THE CAMPUS PRAIRIE
(OSU Marion)
(scroll to end for High and Low CC plants)

As explained on the “Prairie” menu item of the course companion web page (ohioplants.org), a “prairie” is a permanent grassland with few or no woody plants. Fire-dependent ecosystems, prairies differ from old fields and meadows in that the prairies are more or less stable and self-perpetuating, rather than being a short-lived step along the way to becoming woodland. The vegetation that occurs in prairie is mainly fire adapted and drought-tolerant grasses and sedges. They are are usually accompanied by other herbaceous plants, adapted to drought and also low nutrient levels.  

The Ohio State-Marion Campus Prairie was established in the 1970’s by a visionary botanist faculty member, Larry R. Yoder, using seeds and plants from nearly natural prairie remnants, particularly the Claridon Railroad Prairie in Caledonia that is 7 km NE of the campus. The prairie is roughly 15 acres. It is used as a lab classroom for biology classes there, and is a popular place for the public to come and hike while studying nature. I worked at OSU-Marion for 20+ years, and was part of the team that administered this campus natural area. This summer I’m helping with a survey of Ohio bees, and this is one of study sites. Once a week i set out and retrieve, 24 hrs. later, little dishes of soapy water that bees are drawn to, and become captured.

The plants listed here are ones that were observed during the 3 twice-weekly visits to the site during May and June, 2020.

This is the Google Maps view of the area. Zoom out a little to see the campus and surrounding farmland.

 

 

Here are some other views of the prairie, taken with my drone (showoff!). First the north, older, half of the prairie. This area is becoming overgrown with shrubs, and so could use some management work.

northern half of the prairie

Expansion is taking place to the south.

southern half of prairie

There’s a picnic area shelter house donated by the late Trella Romine, a local naturalist and amateur historian. It is used for teaching.

prairie shelter house

 

The coefficient of conservatism for the site, computed as the sum of the 49 individual species CC values divided by the square root of the number of species present, is 14.4. This is a fairly low number, influenced by the fact that it includes species from the disturbed border and path communities, mixing them with the more intact woods community. A more refined approach will be to compute separate FQAI scores for each of the communities.

CONSERVATIVE PLANTS

 Prairie dock (Silphium terebenthinaceum) is a member of the Asteraceae that is a signature plant of the tallgrass prairie. Deeply tap-rooted, it is a long-loved perennial. The huuuge basal leaves are distinctive,. The CC is 8.

Prairie dock is a signature plant of the tallgrass prairie.

Sullivant’s milkweed, Asclepias sullivantii, is a prairie species that is mainly western, and found primarily in the wetsrn half of Ohio. It has a CC of 8.

Sullivant’s milkweed is a conservative prairie species.

 

WEEDY (LOW CC) PLANTS

Unfortunately, there are a lot to choose from in the low CC category. Several native plants that are adapted to localized disturbances such as windthrows and landslides do quite well in former agricultural settings. Here are two such native plants.

Daisy fleabane (Erigeron annuus(CC=0) is a member of the aster family with small radiate capitula. Growing in distrubed paces and not likely to displace any other plants, it isn’t a problem in ecological restorations such as the OSU-Marion Prairie, and it seems to support a lot of small bees.

Daisy fleabane is common but not invasive.

Ragweed, Ambrosia artemsiifolia, is a wind-pollinated member of the aster family. It produces unisexual flowers in separate inflorescences. Prominent in the photo below, the male flowers are more numerous, aggregated into capitula on an elogate upright spike.

Dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum) (CC=1) is a native plant that is abundant in open places almost everywhere/ Its flowers are tiny but must be good nectar producers because they are avidly visited by a variety of bees and butterflies. The fruit is a follicle, much like that of its relative, milkweed.

Dogbane, not a bane to dogs or anything else for that matter.