In the spring of 1992, employee volunteers planted 21 acres of tallgrass prairie at our Norway, Iowa, headquarters on land that was previously corn and bean fields. The prairie, which contains dozens of species of grasses and forbs, later became part of the United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary Network, a group of environments dedicated to restoring and preserving natural habitats and native plants.
Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii)
Plants of the Prairie
Our prairie has around 25 to 30 species of grasses and forbs. This complex ecosystem of gives rise to many kinds of ever-changing prairie environments. Drier and warmer weather favors the growth of grasses, for example, as grasses with their deep roots and waxy-coated leaves are able to survive long periods without rain.
Dry plant litter burns in the heart of the fire.
Good prairie maintenance requires a burn every few years to revitalize the prairie plants. Prairie fires stimulate new growth of grasses and some forbs and burn excess plant litter, helping to open up the ground to rain and nutrients from the ash. Fire also kills or damages trees, thus maintaining the grassland environment.
Changing Seasons in the Prairie
Life on the prairie can be harsh throughout the seasons, with extremes of temperature, strong winds and storms, fire, and water scarcity. But the plants and animals that live there have evolved not only to cope with the changing conditions, but to thrive.
SPRING: The diminutive prairie violet is our earliest prairie wildflower.
SUMMER: Newly opened echinacea flowers add their exuberant color to the summer landscape.
FALL: Bees work the fall foliage, storing food for the winter.
WINTER: The tart red fruits of viburnum last through the winter and are an emergency source of food for birds.