What is a prairie?
A large area of flat land consisting of tall grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, and few or no trees.
Benefits of native prairie plants
➢Attracts and supports native wildlife such as bees, butterflies, and other pollinators
➢Deep roots require less water, prevent erosion, support wildlife, and filter pollutants from stormwater
➢Less prone to disease
➢Low maintenance and reduced mowing
Unfortunately, native prairies throughout the Olentangy watershed have been replaced by agricultural activities, housing, and manufacturing.
It is vital to promote native plant species and restore land to a more natural state. This requires the attention of those in the agriculture industry, other businesses, homeowners, and those with a general interest in improving the overall condition of the Olentangy River.
Where to install native vegetation:
➢In your front and back yard
➢As a buffer zone around crops
➢Along golf courses
➢Around businesses and industries
Economic benefits for landowners
➢Native species require much less management because they are suited to local soil and climates. This means less watering and no fertilizers or pesticides.
➢Native plant diversity reduces weeds.
➢Native plants control erosion and runoff.
➢Prairie plants are a cost-effective method of removing pollutants from stormwater.
➢Prairie plants reduce fertilizer and other pollutants from stormwater because their stems slow runoff.
➢Their deep root systems allow the soil to soak in more water, stabilize banks, and prevent erosion and sedimentation.
Native plants attract wildlife by providing food, clean water, shelter, and nesting sites because they have co-evolved with native wildlife.
Why do we need pollinators?
➢Between 1/4 and 1/3 of our food sources depend on pollinators.
➢90% of plant species need pollinators to reproduce.
➢Pollinators improve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat by helping native plants reproduce.
➢Bumblebees are the sole pollinators for tomatoes.
➢Pollinators are in decline, largely due to loss and fragmentation of habitat.
➢Monarch butterflies and some bats and hummingbirds migrate, and they need food sources along their flight corridors.
➢The endangered rusty patched bumblebee is one of 20 native bumblebee species in the Great Lakes Region. Their native habitats are fields and tallgrass prairies. Declines have been attributed to habitat loss, urban development, and pesticide use. Another stressor is monoculture, the agricultural practice of growing a single crop at a time.
➢The Karner Blue Butterfly is another endangered Ohio pollinator species.
Invasive species of plants crowd out native plants. They limit wildlife diversity, harm pollinators, and reduce water quality by taking up fewer of the pollutants that degrade streams.
Common invasive species in Ohio prairies include:
➢Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)
➢Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia)
➢Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
➢Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
➢Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)
➢Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)
➢Day lily (Hemerocallis fulva)
➢Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
➢Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
➢Common reed grass (Phragmites australis)
What you can do
Many of the improvements we can make are actually easier than what we are doing now. Here are some ideas:
➢Replace invasive species with native varieties in yards and open spaces, and on the edges of woodlands, stream edges, other stormwater areas, and manicured turf grass areas.
➢Replace mowed areas with wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses native to the area.
➢Plant spring-blooming species to provide food at a time when it is scarce.
➢Limit or eliminate use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Check the labels of chemicals that you do use to make sure that they are properly applied and do not affect pollinators.
➢Leave some grasses and soils undisturbed for nesting.
➢Have a source of water such as a birdbath, fountain, or puddle.
➢Consider periodic controlled burns or mowing in the early spring.
Controlled burns remove dead vegetation so that new vegetation can grow. This controls invasives, promotes biodiversity by mimicking natural disturbances, and prevents any plant species from taking over.
➢When? Early spring after the first year of plant growth.
➢How? Use a licensed controlled burn. See the ODNR Division of Forestry website for information on controlled burns. A certified Fire Manager and approval from ODNR and the Ohio EPA are all necessary. Uncertified burns are unsafe and illegal.
➢How often? Every 3 to 5 years.
➢Mowing to the soil surface in early spring can be used instead of burning.
➢The mowed material should be raked.
➢Mowing and raking is 65% as effective as burning.
➢It is natural for prairie plant composition to change over time, and it takes prairies at least 3 years to fully develop.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Type|
|Spotted Beebalm||Monarda punctata||Perennial/Forb|
|Wild Bergamot||Monarda fistulosa||Perennial/Forb|
|Dense Blazing Star||Liatris spicata||Perennial/Forb|
|Prairie Blazing Star||Liatris pychnostachya||Perennial/Forb|
|Eastern Purple Coneflower||Echinacea purpurea||Perennial/Forb|
|Compass plant||Silphium lacinatium||Perennial/Forb|
|Cup plant||Silphium perfolatum||Perennial/Forb|
|Greater Fringed Gentian||Gentianopsis crinita||Perennial/Forb|
|Lanceleaf Tickseed||Coreopsis lanceolata||Perennial/Forb|
|Tall Tickseed||Coreopsis tripteris||Perennial/Forb|
|New England Aster||Symphyotrichum novae-angliae||Perennial/Forb|
|Black Chokeberry||Aronia melanocarpa||Perennial/Forb|
|Gray Dogwood||Cornus racemosa||Shrub/Tree|
|New Jersey Tea||Ceanothus americanus||Shrub/Tree|
|Winged Sumac||Rhus copallinum||Shrub/Tree|
|Smooth Sumac||Rhus glabra||Shrub/Tree|
|Big Bluestem||Andropogon gerardii||Graminoid|
|Little Bluestem||Schizachyrium scoparium||Graminoid|
|Indian grass||Sorghastrum nutans||Graminoid|
|Canada Wild Rye||Elymus canadensis||Graminoid|
|Purple Lovegrass||Eragrostis spectabilis||Graminoid|
For more information on the benefits of prairies and what species of plants to grow, please visit http://www.ohioprairie.org/.
2017 Plant List [Pamphlet]. (2017). Delaware, Ohio: Scioto Gardens Nursery and Gallery.
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United States, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. (2007). Selected Ohio Native Plants for Landscape Restoration and Reuse. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas & Preserves.