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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

New Arb Prairie Restoration to Take Root this Fall

<ir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-8de69274-30a3-ad06-685f-8d9c421bb295">Imagine walking in the Lower Arboretum in the mid-1900s. Instead of seeing billowy swaths of prairie grasses and flowers, you would encounter agricultural land, with crop rows and grazing cattle. Now, thanks to ongoing prairie restoration efforts, it’s easy to find native plants like Big Bluestem and Milkweed all throughout the Lower Arb.

While much of the Arboretum is populated by native plant and animal species, there are pieces that have yet to be restored. This fall, the Arb will begin prairie restorations of two patches of land. The first area, in the Upper Arboretum just north of the Druid Circle, is approximately three acres and used to be home to a community garden. The other region, in the Lower Arboretum, is 3.5 acres and will connect two already restored prairies. This is crucial for grassland birds, which thrive in larger, contiguous habitats.

Staff members have already started removing existing non-native species from these areas. After that, the soil must be tilled, and then approximately 70 to 80 native prairie species can be planted at the end of the month. Seed for restorations are collected from other parts of the Arboretum, McKnight Prairie, and other local remnants.

However, habitat restoration is not a quick and painless process. It will take a few years before these habitats begin to look like prairieland again, and these areas will have to be continuously managed and maintained. Since so many non-native species have been introduced into the Arboretum and many other natural dynamics like wind and flooding have been altered with time, these restored prairies will not look exactly like their predecessors from the 1800s. Instead, the goal of habitat restoration is to create a landscape that allows native plant and animal species to thrive, and let visitors understand what the original land might have looked like.

While you’re waiting for these restorations to be planted, there are plenty of beautiful forest and prairie habitats the Arboretum has already reestablished that you can enjoy this fall.

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