All the makings of natural wonder in your backyard
In 2003 Fred Delcomyn imagined his backyard of two and a half acres, farmed for corn and soybeans for generations, restored to tallgrass prairie. Over the next seventeen years, Delcomyn, with help from his friend James L. Ellis scored, seeded, monitored, reseeded, and burned these acres into prairie. In A Backyard Prairie, they document their journey and reveal the incredible potential of a backyard to travel back to a time before the wild prairie was put into plow rows. It has been said, “Anyone can love the mountains, but it takes a soul to love the prairie.” This book shows us how.
The first book to celebrate a smaller, more private restoration, A Backyard Prairie offers a vivid portrait of what makes a prairie. Delcomyn and Ellis describe selecting and planting seeds, recount the management of a prescribed fire, and capture the prairie’s seasonal parades of colorful flowers in concert with an ever-growing variety of animals, from the minute eastern tailed-blue butterfly to the imperious red-winged blackbird and the reclusive coyote.
This book offers a unique account of their work and their discovery of a real backyard, an inviting island of grass and flowers uncovered and revealed. We often travel miles and miles to find nature larger than ourselves. In this rich account of small prairie restoration, Delcomyn and Ellis encourage the revival of original prairie in our backyards and the patient, beauty-seeking soul sleeping within ourselves.
Most people do not realize it, but the Midwest has been at the forefront of ecological restoration longer than perhaps any other region in the United States, dating back to the 1930s. Because of its industrial history, agricultural productivity, and natural features such as the Great Lakes, the Midwest has always faced a unique set of ecological challenges.
Focusing on six cutting-edge case studies that highlight thirty restoration efforts and research sites throughout the region— Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio— editors Christian Lenhart and Peter “Rocky” Smiley Jr. bring together a group of scholars and practitioners to show how midwestern restoration efforts have developed, as well as where they are headed. Whether cleaning up contamination from auto plants in Ohio, or restoring native prairie grasses along the Iowa highway, the contributors uncover a vast network of interested citizens and volunteer groups committed to preserving the region’s environment.
This study, intended for researchers, students, and practitioners, also provides an updated synthesis of restoration theory and practice, and pinpoints emerging issues of importance in the Midwest, such as climate change and the increase in invasive species it will bring to the region. Though focusing exclusively on the Midwest, the contributors demonstrate how these case studies apply to restoration efforts across the globe.
Contributors: Luther Aadland, David P. Benson, Andrew F. Casper, Hua Chen, Joe DiMisa, Steve Glass, Heath M. Hagy, John A. Harrington, Neil Haugerud, Constance Hausman, Michael J. Lemke, Christian Lenhart, Jen Lyndall, Dan Shaw, John A. Shuey, Peter C. Smiley Jr., Daryl Smith
Field Guide to Wisconsin Grasses
Emmet J. Judziewicz , Robert W. Freckmann, Lynn G. Clark, Merel R. Black University of Wisconsin Press, 2014 Library of Congress QK495.G74J83 2014 | Dewey Decimal 584.909775
Grasses are the foremost plant family of prairies, savannas, barrens, many agricultural landscapes, lawns, and successional habitats throughout Wisconsin, yet they are notoriously difficult to identify. This field guide to 232 species of Wisconsin grasses includes more than 1,100 illustrations. Setting a new standard as the first new, illustrated midwestern grass identification manual to appear since the 1960s, it provides up-to-date, comprehensive information for naturalists, gardeners, landscapers, nursery horticulturalists, community restoration professionals, agronomists and biologists, and any outdoors lover.
The book includes:
• species descriptions and distribution maps for all 232 species
• more than 700 color photographs accompanying species descriptions
• drawings of most species
• chapters on grass morphology and grasses in natural communities
• keys to all species, including an illustrated key to genera
• a glossary of grass terminology.
