We've established native grasslands on 160 acres of old hayfields in the preserve. Most of the grasslands are just that--grasslands--dominated by big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian-grass (Sorghastrum nutans). But we also incorporated wildflowers into 60 acres of the grasslands, and right now these meadows are in their late-summer glory.
Because our fields are subject to intense invasive plant pressure, we decided to concentrate on planting grasses only on most of the land. We restricted our planting to grasses because we could use the selective herbicide Plateau on these grasslands. Plateau controls broadleaved invasive species like non-native porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), Asian bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) and Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) plus aggressive natives like brambles (Rubus spp.), but won't damage the native grasses.
However, our grassland manager determined that there are a few native broadleaved wildflower species that aren't harmed by an application of Plateau. So, we incorporated seeds of some of these species into 60 of the the most recently established acres. These meadows now offer a mixture of grasses and forbs not present elsewhere in the prairies. And, the wildflowers enliven the the grasslands with big swaths of color, making a walk on the trail winding through the meadows a real delight this time of year. Bright yellow partridge-pea (Chamaecrista fasiculata) is blooming profusely now, along with a few remaining black-eyed-susans (Rudbeckia hirta) and a delicate white-flowered aster (Aster sp.) that I haven't tried to identify yet. Of course, the fields are literally abuzz and achirp with every sort of hymenopteran, lepidopteran and orthopteran imaginable.
Purpletop (in foreground) growing mixed with partridge-pea and little and big bluestem
We're also enjoying a real unanticipated surprise in these meadows, too. Though we didn't plant it, purpletop (Tridens flavus) has become a very common grass throughout these fields. Where it grows densely, purpletop's delicate flowers spread an enchanting mauve gauze over the landscape.