On March 29th the main prairie at RU’s Schaumburg campus was burned to rejuvenate the landscape. Prairie fires naturally occur during thunderstorms from lighting strikes and Native Americans also periodically lite the Prairie ablaze to simulate wildfires. Fire benefits the health of prairie ecosystems in multiple ways.
First it prevents non-prairie plants from invading. The most important non-prairie plants that fire controls are trees. Some other invasive plants that fire keeps out of prairies are Queen Anne’s Lace, dandelions, and garlic mustard.
Fire helps prairie plants by triggering seeds to germinate and existing root systems to expand and encourage plants to grow. Additionally, fire helps some prairie inhabitants, such as bumblebees and sweat bees, by clearing the ground so these native bees can create burrows for themselves and their young.
Fire also improves the health of prairies by recycling nutrients from old plant material into ash that is quickly incorporated into the soil. The burned landscape will quickly give way to luscious prairie plants like aster, Echinacea and black eyed Susan, so please visit our prairie and watch its progression from dormancy to bloom.
~ Author Nicholas Waskowski, Evironmental Sustainability Student Associate~