Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Prairie Walk

Native prairies are resilient, as my neighbors learned when they bought a small farm a few years ago. They discovered a treasure on their land: 15 acres of prairie, mowed in the past but never grazed or plowed. They burn it every year to keep it wild.

It's the summer solstice. Come for a walk.

This is Liatris, called Prairie Blazing Star, Button Snakeroot or Kansas Gayfeather, a hardy native perennial growing on upland prairies from Ontario to Texas. It's often planted as part of prairie restoration projects. My friend Quickbeam first introduced me to this flower. He considers it a symbol of tolerance, equality, diversity and recovery.

This is Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium, used against snakebite by indigenous peoples. The University of Kansas is studying its medicinal properties. Moccasins made from its tough fibers have been found. They're estimated to be something like 4,000 years old. The flowers house and nourish several species of butterflies, wasps, moths and bees. Rattlesnake Master stands for endurance.

Compass Plant blooms like a sunflower, but its leaves look more like dandelions on steroids. They align roughly north and south. It's a Silphium, related to an ancient species famed in North Africa long ago, a gift from Apollo, god of the sun, prophecy and healing. It represents the sense of place or belonging, of knowing where you need to be.

I still can't remember the names of all the grasses. They sing the wind's song and whisper memories of the ocean bed that once lay here. It was a privilege and a delight to visit this beautiful resource.

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