prairie ecology and management, topic for LMN Urban Ecology workshop, NOLA

I will be presenting the topic – “introduction to prairie ecology, prairie management and keystone plants of the prairie” for the Louisiana Master Naturalists of New Orleans’ URBAN ECOLOGY workshop on Saturday March 19th as a guest instructor. This workshop session is only open to those registered for the Master Naturalist program.

key take aways for the LMN presentation and field trip to Scout Island Prairie Habitat

1. Growing native prairie wildflowers and grasses gives a garden local identity.
2. Cultivating many prairie plots allows us to promote diversity and to preserve rare ecotypes that straddle the fence of extinction.
3. Prairie pants have historical and cultural significance and are a useful connection to the past.
4. Prairie grasses provide unique foliage texture. Their linear foliage refracts light and sings as the wind moves through.
5. Prairies are adorned with colorful flowers through the growing season.
6. Many prairie plants provide forage for wildlife. Birds feast on the plump fatty seeds of composites like Compass Plant. Butterflies abound in the prairie, sipping nectar  from their sun-loving food sources. Dragonflies hunt using strategic aerial feats to hone in on prey.
7. Most prairie plants are able to withstand extreme environmental conditions. Troublesome or unsightly areas of the landscape with baking sun and heavy clay soils are often ideal sites on which to establish a prairie garden. Prairie plantings can be used to reclaim wasteland in many cases.
8 Prairie plants (especially the grasses) have tenacious root systems that hold soil, filter ground water and prevent erosion.
9. Prairie plants are tough and resilient once established. Within 3 to 5 years after sowing, most micro-prairies are self-sustaining. Once established they will produce flowers and valuable seed for many years.
(Gail Barton, Meadowmakers catalog, 2007 – –  yardflower.com).
10. The restored prairie habitat serves as an outdoor classroom and as a “people pasture” (Madison, 1982)
11. There is a certain “revery” just being in a wildflower meadow, but the “revery” redoubles with the restoration of such a habitat. The gardener senses a deep feeling of “self-worth” that grows with each succeeding year as the gardener observes the plants and their biotic associates redevelop a sustainable habitat. (Vidrine and Borsari, 1998)

 

quote of the week

“no prairie – no monarchs”      March 1, 2016    –  some brilliant anonymous person

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Monarchs on Eupatorium serotinum, Mandeville, Louisiana, September 2015. This is why you don’t want to weed out your Eup serotinum. Its a generalist but its a superb nectar plant, as most Eups are. Thanks John Broderick for the image. John sent me other photos of this planting which is right at the edge of a side walk downtown.

Pioneering Biologist, Malcolm F. Vidrine writes prairie blog – don’t blow it and miss this fellow’s writings!

His blog is at    http://cajunprairiegardens.com

Malcolm sent me this link, below, the other day regarding Monarch numbers-populations, etc.

http://www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/spring2016/05/monarch-butterfly-population-size.html

Was encouraged, inspired by my friend Charles Allen to start participating in the Firefly watch, initiated by the Boston Museum of Science     https://legacy.mos.org/fireflywatch/   I have a pretty good population of fireflies on the property here on the edge of Covington’s corp limit. Participate if’n you can! We need more southerners involved.

Feelin’ the burn…

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stirring it up! ..with a drip torch! Momma told me don’t play with fire 🙂  Stacy Huskins workin’ the water bag – top-right

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Walker Wilson selfie and me drip torchin’ the crescendo backing fire to slow down the head fire roaring at me – above

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Heather Wilson, Dr. Allen, and Stacy Huskins after the burn.  Laddering effect on a juvenile pine….and a cool ephemeral Mayapple in flower – Thanks Walker Wilson, for permission to share these burn photos!

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I’m pining for some Pine.

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a hitchhiker Katydid on Chuck Allen’s shoulder, just after we finished his controlled burn. Katydid hang out with the cool folks….  🙂

Met with the famous team of Horticulturists Steve and Jake on my way to Vernon Parish Friday. Saw Jake’s new organic veggie plantings and his new tiller – not just any old tiller but a real deal farm tiller. Go Jake! Jake is honing his veggie cut flower skills and will be in production soon with his new leased farmland. Steve graduates this fall with a masters degree in grooviness. Pretty sure Steve is responsible for “weeding” the prairie garden at Hamilton Hall – U of La. @ Lafayette. Naw, couldn’t have been Steve. Oh, the mysteries of life….

