Sunday, 30 October 2011

Black Locust Savanna at Iron Bridge Prairie

Black Locust savanna

The savannas in the prairie region mainly consist of Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa, but here at the Iron Bridge Prairie at Midewin it is a small savanna or rather open woodland of Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacasia.

The Black Locust is a lovely tree with ornamental branches and a open, loose crown with a scanty leafage that allow some light to pass to the ground and permit a rich understory of grasses and forbs.

The Iron Bridge Prairie at Midewin is fairly new. The restoration of the prairie that once existed here began as late as in 2009. This text is partly taken from an information sign at the prairie. Thanks to many years of cultivating rowcrops as corn and soybeans the soil was rather free from weeds.

Two years ago Midewin staff and volunteers spread 1000 pounds of prairie seeds from 98 different species. This was followed by the planting of 5000 prairie plant plugs.

The first plants to flower are the pioneer plants with rapid growth as Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata and Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa. They benefit from disturbance and have their best development some few years afterwards.

It will take several years for the majority of the prairie plants to establish their root systems and grow in numbers to out-compete invasive, weedy species.

Like a yellow lake of Coneflowers

Monarda and Ratibida are pioneer members of the prairie ecosystem 

Monarda fistulosa, Ratibida pinnata and Coreopsis tripterris

The path through the Black Locust Savanna

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The Royal Catchfly, Silene regia

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is a prairie reserve of about 78 km2 (19,000 acres) of land. It is located on the site of the former Joliet Army Ammunition Plant near Elwood south of Chicago in Illinois.

At the headquarter along the road the Welcome Center is surrounded by plantings of different prairie plants you will be able to find at a tallgrass prairie. Inside the building you can get information about suitable walking trails, buy books and learn about the prairie ecosystem from informative posters.

I decided to take the Grass Frog Temporary Trail and indeed I met a lot of frogs along the path. But fist I visited the seed production fields close to the parking area. There I directly already from long distance discovered the bright red Royal Catchfly, Silene regia. It is a very showy slender, upright plant with unbranched stems and glowing red flowers. The Royal Catchfly is rare in nature, but here i captured it growing at the seed beds.

Other plants cultivated for seed production at Midewin were among others Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolium, Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium, Compass Plant, Silphium laciniatum and Prairie Dropseed, Sporobulus heterolepis.

The Welcome Center with prairie plantings

Inside the Welcome Center

If you look closer to the sign above you'll see the yellow area at the small map in the center. Yellow here indicates the pre-settlement extent of prairie habitat around the year 1920. Today most of this land is converted into corn fields or human infrastructur. 

Pale Indian Plantain, Arnoglossum atriplicifolia

Eryngium yuccifolium and Liatris pycnostachya

Seed production of Royal Catchfly, Silene regia

Yellow Coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, at the Grass Frog Temporary Trail

Rudbeckia subtomentosa and Eryngium yuccifolium along the trail

Rudbeckia subtomentosa

Friday, 28 October 2011


On the way to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in the end of July earlier this year I passed this field of Sunflowers. Although common sunflower, Helianthus annuus, is a native species of North America and found in nearly every state, the cultivated crop looks quite different from the original wild plants. 

However the field with glowing sunflowers reminds us again of the importance of mass planting in garden design. It gives always a really stunning effect with many individuals planted together in big groups and if you use more species in a composition remember to let one of them dominate to receive the best result.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Bulbs and tubers at Peter Korn's Garden

Peter is showing his botanic garden

Every year Peter Korn arrange a "Bulb Saturday" in his garden south of Gothenburg in Sweden. This year, Saturday 24th of September, he as usual started with a tour in his private botanic garden and there he showed the interested audience his vast collection of rare plants from all over the world, nearly. Peter grows most of the plants in pure sand and gravel and he is very successful in keeping even plants you don't expect would survive on this latitude in the healthiest shape and vigour.

In the rock garden plants from Asia, Europe and North America thrives together

The participants are listening to Peter's experience

Epiolobium fleischeri in the rock garden

One of many Gentiana sinoornata-cultivars in Peter's Korns Garden

Peter Korn in his garden

After the garden tour we all went inside to the Eskilsbygården some few miles away for the afternoon lectures. First Pascal Bruggeman from the Netherlands gave us an interesting slide show about the genus Arisaema, then I delivered a talk about and showed pictures from the tallgrass prairies in North America.

Henrik Zetterlund delivered a speech about bulb meadows and the bulb planting at the botanic garden in Gothenburg there he works and eventually Pascal Bruggeman made a nice finish of the lectures with his talk about Arisaema in the wild.

After the lectures the bulb sale began