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Contributed by volunteer Lisa Misch
Not many would consider a volunteer workday after a long five-day work week but just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, work also in the eye of the worker. Cressmoor Prairie, located in Hobart, Indiana has one of the rarest ecosystems in the state. Having an agricultural and grazing history, this small parcel of prairie (just under 50 acres), rallies as the only permanently protected black-soil prairie in Indiana.
Over time, plants and grasses of unprotected prairies begin to be replaced by opportunistic woody growth. This woody growth begins to alter not only the landscape but also the insect and wildlife populations. Through these changes, unprotected prairies may succumb to the loss of threatened plants and remnant dependent insects.
Today at Cressmoor Prairie, volunteers collected seed from grasses such as Blue Stem and Turkey Foot Grass. Nearly eight feet above the prairie floor with roots traveling as much as sixteen feet underground, these grasses waved proudly in the fall breeze. In addition to grass seed, other native wildflower seeds like Mountain Mint, Rattlesnake Master, Ironweed and Bottle Gentian were gathered.
The American Prairie can evoke a myriad of images… grazing Bison, Conestoga Wagons, Native Americans, the first transcontinental Iron Horse Crossing, or maybe even a frolicking Laura Ingalls. These magnificent pieces of land have been an integral part of both fictional and non-fictional accounts of our country. What images will tomorrow’s prairie evoke?
Over time, the woody brush at Cressmoor will be cleared away. Seeds, like those collected today, will be dispersed and in time the tall grasses and wildflowers will once again flourish. Will a grazing Bison or a Conestoga wagon appear, probably not, but it may become paradise to area birdwatchers, solitude for hikers, an outdoor classroom for teachers and students, and a permanently restored and preserved prairie home for our native plants and wildlife.
Today may have been a work day, but it was also a day of learning and reflecting. Stewardship Director, Eric Bird, was just as eager to plant seeds of knowledge into the volunteers as he was eager to gather the seeds he would later disperse to restore Cressmoor Prairie. Throughout history, people around the world have been shaped by the land that they live on. I hope you will consider a future workday and help reshape our lands to their original state.