Local Action Taken to Protect Our Roots

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Melodie Seto

The Canadian landscape has undergone many transformations over the past centuries, but how many people can still remember what our land ofheritage used to look like?

Tallgrass Prairie planting

Ralph Mckim demonstrates the planting process for his prairie project. Photo: Melodie Seto.

Tallgrass prairies in particular may be one of the less distinguished types of grasslands that made up the eastern part of our old renowned Canadian Prairies. Today, it can generally only be found on protected land in Manitoba and in small patches throughout Southwestern Ontario. It is estimated that only a measly one percent still remains in North America making it, as some say, one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world.

Historical traces of tallgrass prairies have also been found as fareast as Peterborough and Northumberland. Small remnants of grass and plant species hinting at the existence of such prairies in our area can be found near old abandoned railway tracks and other old untouched locations. This has inspired hope in some people of the local community to try and restore the old landscape by planting tallgrass prairies on their own properties.

Ralph McKim, land owner of the Ballyduff Trailsis one who has been working to build this ecosystem on thepropertyhe has owned with his wife Jean Garsonninsince 2006. Although no indigenous grasses were found on the premises which would point to a historical presence of a tallgrass prairie, native plants typically associated withthat environment like wild bergamot, bush clover, and grey-headed coneflower indicated that his acreage could be suitable for the project.

A prime example of how tallgrass prairies received their name, Big Bluestem grass can grow to heights of over two metres. Photo: Melodie Seto.

A prime example of how tallgrass prairies received their name, Big Bluestem grass can grow to heights of over two metres. Photo: Melodie Seto.

A tallgrass prairie is typically characterized by an open land with grass species growing as high as 2 meters or more.Some of the most typical grasses include: Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian Grass, Switch Grass, and Prairie Cord Grass. Ralph’s efforts are focused primarily on the first three,with the addition of Side Oats Grama.   One of the distinguishing characteristics of these plants is that 65% of their biomass is underground and their roots can reach depths of 10-12 feet making them resistant to drought, cold, and even fire…

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