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Jake and Steve and I had shrimp poboys for lunch, bought and brought by none other than the Maestro himself, Professor Jim Foret. Prof. Jim had lunch with us and then it was off the the old Landfill, City of Lafayette, where in 1998 they, through the inspiration of Lafayette city employee Betty Vidrine, got help (and seed) from the Cajun Prairie Society for their Landfill prairie restoration. They have managed it, generally, with fire –  for these years and there were some good spots where it was obvious the grasses were pretty thick, photo below

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We toured the prairie gardens back in 2001 or 2 during a Cajun Prairie Society field trip and it was just a whippersnapper then, in early stages of natural succession. Friday we consulted with Regulatory Compliance- Environmental Quality Officer- Jackie Tidwell. I will write a report on what we saw sometime soon; observations and advice, etc.

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above, prairie on left and turf, right. notice the methane vent in the distance and the height of the landfill (house in the distance). This is the highest spot in Lafayette Parish.

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google-earth prairie patches

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Turn your City Landfill into a prairie habitat today! Makes for excellent use of space, rather than mowing, turns garbage into a wildlife habitat and party place! There’s gold in them-thar’ hills!!!!!!

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cool Luna Moth at Dr. Allen’s. We just saw this one since it was so cool at night. He has eight or so white sheets that are lit with screw-based black lights but he just added a mercury vapor light and he says it really brings them in. He had eleven Lunas on his sheets yesterday, including many other moths. Can you say hero?

Latimore Smith visits, consults with Blue Swamp Creek Nature Park project, Covington

I met with Latimore Smith, John Mayronne, and City of Covington – Keep Covington Beautiful Director Priscilla Floca yesterday so Latimore could share his brilliance with us. Latimore is one of the leading ecologists in the state and works for the Nature Conservancy, guiding their huge land holdings through active natural management techniques. He shared some really great ideas which we will most definitely put into action. Thanks to the TNC and Latimore for his valued input!!!

We will gitter’ done!!!

 

 

 

 

2 St. Tammany residential pine prairie gardens burned- go team Green!

Saturday began with a cool breeze, clear blue skies and by the 10:00 burn time, we had a steady 10 mile per hour wind with gusts to 15mph coming out of the east and southeast. We planned to burn a 2.5 acre planting, seeded a year ago in January. My client Doug Green did all the work involved in prepping and planting. I just provided seed and guidance. Now we’d do the first controlled burn on it, to trigger natural succession.

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above: here’s a photo of the field after a few diskings (plowings), November 19, 2013. Walking trails and a circular central open space inside the plantings, in green. (click to enlarge)

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above: with the wind kicking from the east and southeast, we started on the western side, close to the north corner. My burn partner Terry Johnson did the honor of lighting it up. Terry, fire manager for the Crosby Arboretum, and I have been burning together for about 15 years.

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after about ten minutes, we were reassured of the strategy and proceeded north (Terry) and south (me) to encircle the filed with our only real tool: fire. Doug helped us out in a big way by running the tractor-spray-rig where and when we needed him.

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as we moved eastwardly, we left a “black line”, a burned area; protection from escaping fire. Once the size of the black line was sufficient, we moved on steadily to the east.

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Terry worked the north edge and I worked the south. this is about 45 minutes into the burn, maybe half way done. We worked a black line on the north and south ends, again, for protection from escape.

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I met Terry on the east side and we wrapped it all up like a large lasso. A full two hours of steady adrenaline pumping was had by all.

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eryngium yuccafolia, a hyper-pollinator species, in the ash, one year after seeding

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Doug went back and forth between Terry and myself, assisting as needed. Team Green got ‘er done.

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central part of the prairie, before….

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…and after.

We did another burn, Terry and I, just a few miles away; a small, half acre pine prairie seeded two years ago- with some wooded areas included.

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above: before…

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…..and after. The prairie area surrounds this tree-shrub area, but I wanted to introduce succession by fire here, as well. My client, Skip Miller, will be happy with the result come this summer.

