During these glorious September days, I am never alone on my morning walks along the Great Western Prairie. My welcome companions are the singing cicadas, buzzing bees, chirping crickets, and fluttering Monarchs. Oh how I wish you could hear this symphony of nature! The prairie is a natural treasure, in full glory during early Autumn!
Prairies are such an important part of our heritage in Illinois. We are known as ‘The Prairie State.’ Long before North America was settled, prairies covered over sixty percent of the land that later became Illinois. Now, sadly, there are less than 2,000 acres of prairie (less than one hundredth of one percent) left in Illinois. We feel so fortunate to have prairie land nearby! In fact, it is the oldest living thing in our town!
Our Prairie Path follows a railroad route from the early days. The strip of land was mowed over the years, but it was too narrow to be developed. So, by pure happenstance, the prairie continued to thrive. When the railroad tracks were removed, the prairie plants created a living museum of pre-settlement days. There are over 150 species of native plants, including spiderwort, asters, coneflowers, shooting star, bluestem, and Indian grasses in our nearby prairie. These native perennials are able to survive the extremes of heat, cold, wet, and dry in our Midwestern climate.
The Great Western Prairie has also been designated as a Monarch Waystation. It provides Monarch butterflies with the native milkweed plants needed for their lifecycle, thistle blossoms for nectar, and tall plants and grasses for shelter, as the Monarchs migrate on their journey through North America.
At this lovely time of year,
the Great Western Prairie is the perfect place for
walking quietly, dreaming, remembering, and counting our blessings!
Let’s walk a while together…
Long ago, the native prairie ecosystems were maintained when Native Americans set fire to the prairies or lightning started fires on the prairies. Today our local Fire Department schedules a controlled prairie burn each year. Prairie fires spread very quickly destroying trees and shrubs that are not native, without harming the deep roots of the native plants. A burn works to renew the prairie, as ash from the fire adds nutrients to the soil. Within just a few weeks, the native prairie plants begin to grow again!
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the dedicated local conservationists and volunteers who collect the native seeds each year, preserving our prairie for many generations to come.
We are so happy to live close enough to a natural prairie
to walk there, observe, listen, and learn throughout the seasons.
It always feels like a walk through our distant past,
back to the days when Native Americans walked through the prairies.
Every so often, when the wind scatters the seeds,
I find native prairie plants growing in my cottage gardens.
They are the seeds of the past that still teach us lessons today.
I feel so grateful to live in “The Little House
on the Near the Prairie!”
P.S. Where do you love to walk in your part of the world?