, so most of the remnants are prairie or savanna. Maple Ridge is unusual – most of it is a north-facing slope, so rather than being prairie, it’s woods – mostly oaks, but it also has Bitternut Hickory and Sugar Maple. Pine Point Woods is a former pine plantation that we’re watching grow into a woods.
The wetland area is large about 50 acres – and is a mix of sedge meadow and wet prairie. I’m combining reports of all our restoration efforts in that area into one section called ‘Wetland’, even though that covers a lot of land, and several different habitat types and restoration issues.