Tall Grass Prairie

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#1)  Tall Grass Prairie

Postby dbhguru » Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:39 pm

ENTS,

  After leaving crowded St. Louis, Monica and I headed west on I70 across Missouri toward Kansas City. The country side becomes pleasant, but our path was via an Interstate. We stopped only briefly, mostly at rest stops. We chose to endure the stresses of Interstate travel to make time. However, at one point we got off and visited an Ozark store. I bought maybe the best chocolate walnut fudge of my life. It was obscenely good. I wolfed down a pound of that rich mix before noon of the following day. Fudge has a short half-life around me. I consider myself to be an expert on fudge and highly recommend the Ozark store on I70. I'll try to find the slip and get the full name of the store.

  In central Missouri, we also went through a thunderstorm with torrential rains. The front was moving fast, but dumping buckets of water on us. It made us wonder if there wasn't a real threat of tornados. However, none materialized on our route. Beyond the fudge and weather, Missouri offered up no surprises. It did prompt nostalgic feelings as we passed not far from Whiteman AFB. I once had temporary duty at Whiteman, studying a missile cable maintenance problem. The Air Force life seemed more like a dream than even a distant memory. Was that really me?

  Once past Kansas City we headed down I35 and tied into U.S. 50 west. We made it to Emporia, KS for the night. In reviewing our trip through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, we had not visited any natural land features of special significance, but the Kansas experience was about to change the pattern. The following morning we headed west and then took a short detour north to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. It is operated by the NPS and it is a jewel - unique in the park system. The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve is located in the scenic Flint Hills region - setting for William Least Heat Moon's 'PrairyErth'. It is a tale of life in the Flint Hills - well worth reading.

   I'm basically a top down guy. I like to know the lay of the land before getting into too many details. This was the tall grass prairie, the real thing. What does a tall grass prairie look like surveyed from horizon to horizon. In keeping with the top down theme, here is a landscape-level look.

               
                       
PrairieVista1Small.jpg
                                       
               


  Prairie grasses and forbes define prairies. If you're not a grass person, prairies are not for you. As for Monica and me, we're definitely prairie lovers -both the tall and short grass varieties. The latter is common, but the former very rare. We saw big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, milkweed, butterfly weed, and many more. We also so trees along the streams - cottonwoods. They are as much at home in the prairie as along rivers in the East. I spotted a cottonwood along a stream. It called out to have its picture taken. I obliged.

               
                       
CottonwoodSmall.jpg
                                       
               


  The next series of images give progressively more intimate views of the prairie as the domain of the grasses.

               
                       
PrairieGrass2Small.jpg
                                       
               


               
                       
VarietyGrassesSmall.jpg
                                       
               


   The last image is back to the long view, but through a peephole of vegetation - mainly eastern red cedars, American elms, and sumac on a limestone hill.

               
                       
VistaSmall.jpg
                                       
               


   Well, that's it for my brief report on the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. It is well worth visiting, if crossing Kansas.

Bob
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#2)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby James Parton » Thu Jun 24, 2010 12:17 am

Bob,

I have never visited the prairies. Beautiful. Not all that is green are trees.

James
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#3)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby dbhguru » Thu Jun 24, 2010 9:40 am

James,

  The prairie country induces feelings of freedom of movement like no other place I know. I suppose the ocean would equal the prairie for fishes, but I'm not a fish - at least not the last time I checked. Here's a look at a couple of old American elms at the edge of the parking lot.

               
                       
ElmsSmall.jpg
                                       
               


  One more image. Wildflowers visible at this time of year. You can see lots of butterfly weed and milkweed. Later, there will be many more.

               
                       
WildflowersSmall.jpg
                                       
               


Bob
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#4)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby James Parton » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:05 pm

Bob, Milkweed always reminds me of my childhood years and warm summer days on Starnes Cove Rd. I would roam the neighbors fields collecting Monarch caterpillars and leaves from Milkweed plants to feed them. You know that Butterfly weed is a member of the milkweed family, don't you? So many memories. Where has time gone?  James
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#5)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby dbhguru » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:21 pm

James,

  I had forgotten the lineage of butterfly weed. It is such a gorgeous plant. To call it a weed seems very inappropriate. The prairies have many species that are common in the pastures and meadows of the East. In some ways, being in the prairie is like being in a very large pasture. However, the element of species adaptation over long time spans is missing. Nonetheless, meadows on a modest or grand scale are special places. I love them.

   Monica is very good on butterflies and identified 7 or 8 species on our brief visit to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Altogether, we identify all the tree species we saw, most of the butterflies and birds. We also reacquainted ourselves with chiggers. Oh boy, no mosquito can hold a candle to a chigger. We've each got mountain-sized welts.

   Well, it's time to walk around the neighborhood and photograph some of Durango's city trees. Catch you later.

Bob
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#6)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby James Parton » Fri Jun 25, 2010 12:07 am

Bob,

Yep, I know about chiggers. I got em' from walking in the woods and weeds while visiting my dad last weekend. They are fun aren't they?

James
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#7)  Re: Tall Grass Prairie

Postby Beth » Tue Jun 29, 2010 4:45 am

James and Bob,

Bob, that is one of the places that I would like to go and see sometime.  It looks like I'm just going to have to find you places to stop here in Missouri.  Have you ever been to Shaw Nature Reserve?  This is not the Botanical Gardens locate in the city of St. Louis, but located 40 miles southwest of downtown.  They are very proud of the glades, prairies, wetlands, and woods/forest that they have.  When you and Monica are back in the area I would love to show you two and Amy the place.

James, I'm sorry that you have not seen a prairie.  They are just gorguos (sp?)  I love the Big Blue Stem (Andropogon gerardii), Little blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and the rest of the grasses, the sedges (Carex ssp.), the rushes (Juncus ssp.) and all of the different kinds of forbs make the prairie a different picture each day.  I am currently in the process of converting some of my yard (2700 sq. ft.) into a tall grass prairie.

Beth
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