At the time of European settlement, tallgrass prairie was the iconic landscape in much of the Upper Midwest. Although its extent has been drastically reduced, intact prairie remnants exist, prairie species persist along roadsides, and interest in prairie reconstruction has increased. The basic prairie matrix is formed by grasses, yet their diversity and beauty are often underappreciated because their flowering structures are highly reduced to aid in wind pollination. This much-needed addition to Iowa’s popular series of laminated guides—the twenty-sixth in the series—illustrates fifty-five grass species characteristic of or commonly found on prairies of the Upper Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The authors have organized species into groups by their most easily noted field characteristics. Are the flowering heads branched or unbranched? Are the branches dense, narrow, or fingerlike? For each species, its native or exotic status is followed by the months of flowering, abundance, general habitat, height, diagnostic features, geographic range, and, if relevant, threatened or endangered status.
Even amateur naturalists can identify big and little bluestem and prairie dropseed in the field, but both professional and amateur naturalists find certain grasses harder to identify, especially the less common or rare species such as cluster fescue and sand reedgrass. The photographs and descriptions in Grasses in Your Pocket will be an invaluable reference for outdoor expeditions in midwestern grasslands.
At the center of what was once the tallgrass prairie, Iowa has stood out for clearing the land and becoming one of the most productive agricultural states in the nation. But its success is challenged by multiple issues including but not limited to a decline in union representation of meatpacking workers; lack of demographic diversity; the advent of job-replacing mechanization; growing income inequality; negative contributions to and effects of climate change and environmental hazards.
To become green, fair, and prosperous, Connerly argues that Iowa must reckon with its past and the fact that its farm economy continues to pollute waterways, while remaining utterly unprepared for climate change. Iowa must recognize ways in which it can bolster its residents’ standard of living and move away from its demographic tradition of whiteness. For development to be sustainable, society must balance it with environmental protection and social justice. Connerly provides a crucial roadmap for how Iowans can move forward and achieve this balance.
The Chicago metropolitan area is home to far more protected nature than most people realize. Over half a million acres of protected land known as the Chicago Wilderness are owned and managed by county forest preserve districts and other public and private sector partners. But there’s a critical factor of the Chicago Wilderness conservation effort that makes it unique: a pioneering grassroots volunteer community, thousands strong, has worked for decades alongside agency staff to restore these nearby natural areas, learning how to manage biodiversity in an altered and ever-changing urban context.
A Healthy Nature Handbook captures hard-earned ecological wisdom from this community in engaging and highly readable chapters, each including illustrated restoration sequences. Restoration leaders cover large-scale seeding approaches, native seed production, wetland and grassland bird habitat restoration, monitoring, and community building.
Contributions from local artists bring the region’s beauty to life with vibrant watercolors, oil paintings, and sketches. A Healthy Nature Handbook is packed with successful approaches to restoring nature and is a testament to both the Chicago region’s surprising natural wealth and the stewards that are committed to its lasting health.
Chris Helzer illustrates the beauty and diversity of prairie through an impressive series of photographs, all taken within the same square meter of prairie. During his year-long project, he photographed 113 plant and animal species within a tiny plot, and captured numerous other images that document the splendor of diverse grasslands. Even readers familiar with prairies will be fascinated by the varied subject matter Helzer captured with his camera. In addition, his captivating and accessible natural history writing tells the story of his personal journey during the project and the stories of the characters he found within his chosen square meter of prairie.
This book is packed with gorgeous full-page close-up photos of prairie plants and animals, interspersed with a dozen short essays that include both ecology and natural history tidbits and enthralling and gently humorous anecdotes about Helzer’s experience staring into a tiny bit of prairie for one year. Helzer writes eloquently about the conservation value of prairies and uses his photos and stories to reinforce a conservation ethic among his readers.
Jens Jensen (1860–1951) was one of America's most distinguished landscape architects and a pioneering conservationist. During his long and productive career, this Danish-born visionary worked for and with some of the country's most prominent citizens and architects, including Henry Ford, Louis Sullivan, and Frank Lloyd Wright. He became internationally renowned for his design of landscapes throughout the Midwest and beyond, his contributions to the American conservation movement, and his philosophy that emphasized the significance of nature in people's lives. He found inspiration in the landscape, particularly the plants native to a region, and was an environmentalist long before the term became popular.
Today, Jensen is perhaps best remembered for establishing The Clearing on Wisconsin's Door County Peninsula. But the outspoken views in his writings—many of which were included in ephemeral planning reports, early newspapers, and out-of-print journals—are now virtually forgotten, with the exception of his two small books. Jens Jensen: Writings Inspired by Nature is a collection of Jensen's most significant yet lesser-known articles. The scope of Jensen's philosophy represented in these writings will further solidify his legacy and rightful place alongside conservation leaders such as John Muir and Aldo Leopold.
