The year ends in the prairie, but it now time to think about creating prairie.
The last blooms are appearing. But the prairie remains very much alive. Since more than 2/3s of the biomass of the plants in the prairie are underground and perennial, they will survive the winter and burst into growth in the spring. I like to describe the prairie as an upside down forest, since the massive parts of the plants are underground. The roots and stems that live underground host a myriad of associates, namely fungi, bacteria, protists and insects. Much of this underground biome is unknown and greatly underappreciated. Many species new to science are hidden among the roots of these plants. Recent research has shown that the soil contains a biotic community with a highly diverse chemistry that includes the precursors for many much needed drugs. The soil itself has an economic story as it is the matrix into which we plant seeds of our numerous cash crops that draw from its resources to produce food and other products. The soil provides us with our daily diet. Our lack of understanding of its role is one of our most important perils. Recreating prairie means recreating soil as it is the prairie plants and their associates that make the soil. Seeing bare ground for a few days after the winter burns reminds me of the importance of the soil–an ecosystem hidden all year long by the beauty of our wild gardens.
What was blooming in the Cajun Prairie Gardens on December 1, 2015?
- Nothoscordum bivalve
- Conoclinium coelestinum
- Salvia azurea
- Pycnanthemum albescens
- Agalinis spp.
- Symphyotrichum praealtum
- Baccharis halimifolia
- Pityopsis graminifolia
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