Established in 2003, the Peterson Prairie plots are symbolically placed at the prairie point. The prairie point is the place where the Grand Prairie from the west met the Great Hardwood Forest from the east. The plots were named in honor of Dr. J.B. Peterson, Agronomy Department Head in 1949, who purchased this farm for agronomic research.
Big Bluestem is the dominant grass species in this tall grass prairie. Other species include Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Side Oats Grama, Buffalo-grass, and Switch Grass. Big Bluestem, a perennial plant, thrives in the eastern prairie because of the abundant moisture and its tall growing habit. The tall grass prairie cycles annually with fire and reduced summer rainfall patterns as significant factors in the eco-system’s long term balance between prairie and woodland.
Many species of wild flowers were reseeded in the Peterson Prairie Plots with the grass. Over time the eco-system will balance the species mix. Wildflowers include Black-eyed Susan, Indian Blanket, Partridge Pea, Coreopsis, Mexican Hat, Coneflower, Lead Plant, and many more. The adjacent wildflower garden also shows many other common prairie species.
Many small Bur Oak trees have been planted just east of the prairie point to symbolize the interface between forest and prairie, since Bur Oak is one of the rare species of oak that can withstand some prairie fire. A typical forest, here by the prairie, might have been dominated by Oak and Hickory species.
The Peterson Prairie Plots also include an ornamental grass display of exotic grass species often used for home landscapes.
Additionally, an agricultural crops garden is planted annually to demonstrate crops, other than corn and soybeans, which are grown around the world.
Wander the trails in the prairie and view the labeled examples in the gardens. Access is available dawn to dusk. Please do not remove plant material.
Related Prairie Web site:
Kansas Wildflower and Grasses
DNR - The Indiana Prairie