Canada Day Field Trip to Nisku Prairie

by Patsy Cotterill on July 5th, 2010

Eight people came to Nisku Prairie on Canada Day to help transplant more native plants into an area of disturbed ground near the southwest corner of the property. (Nisku Prairie is a 12-hectacre remnant prairie east of Nisku preserved as municipal reserve and jointly stewarded by the Alberta Native Plant Council and Leduc County.)
What a difference from last year! The plot where we planted, which was largely invaded by stinkweed last year, was now knee-deep in smooth brome (the arch enemy of grasslands) and creeping or Canada thistle. After we’d cleared some space, the transplanting went relatively quickly.

Elsewhere, the native, undisturbed portions of the prairie were looking healthy, except for scattered patches of brome. (Unfortunately, though, I’m guessing that this will not be a year when we gather seeds of plains rough fescue grass, the main grass component of the prairie, which flowers only sporadically.)
Many forbs were in flower and later there should be a magnificent display of meadow blazingstar. It was also encouraging to see White Camas in flower again, a plant that has been absent during years of drought. Cherry flagged the following plants for later seed collection: shining arnica, western wood lily, prairie onion, and prairie rose, all of which were in flower.

Last year the prairie was professionally herbicided with glyphosate to beat back some of the smooth brome. This year the sprayed areas are very obvious as patches of dead grass. It would be a neat experiment to flag some of these patches and make a comparison of how effectively they become revegetated with natives, (a) when left alone, and (b) when transplanted with native plants grown from seed collected from the prairie. Both treatments would require weed control, including removal of fresh brome shoots. We would also need people to grow the seedlings for transplant.
Thank you to everyone who turned out. Spending a few hours helping to rehabilitate a native prairie seems to me an excellent way to celebrate Canada’s birthday!

(Pictures by Patsy Cotterill, Nisku Prairie, July1, 2010)


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