Prairie talk: Butterflies, Bees, and Prairies: Pollinators at Risk

Chasing after butterflies is a fond childhood memory for many of us. Experience taught us to leave bees alone when they visited flowers in our yard. What butterflies and bees and even flies, wasps, beetles, birds and bats have in common is that all of them pollinate plants.  Insects and animals help pollinate over 75% of our flowering plants and nearly 75% of our crops.  Pollination occurs when pollen from the male part of a flower (stamen) is moved to the female part of the same or another flower (stamen), fertilizing the flower. Successful pollination produces fruits and seeds. The primary methods of pollination in nature are wind, insects, and birds, with wind being the least reliable.

 

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Prairie Talk: Why Burn Our Prairie?

Some people are surprised that an important part of developing and maintaining a prairie is a schedule of regular, controlled prairie burns. Regular, controlled burns are called prescribed burns. If we do not regularly burn our prairie, it becomes more susceptible to an uncontrolled prairie fire caused by a lightning strike or a cigarette thrown out a window. Uncontrolled prairie fires sometimes become dangerous wildfires. 

Prescribed burns also are crucial for maintaining the health of an existing prairie and for prairie restoration. One benefit of prescribed burns is removing thatch that blocks the sun from germinating native plants and killing invasive plants and unwanted trees that can overpower native plants.  Burning promotes the diversity of native prairie plants that can survive adverse weather conditions, such as drought.  A second benefit of prescribed prairie burns is adding nutrients to the soil, stimulating growth of native plants. Finally, burn management promotes growth of a diversity of prairie plants that provide food and cover for pollinators, birds, and animals.

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Prairie Talk: What Is a Prairie?

Driving into the FUMC parking lot, our prairie has become a familiar sight. It is hard to believe that we moved from less than ¾ an acre of land in downtown St. Cloud to almost 20 acres on Pinecone Road, and almost half of our property is prairie. According to the MN DNR, before European settlement Minnesota had over 18 million acres of prairie, with about 250,000 acres of native prairie remaining today. Prairie is North America’s most endangered habitat.

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