Wildflowers like the pale purple coneflower and the big blue stem are key parts of the native prairie biome. They provide erosion control and nectar and seeds for native insects and birds, as well as being one of the best competitors for weeds.

The Scott County Soil & Water Conservation District is hosting a free live webinar July 23 on how to plant live native prairie in your own backyard.

Education and Outreach Specialist Shelby Roberts says the region in and around Scott County is naturally a prairie biome, but the construction of homes and businesses throughout the area over the years has had adverse environmental impacts, repressing and overtaking prairie flowers, pollinators and wildlife.

“We still see native prairie elements in some pockets throughout the state, but not in most residential areas,” Roberts said.

Roberts said the loss of natural prairie biodiversity has also had a negative effect on water quality. Turf lawns traditionally planted in suburban neighborhoods are made up of Kentucky bluegrass. This type of grass has a relatively shallow root structure and requires extensive irrigation, Roberts said.

While the roots of Kentucky Bluegrass only run about two inches deep, plants from the native prairie biome have roots extending 15 feet into the ground.

“These deeper roots keep soil and water where they should be,” said Roberts. “It aids in the process of water filtration.”

“Picture a giant rainstorm, where the water is pushed downstream into a storm drain versus staying on the street. When the collected water comes down, it’s allowed to filter, and collects less excess runoff and chemicals. Plus it erodes less soil,” said Roberts.

The SWCD is on a mission to reintroduce some of these missing elements of the native prairie landscape to Scott County. Each year, the organization hosts a workshop to share conservation practices and ways to re-establish native species like the Big Blue Stem, the Pale Purple Cornflower, Prairie Switch Grass and Purple Prairie Clover. Seeds of these species are found in the mixes distributed to landowners by the SWCD.

The root systems usually need at least half an acre of land to have enough room to effectively grow, Roberts said. However, anyone is welcome to join the livestream to learn more about the benefits of restoring the native prairie ecosystem.

Natural Resource Specialist Meghan Darley and Agricultural Program Specialist Diann Korbel will be leading this month’s webinar and conversation about species seen in the native prairie ecosystem. With periodic re-planting, their re-emergence could have benefits for the native landscape, wildlife and water quality, Roberts said.

Those interested in the workshop should register ahead of time, but Roberts said the webinar will also be recorded and available to watch anytime.

“Everyone can help with restoring our natural landscape, and this is an opportunity to learn about the first steps,” Roberts said.

The Native Prairie Webinar will take place via Zoom on July 23. To register or learn more, you can visit scottswcd.org, or call 952-492-5448.


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