Iowa’s Roots: The Tallgrass Prairie

outdoors in summer in the Prairie Vista Garden with rabbit sculptures, pairie plants, and trees

For my blog post this week, I’m going to go discuss what I have learned from my leadership project. As I had stated in my previous post, I am proposing for a restoration of the Prairie Vista Garden and am writing up an improved maintenance plan. The original plant list for the Prairie Vista Garden contains many of Iowa’s native prairie plants, including Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, Purple Prairie Clover, Lead Plant, etc. However, these plants no longer exist in the area. This is due to other plants/weeds outcompeting them. With a proper maintenance plan, this should not become an issue again. Grasses like Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switchgrass were a dominant feature of the Iowa Prairie, which is why it is necessary to bring these plants back into this prairie-inspired garden. People often forget that Iowa used to be completely prairie with buffalo roaming about, but so much of the land was turned into farmland and cities that now less than one percent of it remains.

Researching Iowa’s tallgrass prairie has given me a much deeper appreciation for our state’s roots. We can thank the prairie for the very high-quality soil we have here in Iowa due to the thousands of years of repeated decomposition of these native plants that had in-turn given an immense amount of nutrients to the soil. I’ve always been interested in the inner workings of a prairie, and am happy that this project is giving me the opportunity to learn more about it.

By Kate Helms