How to make a healthy prairie

One of our main goals at INHF is to preserve, protect and restore Iowa’s prairies. In addition to creating beautiful landscapes, a thriving prairie ecosystem can prevent soil erosion, provide crucial habitat for wildlife and insects and promote water quality.

We’ve put together a hypothetical recipe for a healthy Iowan prairie. Our mix contains a balanced combination of grasses, sedges and forbs. Each ingredient was hand-selected for a central Iowa ecosystem, and the ideal ratio of grasses to flowering plants promotes optimal prairie health.

We used a grass, sedge and switchgrass mix, and eight varieties of forbs. Each forb serves a specific purpose. Milkweed, for example, provides a food source for pollinators. The greater the diversity, the more resistant the prairie will be to encroaching invasive species.

Want to concoct your own prairie? Contact a local conservation specialist or find a prairie seed dealer, listed under “Services,” here.

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Nature Walk: Downy Phlox

"Downy Phlox (Phlox pilosa) varies from pure white to a deep reddish pink.  Like many other prairie plants it does best with companions.  Here a sedge is growing up within the plant.  Companion plants may give needed support or the competition for root space and nutrients may help control plant height.  In any case a prairie is a community of plants and animals all living together for mutual benefit." --- Carl Kurtz

“Downy phlox (Phlox pilosa) varies from pure white to a deep reddish pink. Like many other prairie plants, it does best with companions. Here a sedge is growing up within the plant. Companion plants may give needed support or the competition for root space, and nutrients may help control plant height. In any case, a prairie is a community of plants and animals all living together for mutual benefit.” — Carl Kurtz

If you are interested in purchasing a print of this photo or requesting information on possible use of any of our “Nature Walk” photographs, please contact Carl Kurtz at cpkurtz@netins.net. View our other Nature Walk posts!

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