The Indigenous Canela inhabit a vibrant multispecies community of nearly 3,000 people and over 300 types of cultivated and wild plants living together in Maranhão State in the Brazilian Cerrado (savannah) a biome threatened with deforestation and climate change. In the face of these environmental threats, Canela women and men work to maintain riverbank and forest gardens and care for their growing crops who they consider to be, literally, children. This nurturing, loving relationship between people and plants—which offers a thought-provoking model for supporting multispecies survival and well-being throughout the world—is the focus of Plant Kin.Theresa L. Miller shows how kinship develops between Canela people and plants through intimate, multi-sensory, and embodied relationships. Using an approach she calls “sensory ethnobotany,” Miller explores the Canela bio-sociocultural life-world, including Canela landscape aesthetics, ethnobotanical classification, mythical storytelling, historical and modern-day gardening practices, transmission of ecological knowledge through an education of affection for plant kin, shamanic engagements with plant friends and lovers, and myriad other human-nonhuman experiences. This multispecies ethnography reveals the transformations of Canela human-environment and human-plant engagements over the past two centuries and envisions possible futures for this Indigenous multispecies community as they reckon with the rapid environmental and climatic changes facing the Brazilian Cerrado as the Anthropocene epoch unfolds.
Thirty-five years and many acres after planting his first patch of prairie flowers, Carl Kurtz is considered one of the deans of the great tallgrass prairie revival. The Prairie Enthusiast called the 2001 edition of his book a “readable and understandable introduction to prairie and the general steps in carrying out a reconstruction.” Now this second edition reflects his increased experience with reconstructing and restoring prairie grasslands.
Kurtz has completely revised every chapter of the first edition, from site selection and harvest to soil preparation, seeding, postplanting mowing, burning, and growth and development. He has written new chapters on establishing prairie in old pastureland and on the judicious use of herbicides, including a table that shows particular problem species, the types of herbicides that are most effective at controlling them, and the timing and method of treatment. New photographs illustrate species and steps, and Kurtz has expanded the question-and-answer section and updated the references and the section on midwestern seed sources and services.
Tallgrass prairie is critical wildlife habitat and an important element in flood control and stream water treatment. The process of reconstructing and restoring prairie grasslands has made great strides in recent decades. Carl Kurtz’s indispensable, step-by-step guide to creating a diverse and well-established prairie community provides both directions and encouragement for individual landowners as well as land managers working with government agencies and nonprofit organizations that have taken up the task of reconstructing and restoring native grasslands.
The tallgrass prairie offers solutions to the many environmental challenges facing our water, soils, and ecosystems. Planting prairie on just 10 percent of a field can effectively remove excess phosphorous and nitrogen from the remaining 90 percent. Deep prairie roots and dense aboveground growth filter and hold soils, keeping them from eroding into our streams and rivers. Plants such as common milkweed are the key to the monarch butterfly’s recovery. In light of these benefits, perhaps our love affair with European turf grass is slowly giving way to an appreciation of the beauty of our original native prairie.
As interest in these wildflowers and grasses has grown, so has demand for better resources to identify the hundreds of species that make up the native prairie. In The Prairie in Seed, Dave Williams shows us how to identify wildflowers when they are out of bloom and, in particular, how to harvest their seeds. Without the flower color and shape as guides, it can be difficult to identify prairie plants. Imagine trying to distinguish between a simple prairie sunflower and an ox-eye sunflower with no flowers to look at!
In this richly illustrated guide, Williams offers dormant plant identification information, seed descriptions, and advice on seed harvesting and cleaning for seventy-three of the most common wildflowers found in the tallgrass prairie. He includes photographs and descriptions of the plants in bloom and in seed to assist in finding them when you are ready to harvest. Each species description explains where the seeds are located on the plant, when seed ripening begins, and how many seeds each species produces, along with a photograph and approximate measurements of the actual seed. Finally, this guide provides assistance on how and when to hand-harvest seeds for each species, as well as some simple tips on seed cleaning.
