Native Prairie Restoration: Spring 2021 update

June 2021

By Steve Poppe, Sr Horticulture Scientist

Progress continues on the 17-acre native prairie habitat below and south of the Pomme de Terre Overlook. Our main objective is to create a local ecosystem for beneficial pollinators and native species of plants as well as offer educational opportunities for visitors. 

On September 21, 2020 fifty Bur Oak trees native to prairie savannah ecosystems were planted throughout the project site. The Bur Oak was selected because it was once growing on the northern great plains along with native grasses more than 200 years ago.  It is very drought tolerant, tolerates our high pH soils and is fire resistant.  It supposedly was the only tree that could withstand wildfires and one time was the dominant species across the plains.  Our hope with our pollinator planting is to create an oak savanna that long ago was part of our history.  The Bur Oak will add to the historic prairie savannah landscape and may also help sustain various species of wildlife.   

The prairie restoration specialists sowed native species on October 19 and 20, 2020 at our site.  All wildflower seed was applied by broadcasting.  Following the wildflower seeding, all native grass seed was interseeded with a no-till seed drill designed for native seeding. The upper hillside and areas along the trail were seeded with short/dry prairie species.  The general site was seeded with mesic prairie species and the ditches/wet swales were seeded with wet prairie species.  A cover crop of winter wheat was also sown along with the native grasses.  Winter wheat is an annual grass species that germinates quickly and will reduce the risk of soil erosion on the site.  Erosion blankets were installed on November 2, 2020 in certain areas that might be exceedingly prone to erosion.

Two educational wayside rest areas and interpretative kiosks were constructed and installed along the path in the restoration site during the fall of 2020. Each rest area is shaded and includes a bike rack, bench and optimum views of the restoration site with the Pomme de Terre river in the background.  At the northern most wayside rest area, a 36" w x 36" h sign was installed on the backdrop of the kiosk and provides information about why the restoration was crucial in preserving a habitat for beneficial pollinators, why we need pollinators, and the steps we've taken to restore the area.  At the south rest area, we developed and installed three 24" w x 30" h interpretive signs to provide the public more information about the various native pollinators in our region and what specific food sources they are attracted to, the type of habitats each of them desire, and how to create a pollinator friendly landscape in the home garden.  

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).  The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. Currently, 40% of net Minnesota State Lottery proceeds are dedicated to growing the Trust Fund and ensuring future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.