As you drive along in rural Scott county Illinois, close to our driveway, you can’t help but notice one of nature’s wonders from the past. A patch of Big Blue Stem prairie grass stands guard as it did years ago. It is my understanding that this particular patch had lay dormant for many years until it received some coaxing from man (aka my husband) who decided to simulate the prairie wildfires and began the yearly practice of ‘burning the road bank.’ This must have prompted the seed to germinate and resulted in the beautiful display we see today. Our stand is enjoyed, respected and protected. In fact, one of our neighborhood farmer/friends has jokingly referred to it as our ‘mausoleum’. The truth is our small farm has several stands of Big Blue Stem prairie grass as well as other native wildflowers and grasses and every one is as protected as the next.
Did you know that many of the native plants our ancestors depended upon and respected are quickly becoming extinct? Modern man seems to have lost touch with the importance of these native species. Once upon a time, prairie grasslands were the lifeblood of man and wildlife. Today, they are frequently dug up to make room for modern buildings, parking lots or roadways. What will happen when they totally disappear? Many species of animals and insects still depend upon these plants for their survival. And a part of our own heritage will be lost.
The good news is conservation efforts (like ours) are taking place across the country. You can help. Look around and start paying attention to the natural world that surrounds you. Learn about the native species of plants and how they can be incorporated into your yard or neighborhood. Native seeds and plants are available through internet and mail order companies such as Prairie Moon Nursery(www.prairiemoon.com) or even at times through the Department of Natural Resources. Teach the younger generation about the importance of conserving our natural resources and about preserving our past. Join a conservation effort or educational group through your local extension office and share the knowledge you gain. Don’t let these natural wonders disappear. Let’s continue to enjoy the pleasure of native prairie plants.