Homestead National Monument
prairie is a complex ecosystem, including flowers, trees, birds, mammals,
insects and microorganisms,
but dominated by grass. Tallgrass prairie is so-named because the component
grasses- big bluestem, little bluestem, indiangrass and switchgrass- can
reach 8 feet or more in height.
The eye sees only half the prairie; the other half is underground. Roots several feet deep tap moisture in times of drought, and store energy which can produce new growth. These roots help ensure that the plant will survive weather extremes, mowing, grazing and fire.
Once this tallgrass prairie covered millions of acres, now only isolated remnants exist. By most estimates less than 1% of the tallgrass prairie of North America remains as a result of its conversion to agriculture and other human uses. Begun in 1939, Homestead National Monument of America has the second oldest prairie restoration in the nation.
1936, Congress set aside the 100 acres of formerly abused pasture and cropland
and 60 acres of woodland as a permanant monument to the homesteading era.
Physical features of the site are dominated by Cub Creek, and major tributary
to the Big Blue River, and its adjacent bottomlands. The balance of the
site is made up of moderately steep glacial till with eroded sandy and
gravelly side slopes.
goal of restoring the landscape to approximate the original conditions
encountered by Daniel Freeman has been evident from the first management
plan written by Wildlife Technician Adoph Murie circa 1938. Murie described
two possible restoration methods; one was transplanting sod from a local
prairie, and the second was seeding. He realized the advantages of sodding
by stating "...not only is prairie grass brought into the area, but also
native species of prairie herbs."
the site was acquired by the National Park Service, severe erosion had
occured on the upland slopes, heavy depositions of silt were on the lower
slopes, and the woodlands were cutover and heavily grazed. At least 40
acres of the site were under cultivation as late as November 1939. Management
during the early years centered around stabilizing the severely abused
soil and protecting newly planted native grasses.
Park records indicate that the first seeding took place in 1939 with seed gathered from a prairie located approximately 5 miles to the west. The approximate seed mixture was 45% big bluestem, 50% little bluestem, and 1% each of Kentucky bluegrass, needleandthread, indiangrass, prairie dropseed and sideoats grama. The first sodding was also carried out in 1939 to control severe sheet, rill, and gully erosion on the coarse-textured south upland slopes. Source of the sod is unknown.
|Adapted from Prairie Restoration/Management at Homestead: A History by James Stubbendieck and Gary D. Wilson|