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Our burn plan for Doug’s pine prairie, certifiz’ed and notoriz’ed. CAUTION! DISLAIMER: Fire is extremely dangerous! Momma told me so! 🙂

Monty the Dog Goes to the Farm!/ awesome new LSU Hilltop meadow planting-planning/ City of Mandeville-La DOT pine prairie planting completed/LSU Hilltop Arbo Symposium speakers finalized, announced

 

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Monty the Wonderdog, captured in digital form, on his way to the seed farm in Mississippi the other day. Monty likes fetching sticks and smelling-out deer and other wild critters in the native grass fields. Most of all, though, he likes to stick his head out of the window to get a sense of the neighborhoods along the route. That’s what he’s best at, plus the fact that he’s a certified therapy dog and all. He’s not an amateur dog, he’s a professional! He was pleased with the day overall, he said.   (click on the pic and see him up close. He’s funny.)

I just got the notice for details for speakers for the Hilltop Arboretum’s winter Symposium and what a great line-up it is. I will, of course, be speaking on grass landscapes (duh) for the home garden and the urban environment. The symposium is geared to gardens and garden plants rather than ecological landscapes. It sounds like it will be a fun time with a speaker’s get-together the night before, so I’ll be able to catch up with a few folks I haven’t seen in many years and some I’ve never met. here is the link to the Hilltop Symposium announcement. There’ll be more info coming soon, I’m sure.

http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/hilltop/adult-programs/symposium/

Yesterday, Doug Reed was in Baton Rouge to discuss the new prairie natural area being designed for the Hilltop Arboretum. Doug is an nationally recognized landscape designer, an LSU grad, principal partner in the firm Reed-Hilderbrand, LLC, of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Doug and I collaborated 3 years ago on the initial design phase of the Hilltop prairie when it was just an idea and we worked together on the super-sleek Repentance Park project in Baton Rouge shortly after that. I hear that I will likely be involved in the final horticultural details and if I get lucky, provide the seed for the actual plantings once the construction of the prairie meadows begin. I was invited to be present at Doug’s presentation to the Hilltop board of directors but am too busy with planting right now to pick my head up. Gotta make hay while the sun shines. Peggy Davis, the Director at Hilltop, organized a field trip to Crosby Arboretum and to my seed farm last summer to get a hands-on feel for what a real restored prairie is. A bus load of people connected to Hilltop visited and walked the Meadowmakers prairie paths. They must have liked what they saw since the project to create real biodiversity via constructed natural areas of meadows is still on! whoot!

Once completed, this planting will provide an outdoor classroom and research area for landscape design and biology students right in the heart of Baton Rouge.

The City of Mandeville’s wildflower conservation planting has been completed as of last Friday. I met with the very capable Herb Piller, a landscape designer with Louisiana Department of Transportation that day. He was interested in the planting process and took a few photos, asked a few questions.

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above, top: the western most planting in Mandeville at the intersection of Highway 190 and Causeway Approach Rd, and below that, the eastern most planting. All complete and ready for seed to stratify! I will be managing these gardens for two years as part of the installation contract. Really nice Long Leaf pines from Louisiana Growers! go Rick!

The burn team got together and did some controlled burning at the seed farm in Mississippi yesterday. It was perfect conditions for a wild fire and thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we got two major sections done without burning the neighborhood down. These were two areas, about four acres altogether, with two years of fuel built-up and the humidity was really high with lots of grass present so we had some really spectacular visuals and adrenaline rushes from the leaping, flaming vegetation. Lots of poppin’ and crackin’ in the low, wet areas between the hill slopes. It was quite the event, ya’ll (don’t try this at home kids)!

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above: My good friend Jim McGee uses the awesome-Terry-Johnson-devised/ Terry Johnson-built, Kabota-mounted, PTO-powered spray rig, to douse the flames as they work into the fire lines at the Meadowmakers seed farm and genetic preserve, Carriere, Mississippi, December 10, 2014. Terry is a old-time good friend, who grew up on a farm in Iowa. He is a farm-taught mechanical engineer who can build and fix anything. He and Jim both have a heart of gold.

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a good burn was had by all, ya’ll 🙂