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Prairie Fen Troopers

Prairie Fens are globally rare but locally (relatively) abundant ecosystems unique to the upper Midwest states where moraine glaciation has occurred. In Michigan that means fens can only be found in the southern half of the lower peninsula. Mineral-rich fens are a kind of wetland where cool groundwater rises to the surface through seeps and springs, creating unique conditions for rare plants and animals like the federally-endangered Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake. This Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy fen that we worked at today is special to me because this is where I began my Michigan restoration “career” in the Fall of 2020. That first photo is Joe and I in front of a thick stand of invasive Buckthorn that has degraded the fen. The second pic shows the fen in its (dormant) glory, free of Buckthorn because we cleared it in previous years. The cool thing about restoring fens is that they rebound quickly after the invasives are removed, no need to re-seed. In summer that open space that used to be a thicket of glossy Buckthorn is buzzing with pollinators and birds on sedges, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Joe Pye, Ninebark, Marsh Blazingstar, various asters and goldenrods, Boneset and many more. If we get this baby really freed up and looking good perhaps the federally endangered Mitchell's Satyr butterfly will return. Third pic shows two White Cedars (Thuja occidentalis), more common in the northern part of the state, in the transition zone from the upland oak/hickory woodland to the fen.

I use a lot of species common to Michigan fens in my garden designs like Tussock Sedge, Little Bluestem, Prairie Dropseed, White Death Camas (I've been begging Chad to grow this for me!), Joe Pye, Marsh Blazingstar, Virginia Mountain Mint, Riddell's Goldenrod, Flat-topped Aster, Golden Alexander, Rattlesnake Master, Jacob's Ladder, Canadian Burnet, and shrubs like Shrubby Cinquefoil, Red-Osier Dogwood, Silky Dogwood, Ninebark, Meadowsweet and Bog Birch.

I always return home from these workdays buzzing with exhilaration, inspiration and exhaustion (and soggy feet!). #ecologicalrestoration #michiganprairiefen #wednesdaywarriors

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