Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nature Net News - September 2011 - Wildflowers and Native Grasses

"For myself I hold no preferences among flowers,
so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous." - Edward Abbey
Dear Reader,

Fall is upon us, but in these last warm days of summer, take a look at the wild beauty that blooms -- our native grasses and wildflowers.

Native plants and wildflowers grow naturally and are deemed "native" because they existed in forests and prairies before pioneer cultivation. Native plants and wildflowers play important roles in the local ecosystems. For example, prairie grasses have deep root systems that help keep soil from eroding and soak up lots of water. This is why many rain gardens (gardens designed to keep runoff from buildings or roads from washing away the local ecosystem) feature native prairie plants!

Learn more about these natural wonders in this edition of Nature Net News today!

Kathe, Sarah & Brenna The Folks at Nature Net

Did You Know.....
The seed of the Indian Paintbrush is so tiny, that several handfuls can plant a whole acre!

Coneflowers have many medicinal purposes and are used in the manufacture of over 140 medicines and drugs!

Some flowers included in "wildflower" seed mixes, like the Dame's Rocket, aren't even wildflowers at all, but invasive species!

What to Do This Month: Learn about native plants and wildflowers at the UW Arboretum! There is a guided Fall Flower Walk and a Native By Design: Sustainable Gardening Workshop on Sunday, September 18. Can't make those? Take a walk along the trails and observe all the native grasses and wildflowers contained within. You might even be inspired to plant a wildflower garden of your own! The UW Arboretum has compiled a list of plant species native to Southern Wisconsin and grouped them based on what type of gardens they would best complement. Check it out here!

Looking for more? There is a morning Guided Prairie Walk at the International Crane Foundation on Saturday, September 10, and your family (kids 8+) might also enjoy volunteering with the Dane County Parks Prairie Seed Collection (various dates and locations this month). If you're looking for even more prairie action, be sure to attend the Aldo Leopold Nature Center's annual Pipers in the Prairie fundraising gala on September 17, including family activities, dancing, Celtic music and a giant bonfire! Whatever you do this month, consider recording your autumn plant observations with Project BudBurst's Fall into Phenology!

Tricks of the Trail for Parents: Long Grasses and What's Hidden in Them As the days get chillier, it may seem that all the insects are dying, but when you're walking through prairies and woodlands, beware! Long grass can be hiding ticks and other pesky critters. To best guard against them, wear long pants and sleeves and make sure everything is tucked in, so if they do land on you, there's no skin for them to find. After walking in long grass, be sure to check your hair and scalp, along with the rest of your body, for these little buggers.

Instant Outdoor Expert: Native Species Native species are plants and animals that are endemic to an ecosystem or region. Due to this, they are often hardier and easier to care for than non-native species - they have had generation upon generation adapting to the specific climate, flora and fauna of the area.

Found a wildflower, but you don't know the name? Check out the Native Plant Information Network to see what it is!

Featured Nature Net Site
UW Arboretum
Widely recognized as the site of historic research in ecological restoration, the Arboretum includes the oldest and most varied collection of restored ecological communities in the world, including tallgrass prairies, savannas, several forest types and wetlands. It 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 (including the maintenance of native areas!) for groups, families and individuals are available.
Learn About Other Nature Net Sites

Nature Craft
Wild Grass Key Chain
What you need: scissors, wild grass or raffia, key ring, embroidery floss (optional), beads (optional), flowers and wax (optional).

1. Take several long strands of grass and put them through your key ring. Double them over so they are looped through the ring.

2. Braid your strands together. You may also add beads or embroidery floss as you go.

3. Tie off the braid and wrap embroidery floss around the knot or add beads to the end.

4. Consider weaving in real or fake wildflowers. (You could dip these in wax to keep them from crumbling.)

5. Hang some keys off your new key chain!
Nature Craft Archives

Suggested Reading
"A Child's Book of Wildflowers" by M.A. Kelly (all ages)
"Fairy Dusters and Blazing Stars" by Suzanne Samson (4-8)
"A Prairie Alphabet" by Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet (4-8)
"Wildflowers, Blooms and Blossoms" by Diane Burns (4-8)
"If You're Not From the Prairie..." by David Bouchard (4-8)
"Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers" by Kathi Apelt (9-12)
"Little House on the Prairie" by Laura Ingalls Wilder (9-12)
"Wildflowers Around the Year" by Hope Ryden (9-12)
"A Walk in the Prairie" by Rebecca L. Johnson (9-12)
"Little Blog on the Prairie" by Cathleen Davitt Bell (teen)

Browse Past Nature Net News
Find Family Events on the Nature Net Calendar of Events
Give Us Your Feedback! http://uwarboretum.org/

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