My fondness for the prairie developed through my own work and from the wisdom of a prairie ecologist who I worked with in Minnesota. Kathy Bolin managed and restored prairie for the Minnesota State Parks. She managed crews removing invasive plants, setting prescribed fires, and protecting more patches of prairie before they were converted to houses. My favorite lesson from Kathy was one she took into elementary schools. She asked students which plant had deeper roots: the white pine twig in her left hand or the blade of big bluestem in her right hand. The students said, of course, the white pine (the tallest tree in the east). The big bluestem grows to nearly nine feet; tall for a prairie plant, but diminutive compared to a majestic white pine.
White pine can grow to heights of 150 feet or more
Big bluestem reaches only nine feet tall
On a trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan last week, I walked through a remnant prairie along the Huron River; the prairie was being restored by the City using prescribed fire and invasive plant control. Yes, the City of Ann Arbor has conserved thousands of acres of open space and engages staff and volunteers to restore and maintain native prairie. It was refreshing to see a community committed to caring for natural areas and a reminder of the beauty of native prairie as I walked among big bluestem towering over my head.