An indispensable guide for anyone involved in prairie restoration or conservation, this book is the perfect complement to Williams’s The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Seed and Seedling Identification in the Upper Midwest.
A holistic approach to analyzing distinct grassland habitats that integrates ecological, historical, and archaeological data
Today the southeastern United States is a largely rural, forested, and agricultural landscape interspersed with urban areas of development. However, two centuries ago it contained hundreds of thousands of acres of natural grasslands that stretched from Florida to Texas. Now more than 99 percent of these prairies, glades, and savannas have been plowed up or paved over, lost to agriculture, urban growth, and cattle ranching. The few remaining grassland sites are complex ecosystems, home to hundreds of distinct plant and animal species, and worthy of study.
Southeastern Grasslands: Biodiversity, Ecology, and Management brings together the latest research on southeastern prairie systems and species, provides a complete picture of an increasingly rare biome, and offers solutions to many conservation biology queries. Editors JoVonn G. Hill and John A. Barone have gathered renowned experts in their fields from across the region who address questions related to the diversity, ecology, and management of southeastern grasslands, along with discussions of how to restore sites that have been damaged by human activity.
Over the last twenty years, both researchers and the public have become more interested in the grasslands of the Southeast. This volume builds on the growing knowledge base of these remarkable ecosystems with the goal of increasing appreciation for them and stimulating further study of their biota and ecology. Topics such as the historical distribution of grasslands in the South, the plants and animals that inhabit them, as well as assessments of several techniques used in their conservation and management are covered in-depth. Written with a broad audience in mind, this book will serve as a valuable introduction and reference for nature enthusiasts, scientists, and land managers.
More than a region on a map, North America's vast grasslands are an enduring place in the American heart. Unfolding along and beyond the Mississippi River, the tallgrass prairie has entranced and inspired its natives and newcomers as well as American artists and writers from Willa Cather to Mark Twain. The Tallgrass Prairie is a new introduction to the astonishing beauty and biodiversity of these iconic American spaces.
Like a walking tour with a literate friend and expert, Cindy Crosby's Tallgrass Prairie prepares travelers and armchair travelers for an adventure in the tallgrass. Crosby's engaging gateway assumes no prior knowledge of tallgrass landscapes, and she acquaints readers with the native plants they’ll discover there. She demystifies botanic plant names and offers engaging mnemonic tips for mastering Latin names with verve and confidence. Visitors to the prairie will learn to identify native plants using the five senses to discover what makes each plant unique or memorable. In the summer, for example, the unusual square stem of cup plant, Silphium perfoliatum, sets it apart from its neighbors. And its distinctive leaf cups water after the rain.
A gifted raconteur, Crosby tells stories about how humankind has adopted the prairie as a grocery, an apothecary, and even as a shop for love charms. Rounding out this exceptional introduction are suggestions for experiencing the American prairie, including journaling techniques and sensory experiences, tips for preparing for a hike in tallgrass landscapes, ways to integrate native prairie plants into home landscapes (without upsetting the neighbors), and a wealth of resources for further exploration.
An instant classic in the tradition of American naturalist writing, The Tallgrass Prairie will delight not only scholars and policy makers, but guests to tallgrass prairie preserves, outdoors enthusiasts and gardeners, and readers interested in American ecosystems and native plants.
Although less than 3 percent of the original vast landscape survives, the tallgrass prairie remains a national treasure, glowing with a vast array of colorful wildflowers in spring and summer, enriched by the warm reds and browns of grasses in fall and winter. This comprehensive manual, crafted by the staff of the Tallgrass Prairie Center at the University of Northern Iowa, will be an essential companion for everyone dedicated to planning, developing, and maintaining all types of prairie restorations and reconstructions in the tallgrass prairie region of Iowa, northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, southwestern Wisconsin, southwestern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, eastern Nebraska, northwestern Missouri, and northeastern Kansas.
Focusing on conservation plantings, prairie recovery, native landscaping in yards and at schools, roadside plantings, and pasture renovations, the authors—who collectively have more than a hundred years of experience with prairie restoration—have created a manual that will be particularly useful to landowners, conservation agency personnel, ecosystem managers, native-seeding contractors, prairie enthusiasts, teachers, and roadside managers. A wealth of color and black-and-white photographs taken in the field as well as checklists and tables support the detailed text, which also includes useful online and print sources and references, a glossary, and lists of common and scientific names of all plant species discussed.
