Schulenberg Prairie: A Unique And Vanishing Ecosystem
The Schulenberg Prairie is one of the oldest planted prairies in the midwest and is a model that other prairie plantings have followed. The prairie is a unique ecosystem. The flowers, stems, and leaves you see represent only about one third of the plant. The rest, its roots and rhizomes (underground stems), burrow deep into the ground—sometimes reaching 12 feet or more. This extensive root system enables plants to survive for decades through the drought and heat of summer, the freezing and heaving soils of winter and early spring, and the set fires that roar through in spring.
Prairie plants act like giant sponges, soaking up rainwater. This helps reduce runoff and flooding. The grasses have such a dense, tangled mat of roots that the pioneers cut thick mats of them to make sod houses.
Schulenberg Prairie is lush with flowering plants from April through October, resplendent with asters and grasses in September and October, and alive with migrating birds in November and December.
Be sure to stop at the Prairie Visitor Station. There you will find interpretive exhibits that will explain what to look for on your trip through this important part of our natural history.