Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Checking the Far Field

This is normally a great time of year to be doing brush management in the fields. Unfortunately, the rain activity has been far greater than normal and has prevented me from doing that type of work. I’ve had to content myself with going around to examine the effects of past year’s management activities. The Far Field was mowed two years ago and invasive woody growth was sprayed with glyphosate. I’m happy with the way things are progressing.

A big part of the Far Field is short grass. Little Bluestem dominates, but there is also quite a bit of Elliott’s Beardgrass. Before management, this area was thick with medium sized cedars, maples and Tuliptrees. Those species have not been very aggressive in trying to reclaim their former territory. Freed from the competing trees, the grass has filled in nicely.

I’m trying to encourage the growth of scattered oaks in the field. Part of the reason for the oaks is to increase the possible habitat for the Edwards’ Hairstreak butterfly. The butterflies are already present in adjoining fields, so there is a good likelihood that they will expand into this field.

I also believe that oaks have special associations with prairie ecosystems and I want to give those associations a chance to develop at Blue Jay Barrens. It’s fortunate that the oaks hold their leaves into winter. Otherwise, I’d have a tough time finding the smaller specimens hidden in the grass. I’m hoping to go a few more years without mowing this field, so the smaller oaks can have a chance to increase their size. The larger the tree, the less likely I’ll be to accidentally mow it down.

Fescue still exists in parts of the field, but it is slowly being overtaken by native plants. This field shows a strong trend towards becoming native grassland. Except for my initial clearing, I’ve had to do relatively little work here. Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of other areas that present me with more of a challenge.

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