Greene Prairie and West Grady Knoll Tour – Naturalists’ Notes

SUNDAY, JUNE 15, 2014

Dark threatening clouds moved rapidly across the western sky shortly before our tour began. But as we walked past the Evjue pines and the Grady kettle hole forest, the sun came out. Although it was 84 degrees, the wind blew constantly and made for a comfortable afternoon- no rain, no mosquitoes, and incidentally, no ticks.

The west Grady knoll was burned in April 2014 and the fire was most likely responsible for the lovely show of lupine two weeks ago. This afternoon only a few last flowers of lupine remained. In a few weeks the knoll will be ablaze with blooming purple leadplant, orange butterfly milkweed and pink and yellow goat’s-rue. These plants respond well to fire also. But today only a few species were in bloom – bright yellow puccoon, pale yellow frostweed, blue spiderwort, white sand cress, one flowering spurge, one white larkspur, and two goat’s rue flowers.

Greene Prairie is a 50 acre restoration of a tallgrass prairie that began in 1942. As we approached the prairie our attention was drawn to the invasive, non-native reed canary grass that dominates almost 10 acres on the south edge. Excessive flooding of storm water from development around the Arboretum causes this invasion.

The prairie has not been burned for several years. However, since the recent removal of trees and shrubs, a sprinkling of approximately 20 colorful native species can be seen here and there from Z1 to Z6 to Z3 to Z2 trail markers. At the entrance to the prairie it was so exciting to find a small pale green or Tubercled orchid (Plantanthera flava), a Wisconsin Threatened Species! Also near the entrance were orange Cynthia and yellow ragwort. And, as we walked along the boardwalk, the green grasses and sedges were dotted with a few magenta downy phlox, yellow star grass, blue-eyed grass, white northern bedstraw, white Seneca snakeroot, white wild indigo (Baptisia alba) and pale blue bluets. Near Z3 we were treated to a spectacular show of white beard-tongue (Penstemon digitalis).

During the tour we heard and/or saw the following birds: indigo bunting, song sparrow, eastern towhee, chickadee, white breasted nuthatch, red-eyed vireo, chipping sparrow, yellow warbler and wood pee-wee. Near Z3 we saw two Sandhill cranes!

After the tour I checked our 26-year-old Longenecker Horticultural Gardens bluebird trail. We have 15 bluebird nest boxes. Bluebirds have occupied six of them since April 22. The first egg was laid May 4. I am thrilled to report 13 nestlings have fledged and 8 nestlings are ready to fledge. Three boxes have second nests with 5 eggs each. Happy, Happy!

I encourage you to visit our Arboretum prairies often. Every week you will find gifts of beauty.

Sylvia Marek, Arboretum Naturalist

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.