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Case Studies

These photographs were taken within and along the edge of a native prairie "hay" meadow just south of Topeka. It is on property owned by Dr. Robert (Bob) McElroy, a Trustee of Audubon of Kansas. It would be wonderful if we can get more roadsides to look like this, but it will take a little time. The most spectacular native wildflowers pictured include Prairie Blazing Star/thickspike gayfeather and Compass Plant flowering now. There are also Gray-headed Coneflowers flowering out of view of the photographs, and you can see the Rattlesnake Master plants in the photos. The most prominent display of Prairie Blazing Stars are along the fenceline--a strip that wasn't hayed last year, although it was burned this spring. 

Occasionally resting (neither mowing or hay harvesting) in one year often results in greater vigor of many of the forbs the following year. Grasses are equipped to spring back more quickly after mowing than forbs. Last year the field to the south of this meadow was rested and Leadplant was much more vigorous in appearance and with much more prominent blossoms than in this portion of this field that was hayed. The Butterfly Milkweed were also in good form. That field was hayed earlier this week.

Bob is going to leave the field pictured here unmowed this fall and we (Audubon of Kansas) are going to hand collect a good supply of seeds from these and other native prairie wildflowers to use to add to the diversity of wildflowers on the 15.5-acre addition to the Mt.Mitchell Prairie Heritage Park south of Wamego, and other projects we are involved in. The addition to Mt. Mitchell has been intensively grazed in the past, subject to tree invasion (which we are mechanically controlling), has some bromegrass invasion and other disturbance so we know we can make it better as a part of a spectacular prairie open to the public.  The "lost income" from the landowner share of the hay on Bob's place will be more than offset by the value of the native seed production.  It is not easy to obtain wild native seed.  If you or anybody you know is interested in helping to collect wild seed from this site or any other, please let me know.  In contrast to the appreciation
on that many of us have for the ecologically (both in terms of flora and fauna) values of native prairies, a hay harvester interested in mowing the meadow urged that it be sprayed with herbicides to get rid of these "weeds."  Herbicide spraying has become a disturbingly common practice in eastern Kansas.

One of our Audubon of Kansas advocacy priorities has been and continues to be promoting appreciation for and conservation of prairie meadows of this nature (the best remaining examples of native prairie flora in the state).  As a result of a recent USDA Kansas State Technical Committee meeting and changes eliminating 40-acre acreage requirement or the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) at the national level, it appears that if all goes well prairie meadows of this nature may become eligible for protection with GRP conservation easements in Kansas next year.

Subpages (1): Case Study 2