The athletic field complex, located north of 10th Avenue, includes not only state-of-the-art turf fields for our talented collegiate soccer and softball teams, but also several prairie plantings. About 3 acres of prairie were seeded in the fall of 2001 with 31 species of native prairie plants. A summary of the planting method, seeding rate, species list, bloom times, weed management, and observations over the four years following planting are included in Prairie Species List.
Maintenance has included spot treating thistles with herbicides and pulling or cutting flowering stems of white sweetclover (Melilotus alba) and yellow sweetclover (Melilotus officinalis). In addition, various patches have been burned in the spring, with the first burn implemented in the spring of 2004. The prairie plantings add structure and diversity to the area that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing soil stabilization and filtering surface runoff. A photographic time series of the 2001 plantings is highlighted in the Center’s video “Prairie Through the Seasons” that premiered in 2007.
In December of 2004, an additional 1 acre was seeded with prairie species into a cover crop of oats on the west side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks, directly west of the athletic field complex. This mix contained an additional 17 species. Contact Larissa Mottl for a species list for this area. Blooms of several species were observed in the second growing season (2006), including gray-headed coneflower, bee balm, Canada wild rye, Indian plantain, false sunflower, and sneezeweed. The planting had a severe sweet clover infestation in 2006 and was subsequently mowed. Canada thistles have now become a significant maintenance issue for this planting.