The text is divided into five parts. Part I, Reconstruction Planning, provides an overall summary of the entire process, information about securing good-quality seed, and the design of seed mixes. In Part II, Implementing Reconstruction, the authors consider ways to prepare and seed the site, manage the site in its first growing season, identify seedlings, and evaluate success. Part III, Prairie Restoration and Management, deals with identifying and assessing prairie remnants, working toward a predetermined restoration goal, and managing restored prairie remnants and completed reconstructions, including prescribed burning. Chapters in Part IV, Special Cases, discuss the uses of prairie in public spaces, roadside vegetation management, and landscaping on a smaller scale in yards and outdoor classrooms. Part V, Native Seed Production, describes the processes of harvesting, drying, cleaning, and storing native seed as well as propagating and transplanting native seedlings.
Although we cannot recreate the original blacksoil prairie, tallgrass prairie restoration offers the opportunity to reverse environmental damage and provide for the recovery of vital aspects of this lost ecosystem. Anyone in the Upper Midwest who wishes to improve water quality, reduce flood damage, support species diversity, preserve animal habitats, and enjoy the changing panorama of grasses and wildflowers will benefit from the clear, careful text and copious illustrations in this authoritative guide.
Settlers crossing the tallgrass prairie in the early 1800s were greeted by a seemingly endless landscape of wildflowers and grasses, one of the most diverse ecosystems on our planet. Today, although the tallgrass prairie has been reduced to a tiny percentage of its former expanse, people are working to restore and reconstruct prairie communities. This lavishly illustrated guide to seeds and seedlings, crafted by Tallgrass Prairie Center botanist Dave Williams and illustrator Brent Butler, will insure that everyone from urban gardeners to grassland managers can properly identify and germinate seventy-two species of tallgrass wildflowers and grasses in eastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, northwestern Indiana, Iowa, eastern Nebraska, eastern Kansas, northwestern Missouri, and eastern Oklahoma.
Williams has created a brilliant, nearly foolproof system of identification and verification. Two primary keys lead to eleven secondary keys that link to characteristic groups of tallgrass plants: seven groups for wildflowers and four groups for grasses. To identify a seedling, use the primary key to discover its place in the secondary key, then turn to that characteristic group to find your seedling. Circles on each full seedling photograph correspond to close-up photographs; triangles on these close-ups illustrate information in the text to further pinpoint identification. Drawings of leaves illuminate exact identification, and enlarged photographs of each seed provide yet another way to confirm identification.
Thousands of seeds were sprouted in the Tallgrass Prairie Center’s greenhouse to provide seedlings close in size and development to those grown in the field near the end of their first season; research and photography took place over four years. Williams’s text for each species includes a thorough description, a comparison of similar species, and guidance for germination and growth. A complete glossary supports the text, which is concise but detailed enough to be accessible to beginning prairie enthusiasts.
Anyone in the Upper Midwest who wishes to preserve the native vegetation of prairie remnants or reconstruct a tallgrass prairie of whatever size—from home gardens to schoolyards to roadsides to large acreages—will benefit from the hundreds of photographs and drawings and the precise text in this meticulously prepared guide.
On a gray and drizzly day in 1983, writer Alice D’Alessio and her math professor husband, Laird, made their way down a curving, tree-lined driveway on their way to a picnic. They were visiting 110 acres of land in Wisconsin’s unglaciated Driftless Area that Laird had inherited from his parents. Emerging from the trees, Alice had her first glimpse of the valley that would become a twenty-five-year labor of love for the couple.
In Tending the Valley, Alice chronicles their efforts to return the land to its natural prairie state and to manage their oak and pine woods. Along the way they joined the land restoration movement, became involved in a number of stewardship groups, and discovered the depths of dedication and toil required to bring their dream to fruition. With hard-earned experience and the evocative language of a poet, D’Alessio shares her personal triumphs and setbacks as a prairie steward, along with a profound love for the land and respect for the natural history of the Driftless.