PRAIRIE ESTABLISHMENT AND LANDSCAPING
by William E. McClain
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PART I: PRAIRIE ESTABLISHMENT

INTRODUCTION
Illinois is known as the "Prairie State," a part of the vast grassland in Central North America that once stretched from Indiana west to Nebraska, south to Texas and north to the Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta with outlying areas in Ohio and Arkansas (Figure 1). This vast grassland, called the tallgrass prairie, was not uniform throughout except for the presence of "tall" grass. The prairies of Illinois were different from those of Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, or Wisconsin. One prairie type graded almost imperceptibly into another, forming one huge, complex, grassland biome.

Despite its extent, the tallgrass prairie disappeared rather quickly after the arrival of the European settlers. Today, the most extensive remnants of this prairie are present in the Flint Hills of Oklahoma and Kansas where the thin topsoil makes the area unsuitable for row crop agriculture. Where the soils were deep and fertile, only small remnants remain scattered throughout the former range of the tallgrass prairie (Figure 1).

The origin of prairies was a subject of controversy among the first European settlers. Some believed that the prairies were associated with ancient lakes while others were convinced that fire had a role in their existence. It wasn’t until the 20th century that good scientific data were obtained that explained how the prairies originated. In 1935, Professor E.N. Transeau of the Ohio State University published the Prairie Peninsula (Transeau 1935). He suggested that particular types of climate favored prairie over forest. More recent data indicate that the prairie is a relatively recent ecosystem in central North America, having developed following the last glacial epoch approximately 12,000 to 15,000 years ago (Axelrod 1985).

NATURAL DIVISIONS
Geology
Climate
Fire


PRAIRIE PLACE NAMES
Froggy Prairie
Macoupin Prairie
Crow, Horse, and Bulls Eye Prairie
Looking Glass Prairie


DISAPPEARANCE OF THE PRAIRIES

ESTABLISHING THE PRAIRIE
Site Selection
Seed Selection
Seed Storage

SEEDBED PREPARATION
Conventional Methods
Conservation Tillage or No Till Planting
Planting Dates
Seeding Rates

PLANTING METHODS

TRANSPLANTING TECHNIQUES

WEED CONTROL

PRESCRIBED BURNING

TABLES

TABLE 1

TABLE 2

Part II: Prairie Plants in Landscape Design