Iowa Ecosystems: Prairie

The second of three Master Conservationist Program classes featuring Iowa’s Ecosystems highlighted the prairie. If you missed the first recap on forests, check it out here. There are a total of six classes throughout the summer, one Saturday per month.

The class is a group effort by Golden Hills RC&DPottawattamie County ConservationPottawattamie County Soil & Water ConservationPottawattamie County NRCSISU Extension and Outreach West Pottawattamie.

Our homework prior to class featured an hour long video on prairies along with a 27 page PDF document to read about prairies.

Iowa used to be covered in native tall grass prairie but now only a small portion (less than 0.1%) exists today. There are a few remnant prairie’s still remaining although very rare.

Also, we were asked to watch these two videos on YouTube so I thought I would share these videos with all of you.

We met at Hitchcock Nature Center in Honey Creek, Iowa again today and went immediately on a hike. Our guide Chad Graeve, took us on a new path through park, teaching as we went. We identified several new native species on our walk.

Spiderwort. Not native to the Loess Hills but native to Iowa.
Teucrium canadense or Wood Sage (also known as Germander).
I believe this was Prairie Dogwood.
Purple cone flower.
Heath aster (which will have white blooms).
Lithospermum canescens or Hoary Puccoon.

I look loads of photos of these Candle Anemones. Oh how I love them!

Anemone cylindrica or Candle Anemony.
Native Bittersweet.
Prairie Larkspur.
Purple Prairie Clover (not yet blooming).
Lead Plant.
Coneflower. We noted the unique leaves.
Blue Vervain.
We found this small rare milkweed known as Sand Milkweed or Clasping Milkweed.
Silky Aster.
Skeleton Weed.
Amazing views at Hitchcock Nature Center.
Grass hopper.
We thought this was a small cicada.

We learned that someone is doing a study and they have found 120 different kinds of bees at Hitchcock alone. Amazing!

We talked about some invasive species: sweet clover, non-native thistle and crown vetch.

Here are a few additional resources:

Tallgrass Prairie Center by University of Northern Iowa
Iowa Prairie Network

Another great class. Already counting down the days until the next one. For those of you who don’t like snakes, better not scroll all the way down the bottom.

Bull snake.

Hope you are having a great weekend!

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