Ever wonder where all that smoke you see in the early spring is coming from? Well those are controlled/prescribed burns, used to rejuvenate the prairies.
It’s a sure sign that spring is on the way.
Prairies tend to grow in areas with strong winds, direct sunlight and little moisture. Plants have adapted over time by developing deep tap roots, smaller leaves and thicker bark.
Even though these fires are man made now, they once were natural occurrences set by lightening and then later set by the Native Americans that used this knowledge of the prairies to manage their agricultural lands.
Approximately 60% of Illinois was at one time covered by prairies. These original prairies have been reduced to a mere 1/100th of that, there are about 2500 acres of “original” prairie left. There is now a push to restore areas and return them back to their former glory.
Management agencies utilize controlled/prescribed burns to manage original prairie areas and supplement restoration prairie projects. These burns kill invasive woody species; cycle nutrients back into the soil, and deter the early spring growth of cool-season non-native species. For some native plants it is critical for the burn to occur in order for their seeds to sprout. After the burn native plants generally produce more robust plants and more seeds; the fire also lengthens their growing season and recycles nutrients.
You might not have the space for your own prairie but you can easily incorporate native plant species into your garden. Our nursery grows a multitude of perennials, some of which are native to the midwest. Contact us to create your own native garden.