National Prairie Day was created by the Missouri Prairie Foundation in 2016 to help bring attention to our native grassland resources. The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of many organizations working to preserve and restore this unique ecosystem.
What is a prairie?
Prairie is an ecosystem dominated by grasses and wildflowers with few trees or shrubs. Prairie once covered the central 1/3 of North America from Ohio to the Rockies, including a large portion of Missouri and Illinois. Prairie plants, with roots penetrating deep into the soil, are adapted to the midsummer droughts of this region.
“The prairies of the Midwest are a bountiful environment; rich in soil, rich in plant diversity, rich in color, rich in insect life, rich in its usefulness for agriculture, and rich in history.”
-George Wise, Superintendent of Shaw Arboretum (1981)
Prairies at Shaw Nature Reserve
There are about 300 acres of prairie at Shaw Nature Reserve, featuring tall grasses and more than 70 species of wildflowers. The Reserve’s prairies were planted on former farmland in an attempt to restore this once-prominent native habitat. Prairie restoration efforts began in 1980 and continue today.
Read more: Shaw Nature Reserve’s Dark Diversity
Learn more about the role fire plays in maintaining a healthy prairie:
One of the best ways to experience the prairies of Shaw Nature Reserve is to take a hike on The Prairie Trail. It winds through the largest of the Reserve’s prairies, and includes an observation deck to give visitors a new perspective of the prairie landscape. Shaw Nature Reserve also hosts a biennial Prairie Days event to celebrate prairie ecosystems and their role in American history.
June 3 is both National Prairie Day and National Trails Day. In celebration, Shaw Nature Reserve is offering free admission all day!
Prairies in your home garden
There are ways to work elements of a prairie into your own home garden. A perfect example can be found at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening. The Lucy and Stanley Lopata Prairie Garden recreates a portion of native prairie and features plants like little bluestem, purple coneflower, and tickseed.
Cassidy Moody – Digital Media Specialist