Monday, March 22, 2010

First Day of Spring - Prairies

I spent part of the first day of spring just looking around to see how things came through the winter. The mowed fields looked good and it won’t be long before I’m out spraying sprouts from the cut shrubs marked by the red flags. The fields are beginning to take on a green coloration.

Unfortunately, the green comes from Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue, a non-native grass planted extensively by farmers throughout Southern Ohio. These mowed fields have the most recent history of use as standard crop and pasture fields. Fescue was planted as part of the normal cropping rotation and both the plants and seeds persist. It will be a long time before this exotic grass is eliminated.

The older prairies have very little fescue left in the stand. Much of the tall grass in this field managed to stay upright through the winter.

In other areas, the heavy snows flattened everything to the ground. This particular prairie is surrounded by trees and the snow fell unaffected by the wind. In more open areas, the grass was constantly moved by the wind and the snow was knocked off before it could build up a heavy layer. In this spot, the snow settled evenly over all the grass and all the stems laid down as one unit.

This area of short grass produced very few seed stalks and the leaf growth was stout enough to remain standing despite the covering of snow.

I found a couple stalks of Switch Grass in one of the prairies. Switch Grass is considered to be an Ohio native, but it’s uncommon to find it in this area outside of planted stands. I’m just a little bit apprehensive about accepting this as a naturally occurring species at Blue Jay Barrens.

The ants are busily repairing the mangled ant mound. The ravaged areas are beginning to take on a smoothness that suggests it won’t be long until this mound regains a more natural shape.

Despite the xeric nature of the area, wet weather seeps are not uncommon. The clay subsoil will trap small surface pools that can persist on into May or June. Some of the more productive of these seeps may create a small oasis in the middle of the otherwise dry prairies.

During the years just prior to my buying the property, the previous owner had thoughts of subdividing the land. This pipe, driven deep into the center of a Blue Jay Barrens prairie, marks one of the proposed corners of that subdivision. Had they proceeded with the subdivision, I would most likely never have been interested in buying here and Blue Jay Barrens would never have existed. I leave the pipe as a reminder of how close we came to losing this unique property.


  1. ...thank goodness the farmer didn't subdivide the land!

  2. I was really interested in the view of your prairie on the first day of spring. How lucky you are to have your very own prairie. Good luck in returning it to its native condition.